Lab Values and Guide


Here, we want to ensure everyone has a fulfilling (and fun!) experience, both professionally and personally. This is only achieved by fully valuing the participation of all members of our community.  Therefore, all members of the Plant Systems Biology Group are expected to show respect and courtesy to others at all times. Together, we create our lab culture, and our culture strives to be one of inclusivity.

Note, this code of conduct supplements (does not supersede) LBNL and UC level policies that apply to you as employees and students.

Finally, this code borrows heavily from Dr. Ben Britton @BMatB at Imperial College, London. This is also my first draft, and there’s certainly more to be added. Anyone is welcome to suggest improvements (or ways that I can live these ideals better), but especially current or former lab members (anonymized suggestions should be possible via the contact page shortly once I work out how to do it!).

Inclusion and Diversity

Our lab, as well as LBNL, values an inclusive, diverse, equitable, and accountable research environment. We will support each individuals development and research, and we promote robust decision making. All group members are thus dedicated to a harassment-free experience for everyone, regardless of gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, age, and/or religion. We do not tolerate harassment by and/or of members of our group in any form.

This applies to everyone, no matter their degree level, expertise,or contributions to the group. Jenny will discuss these concepts with anyone who violates them. If inappropriate behavior continues after this initial discussion, formal processes, in line with LBNL’s policies, will commence. I highly recommend joining one of the LBNL Employee Resource Groups, either because you identify with that group, or wish to be an ally.

For many of us the United States is not our home country. I hope that those of us who are immigrants can take the time to learn about our new home. I hope those who are American, or have lived here for a while can take the time to learn about their colleagues cultures, and introduce their own. Patience and kindness are important, but so is a willingness to listen, learn, and take action.

If you wish to report any issue, then please contact Jenny. All communications will be considered confidential. Alternatively, please contact other members of LBNL Biosciences leadership (e.g. Henrik Scheller, Susannah Tringe), HR (e.g. Sandy Roth, Alex Degg), or the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity & Accountability (IDEA) office (e.g. Lady Idos).

Mental Health

There is increasing evidence that certain attributes of research may challenge your mental health, from the high costs of living in the Bay Area, being far from friends or family, and uncertainty in your career arc or long-term immigration status.

All researchers (BSc, MSc, PhD, Post Doctoral, and Academic Staff) come across most of these issues at some level. I strongly encourage everyone in the group to take an active and preemptive approach towards the maintenance of their mental health. I have committed to ensuring that you that you have the time and resources needed for successful research. If there is anything that is placing you under undue stress, or preventing you from performing at your potential, please do not hesitate to let Jenny, or any of the other LBNL staff know.

Sharing these issues can reduce stress and help others be accommodating towards your needs, and we may be able to assist. Please make yourself familiar with resources at LBNL/UC e.g. Every effort will be made to help you access the right support networks.

Flexible Working Hours and Intergroup Communication

The exact hours members of the group choose to work is up to them; however, being at Emery Station East (ESE, where our lab is housed) between 10:00 and 16:00 Monday-Friday [in Non-COVID times!] will help facilitate collaborative working and, we hope, lead to a more fulfilling research experience.

Our group meeting is currently at 16:00 on Thursdays, as this was the time selected by the team as most convenient given current commitments (personal as well as work). However, if this is a problem (e.g. clashes with daycare pick up etc) let Jenny know, and we will choose another time. We have a Zoom (remote) call in option available for all meetings, although in person is best if you can. All group members are expected to attend this meeting, unless engaged on research business (e.g. at a conference) or out on vacation/sick leave. Other key meetings, depending on your project, include the JBEI weekly(ish) seminar (12:00 Wednesday), the Feedstocks weekly seminar (13:30 Wednesday), and the mCAFEs All Hands (fortnightly, Thursday 11:00). As above, Jenny strongly encourages attendance at the relevant, and remote call in options are available.

I maintain an open door policy, and I strongly encourage you to make the most of it. I love people dropping by, and it doesn’t need to be a specific science question. I have a stash of tea and candy in my filing cabinet and I’m happy to share. The only exception is when I’m in meetings or close to grant deadlines, in which case my door is shut. But, if it’s important to you, please still interrupt, and I’ll make time. If not immediately then as soon as I can. In COVID times, that means a virtual open door – use WhatsApp, Slack, phone, or email. I’m happy to chat over a cup of tea.

Each week there is specific time set aside for each of you to have a one-on-one meeting with me. As your project matures, you may feel that you don’t need meetings each week. That’s fine! Cancel, or send email updates. But, I will leave that time available just in case. If things aren’t going well, or you’re stuck on a manuscript, don’t put off talking though. Come see me, and we will try to work through it together. Need to move the meeting because it clashes with an experimental plan? Fine – just find another spot in my calendar.

Please inform Jenny of vacations or notable absences in advance, and keep your Google calendar updated. If you are unwell, or caring for an unwell family member, then send Jenny a quick SMS/WhatsApp to let her know. Otherwise we worry about you! Permission for vacation is not needed, but it is important to respect key deadlines within the calendar year (e.g. end of financial year reporting, program reverse-site visits), and respect that we do work within a research group. It is important to take vacation, respect weekends (or time in lieu), and establish a sustainable work-life balance. It is also important to respect the time and efforts of others, and the contribution of funders, and to note that effective working will improve the quality of your research. Where there are key time pressures, it is important to prioritize. If you are struggling with this, please discuss this with Jenny early, and often.

Please avoid sending work-related e-mail outside of 0800-1900 on weekdays. Yes, Jenny is terrible at this but is trying to be better. In particular, don’t feel obliged to reply to emails received outside of these times (unless they are emergency ones e.g. the freezer broke. Obviously. Answer those ones!). There are addons e.g. Boomerang for Gmail that assist in this (ie you can write the emails, but they don’t send until the hours above, allowing you to work out of hours, but not burden others).

We have a lab Slack group. Please join if you can – it helps especially for those who are remote working. We have a range of channels to join, including ones for coding, wet-lab work, journal club, recipes, and random nonsense (mostly gifs and youtube videos). Want to start your own? Go ahead! We also have a lab WhatsApp group. It is mostly used to share pictures of cakes/children/pets/travel/good food. It is not compulsory to join – but it does help with community building!

Make sure you are on the key mailing lists for your project e.g. ese_research, mCAFEs, JBEI. Check with Jenny for the precise ones for your work. We all get lots of email, but do try and read those from these lists (especially from the ESE Operations team). Also remember to reply to these lists very judiciously – they have a large subscriber base. Replies to these should be especially polite, informative, and respectful.

If you have suggestions for other communication methods we could use in the lab, or better ways to implement the ones we have, then please let me know. We work in a rapidly changing environment, and technologies are constantly evolving.

Again, if you experience any challenges with communication then please let Jenny know.

Open Science

Our work is funded almost exclusively by the US taxpayer, and therefore we have a moral obligation to ensure that the research (and the data underlying it) are freely available.

We will endeavor to publish all outputs as Gold (or above) Open Access, and manuscripts will be uploaded to the biorxiv preprint server. In the rare cases this isn’t possible, an author’s version of the published manuscript will be uploaded to the UC eScholarship repository.

All materials used in a publication will also be made freely available to the community as far as possible. Beyond data (see above), seeds will be sent to stock centers (e.g ABRC) or archived in-house for distribution. Strains and plasmids will also be archived using JBEI’s ICE registry system for redistribution (and regularly requested strains will be sent to Addgene).

During the course of your project, all important biological materials should be archived with ICE (do not wait for publications or completion of your project!). Our archiving system provides physical off-site back-ups, which are essential in case of loss of materials (note we do live in an earthquake/fire zone). Any questions, then ask Jenny.

Intellectual Property

We work with many funders and collaborators, and management of IP is critical to our research process. We will discuss this at the start of each project, and we have a (quick!) method for reporting records of invention (ROIs) via the Innovation Portal. Any questions, then ask Jenny or any of the Biosciences IPO team.

Conference Attendance and Abstract Submission

We have a general rule that people can attend (depending on funding availability) an international conference every other year. Domestic conferences can be attended in the other years. We are lucky that many big meetings are often in our own backyard in SF, and so you are welcome to attend those in addition.

I strongly encourage you to apply for additional funding to support travel. I also encourage you to join professional societies, and get involved in their activities e.g. volunteer to help run sessions. It’s a great way to meet your field, and build your peer network.

Travel authorizations must be obtained in line with DoE and LBNL guidelines. This should be done as soon as you have permission to attend from me. It can take months. Without this, reimbursements may not be made. I am very aware that conferences can be expensive and the delay between outlay and reimbursement is big. If this could be an issue, please talk to Jenny or Jasmine Smith. We have plenty of ways to resolve this, such that you don’t have to pay in advance.

If preparing an abstract, you should send this for review by all the co-authors at least 1 week before the abstract deadline. If this is a repeat submission of a prior abstract, then exceptions can be made. Once you obtain notification of the abstract decision, please inform the co-authors. Please discuss with Jenny in person as well.

For poster presentations: it is required that you submit a draft poster for review at least two weeks before you are due to leave for the conference. This provides enough time for review and printing of the poster.

For oral presentations: it is suggested that you please share a complete slide deck one week before the conference, preferably two weeks. You should aim to have a practice talk with group members (often at a group meeting) in the week before you leave for the conference. For repeat presentations, please share slides in advance.

Computers, Electronic Lab Notebooks (ELN), and Data Storage/backup

You will be provided with a laptop (and peripherals to ensure an ergonomically friendly work set-up). We prefer PCs, although macs are possible (the price will limit the specs of a mac).

The computer is government owned property, and you are responsible for taking care of it, and using it appropriately. Refer to the LBNL training on cybersecurity etc. While LBNL has some installed back-up software, it is your responsibility to ensure it’s working, and do not rely on it as the only option. For example, Jenny keeps all of her files (where confidentiality allows) within her LBNL GoogleDrive for Cloud backup. It is also good practice to back-up lab books e.g. create a static pdf of your OneNote once a month.

Software licenses can be purchased for individuals, but it requires approval from Jenny. Before spending money, check for site-wide licenses held by LBNL, OpenSource options, and for shared IT resources. Please let Jenny know if you have additional requirements.

Do PLEASE try to keep all your files organized. It helps you when you need to find something in 6 months, or 6 years, and it helps me! Trust me, you don’t want me asking you about an Excel file called sheet1v3.xlsx two years after you’ve left the lab.

Electronic Lab Notebooks – as described on the resources page, we use OneNote. Please share your OneNote with Jenny, and try to update it each week before our one-on-one meetings. It does not need to be full of perfect paragraphs of text – bullet points, sketches, pieces of paper from the lab that are photographed and uploaded are all excellent, as long as they are labeled.

Manuscript Writing

For each manuscript, please create a Googledrive folder, and share it with all co-authors (see below for authorship discussions). In our group we currently use SciWheel (formerly known as F1000) as the reference manager (LBNL has an institution-wide site license. It can import EndNote and other software libraries. Jenny finds it easiest if you can draft the manuscript in Googledocs (it means that we can share with collaborators, and it avoids some issues with version control). The final version should be polished in Word.

I’m very conscious of my linguistic privilege as a native speaker of English. I am in awe of all of you who work and write to such a high level in your second or third language. As such, I am more than happy to help edit and polish as we put the paper together. Your ideas and analysis are the critical part. If it helps, draft the sections as bullet points. We can then discuss the structure, science, and flow before we work together to polish the language. Please don’t feel like you can’t show me a draft before it is word perfect. I much prefer early and often. Scientific writing is part of the training, like any other part of the job.

Figures should be prepared in Adobe Illustrator, Inkscape or other vector graphic software packages. All data underlying summary figures e.g. raw data for graphs, spectra, or raw microscope images need to be readily available for each figure even after publication (for a minimum of 10 years, but ideally in perpetuity). As far as possible, I prefer the raw data is included either as supplemental data, or deposited in public repositories e.g. figshare, dryad, github. Failing that (as an absolute last resort!), it should be clearly organized in the manuscript Googledrive.

Authorship will be discussed openly, and likely more than once during the course of a project. If you’re not happy with the order, speak up! We aim to be inclusive of everyone who has made a significant contribution to the work being presented. A “significant contribution” can include but is not limited to: collection of primary data, interpretations of primary data, and development of ideas presented in the work. I want to emphasize that our technical staff are critical to our research success and their contributions should be acknowledged as such.

Funding acknowledgements – we have specific language that we are required to use, depending on your grant funding and any user facilities you have worked with. Check with Jenny before submission, and double check in the proofs.

Outreach and Science Communication

This is a core part of our job. I leave it up to you to decide what that means to you – it can be leading a school tour of ESE, advising undergraduates on careers, writing blog posts, developing educational resources, dispelling scientific myths on social media…. It is normal to feel shy and nervous about this at first. The Biosciences communication team are happy to advise you, and there are plenty of training courses I can recommend. However, it gets much easier with practice, so just have a go! Join one of our science fairs, and if you want to just hang back and listen at first, that’s fine!

If you haven’t noticed, Jenny is a big fan of science Twitter (#plantsci, #glycotime). It’d been a great way to meet people, learn about issues in science, and stay connected with my colleagues. It’s a good way to find future jobs, and to share your science. Just bear in mind that if you are tweeting in a professional capacity, then you are representing LBNL as much as if you were at a conference. I’m not saying don’t tweet personal things, but keep in mind context. Some guidelines can be found here. For example, we are not partisan, and therefore should not comment on such things. BUT I want to make it clear that while science isn’t partisan, it is certainly political. Science does not exist in a vacuum, and I encourage engagement.