There is little I love more than a lab meeting packed with data. Seriously. We had a great one today, so I’m all in the mood to write about lab meetings.
Back in the day…. when I was just a lowly grad student, lab meeting was an event. We had a one-person-presents format, and you brought ALL your data, the good, the bad and the ugly. There were no highly edited, slick Powerpoint presentations. There was just the good stuff, the data, the ugly blots, the gorgeous blots- all shown on an overhead projector. And there was a lot of it- because it was a fairly large lab and so the interval between any one individual’s turns was fairly long, and we worked hard. Back in the day.
I’ve been experimenting with lab meeting formats. First, I tried the everyone-presents format- where we sit around the conference table and everyone describes what they have been doing in the past week, what progress they have made. What I liked about this was that people were more likely to show me their failures- which, I think, are important to look at if you want to make progress. However, on the flip side- people didn’t prepare really well in the sense that they thought about their data from week to week, and could show where they were going in an organized way.
Second, I tried the one-person-presents format, followed by the round table summary of what every one else was up to. I wanted my trainees to get some more formal presentation practice, both standing up in front of an audience and putting together a good presentation. These presentations serve a triple purpose as introducing new recruits to all the different projects we are doing, presentation practice, most importantly data presentation and review. I realized when I was doing this that I would probably get less of the bad and ugly data this way, and that seems to be what has happened. There is more slick Powerpointing than I would like. The round table worked well, but I thought it made lab meeting too long.
So then I thought- maybe I’m trying to cram too much into lab meeting- perhaps I should just focus on getting fewer things accomplished in this meeting, and break the other tasks out into other times. So now we are doing a one-person presents format which is preceded by a brief discussion (led by me) of how everyone is doing, what lab issues we have that need to be addressed (including equipment needs/broken equipment etc), and me soliciting a list of what I need to do for each of my trainees. Then we have a hearty discussion of one person’s data. As for those that are not presenting- I see them in the lab- but each one also has a meeting with me in my office once a week on an assigned day to go over what they have done in the last week and what they are planning for the next week. So far this is working pretty well, with the possible exception that this might be more efficient (and easier on my schedule) if we did these individual meetings every two weeks.
We’ll see how this goes for a while. I’m not averse to changing the schedule if we must.