Team Motivation

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.

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Excerpted from interview with researcher at the 2012 Career Development Institute for Psychiatry in Pittsburgh, PA.


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