On knowing from whence the lab has come

May 25, 2011

The question is for current trainees with respect to their current lab or for those who have moved beyond training to answer with respect to their prior labs.


No Responses Yet to “On knowing from whence the lab has come”

  1. Confounding Says:

    Lots of communal editing, comments, etc. means I read most things, except those so far afield from what I do (it’s a diverse lab) that my thoughts/comment/reading won’t do anyone any good.


  2. pinus Says:

    I read everything. But I read more than most people.


  3. bsci Says:

    I’m surprised at “everything except reviews” even being a choice. I generally find good reviews give you an idea of someone’s thinking process and larger goals. That said, I didn’t spend time hunting down reviews in book chapters.


  4. Dr Becca Says:

    Do you mean, like, the PI’s entire canon? Or only as last author? Because I have had a PI with literally 1000 papers.


  5. Bashir Says:

    50% is my best guess. My PI had two lines of research, I read all of the ones related to my interests. Though it’s not like the other stuff was ignored, I became quite familiar with it over the years through lab meeting discussions.


  6. Eskimo Says:

    Do you mean A. read, make suggestions, edit before something is published or B. after publication?


  7. sciwo Says:

    Do you mean “read” in present or past tense? I read (past tense) everything that came out while I was a PhD student, but have probably only read (past tense) about 50% of the total literature that my advisor ever published. Some of it was not very relevant to the work I was doing – interesting yes, but relevant no.


  8. DrugMonkey Says:

    Interestingly I meant past work, before you joined the lab (see post title), because I just *assumed* that of course you would read all the current papers…


  9. DrugMonkey Says:

    The “it is a diverse lab” excuse intrigues me. After all the PI herself keeps up with the diversity. As a postdoc reaches the point she thinks herself competitive for a faculty gig….shouldn’t she be at least trying to cover the diversity, at least to the extent of reading all the related papers?


  10. studyzone Says:

    My grad PI is considered a major figure in the field, and he made possible an entire strand of research that is now pursued by 20 or so labs (only some led his former trainees). Partly for this reason, I read all of his papers – it gave me a clear sense of the history of the field, and how ideas have evolved over time. I read all of my postdoc PI’s papers as preparation for my interview (overkill, probably, but it was a manageable number of papers).


  11. bikemonkey Says:

    There was a fairly different (yes, some overlap but mostly that was technical) side of my postdoc mentor’s program that I had considerably diminished interest in, as an entering postdoc. I ended up having a funded program in that as a PI. It could not have happened without me taking the trouble to educate myself on that stuff when I joined the lab, despite having only a tepid interest at the time.


  12. Dr. O Says:

    My boss has been at the game for >30 years, so I haven’t read everything. I’ve read in detail probably 50% of his last author papers. I have at the very least perused the major papers from his *other* big project in the lab, and read some of those in great detail, especially when I was getting started and wasn’t sure where my project would end up. Everything of relevance to my project is thoroughly marked up in one of my file cabinets.

    Most of the many (hundreds?) papers on which my PI is a middle author, however, I have not looked at, nor his patent applications.


  13. Pinko Punko Says:

    Some crazy and secretive labs you would only find out about a paper when you saw it published. Imagine a diverse lab where lab meetings are only by small subgroups and everyone seems to hate/distrust one another. Good times.


  14. whimple Says:

    As a postdoc reaches the point she thinks herself competitive for a faculty gig….

    Can’t resist promugating the inevitability of this huh? What color is your koolaid and when does the comet come by next?


  15. Dr. Zeek Says:

    In grad school, I read everything my PI had published. There wasn’t a ton (maybe 50-70) and it was all tangentially related to what I was doing.

    My current post-doc PI has >300 references, the earliest dating back to 1954. He has been doing science longer than my mom and dad have been alive. No, I have not read all that he has written but have read all the reviews/theory/concept papers. And I have his book. Does that count?


  16. WhizBANG Says:

    My fellowship PI had between 50 and 100 papers when I joined the lab. I read the biggies of the original research and several reviews before joining the lab. His secretary kept all of his reprints in binders in the office, so it was easy to at least skim everything once to decide what I wanted to photocopy for my files.
    Yes, I am that old.


  17. gerty-z Says:

    I read every paper that had come out of my PI lab when I was a grad student, though since my PI was relatively new it wasn’t that extensive a reading list. For my postdoc, my PI had been at it for 20 years, and had changed fields dramatically since he had started. I read 100% of the papers that had been published in the last 10 years, but did not go all the way back into the archives.


  18. El Picador Says:

    Oh be honest. It hurts your fee-fees that your postdocs haven’t memorized your every paper. That’s what this is really about….


  19. Pharm Sci Grad Says:

    I’ve read them all, but PI hasn’t been in the game that long (tenured during my PhD) so I don’t know if that counts or not. 🙂


  20. Schlupp Says:

    Why “except the reivews”? I had read those ages before I joint the group, during my PhD.


  21. DrLizzyMoore Says:

    When I was a grad student, I read everything my PI did, except for her graduate work. As a post-doc, I read almost everything that my PI did. There were a few papers from his grad school days that I did not get. He has been at it a while, so this took me years. And frankly, I am still finding papers that I missed..so the reading continues, even though I am out on my own… My sub-specialty is a small field, so if I did not do this legwork, I would ultimately look like an idiot and miss obvious points in grant apps, networking at meetings, etc.


  22. Anonymous Says:

    I feel very guilty admitting this, but I’ve probably read <50% of my PhD and postdoc advisers' papers.

    Both of these advisers have very broad and only slightly overlapping interests. I'm not that interested in a good 30-40% of what they do. I read the papers in the topics that interest me, and then I move on to papers on those topics written by people from other labs. I've always felt bad about this (the way I feel bad when I find any research boring, but worse). That said, I'm not trying to be a copy of either PI.


  23. DrugMonkey Says:

    Anonymous- I don’t think anyone would suggest you ONLY read your PI’s papers!


  24. Anonymous Says:

    Fair. I should probably read the rest of their papers. There’s always a tradeoff, though–I’m constantly reevaluating how I should spend my time. When it’s between a ‘meh’ local paper (or departmental talk) versus a cool, recently published paper, I almost always choose the latter. And then sometimes I get choice anxiety and wind up reading blogs sometimes instead.

    Honestly, one reason I didn’t read some of my PI’s papers when I was a young grad student was that I was pretty sure I would barely understand them. This should’ve been all the more reason to read them, but I felt overwhelmed enough as it was.


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