Posted on February 18, 2013
Etienne Sibille (bio) nurtures interests to increase motivation in the lab.
I kind of have a good idea of what everybody can and can't do in the lab. And by that I mean everybody has different capabilities and affinities.
So one way that I always tell people, I'm talking mostly about graduate students. Post-docs, when they come, they already have the expertise. We very often have post-doc residents that can for you do some research. Or some junior faculty, they come, and we already have, often, a more established project.
The graduate students, I always tell them, "Well, you're going to work on two or three projects for a few months, and then you're going to be trained in a different approach." And then I can very quickly see not what they're good or bad at — they're going to be better at some aspect of it — but more specifically, what their affinities are.
Somebody may not be technically at the top, but if this person has the right excitement, affinity, or I see that there's that spark for this kind of question, that is something I will nurture. I'll say, "OK, let's find out, and we'll talk about it." And we'll try to push that because I think they'll be able to be sharper, more focused, more in depth, more motivated also.
Because a lot of it is, the main thing is motivation in people because it can be frustrating. Doing basic research is hard work. You work a lot of time. You don't get data every day. And very often, you get data, and it's not what you thought, and a technique it didn't work. So it's frustrating.
Part of the job of keeping a team, maintaining it is, yes, maintaining the technical expertise and the question, but also really maintaining the motivation level so people will generate their own energy to push the project through.
Excerpted from interview with researcher at the 2012 Career Development Institute for Psychiatry in Pittsburgh, PA.
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