Updated on December 8th 2022. This is partially adapted from the Coley Research Group at MIT.


  • Email: I expect everyone to develop a good practice of responding to emails from supervisors, colleagues, co-workers, collaborators, etc.
  • Don’t ever feel that you’re wasting my time or bothering me. You can let me know if I’m too slow to respond and it’s urgent (e.g., an impending deadline); the fastest way to reach me, in that case, is by cell phone. If there is something with a specific deadline, I will let you know a few weeks ahead. 
  • We should all try to be as responsive to each other as possible. While I often send emails outside of normal hours, I won’t expect you to be working when I’m working; you don’t need to respond to non-urgent emails in the evenings or on weekends.
  • We are using Google Drive for project management. You would use Excel, Word, or Powerpoint in Google Drive to share your plan, research progress, and manuscript.


  • There are three types of meetings in the lab: ad hoc meetings, weekly individual meetings, and biweekly group meetings.
  • Ad hoc meeting is to address your urgent matters when needed especially if you are new to the lab. For students past their 1st year, you should develop your own independence.
  • One-on-one meetings once every week for every single-advisor group member. These are scheduled for 60 minutes but we can always increase or decrease the duration/frequency as needed. Most of the time, we’ll talk about recent research progress (new results, planned experiments, unexpected obstacles, etc.); for these cases, it’s helpful to prepare a handful of slides to guide our conversation. Other meetings might focus on planning, drafting, or revising manuscripts or fellowship applications. Others might focus on career development opportunities and long-term planning for your future career. We can also take this time to talk about your experience in the group/department more broadly, align expectations, and provide two-way feedback to each other.
  • Group Presentations
    • Group presentations will take place biweekly and will be scheduled for one hour. If we don’t need the full meeting time, we won’t use it.
    • The presenter will give a semi-formal presentation on his/her/their research progress since the last group meeting presentation, or a practice talk for an upcoming thesis proposal, conference, etc.
    • These presentations should be planned for around 40 minutes to leave ample time for discussion. Everyone should strive to be an active participant in these discussions and feel comfortable interjecting with questions during the talk.
    • You should never feel like you’re spending an inordinate amount of time making slides for the sake of making slides but don’t underestimate how helpful these presentations can be to yourself and others.
    • Your presentation on your own research will help you reflect on what you have been working on and how it fits into the overall narrative of your project. Remind us of the context for your work, why it is important, who has worked on it before, what your approach is, how it is different, how you’ve progressed, and what the next steps you have in mind are. 
    • Your presentation on a research topic is an excellent way to force yourself to read the literature, bring other group members up to speed, and might eventually turn into an introduction for a manuscript or serve as the seed for a review article.
    • As the group grows, we may split these into two separate meetings (research updates & journal club) each week.

Wellness, Work Hours, and Expectations 

  • Please read this article about how to manage your time as a researcher https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-022-04364-2
    • Big picture: Big-picture planning encompasses long-term goals. For graduate students, this might include your ideal time to graduation, learning specific skills, or career exploration; for a research professor, it might be completing projects, applying for funding, or improving teaching and mentoring skills.
    • Academic term: At the end of each academic term, write out a plan for the next quarter or semester that considers three elements: Reflect, Forecast, and Prioritize
    • Daily or weekly: For the finest-grained planning, you can use a daily planner, but I prefer you working on a weekly timescale because your research often involves experiments that run over several days. In either case, you can assign specific slots for each task, known as time blocking, or use to-do lists.
  • While we should strive to do impactful, ambitious research, we shouldn’t do so at the expense of our well-being and happiness. 
  • Academia offers you a lot of flexibility. It’s important to keep a healthy work-life balance and use that flexibility to your advantage. More time spent working does not translate into increased productivity.
  • There is a lot of work in academia that can be done at home. Reading papers, catching up on email, preparing slides, and writing papers, proposals, or dissertations.
  • I hope most of you will be able to keep relatively normal working hours.
  • Over the course of any project, there will be slow periods and there will be fast periods. If you’re at a point in your project where things are going well and you are highly motivated to push forward and make progress–do so! If you’re in a slower period and you’re feeling idle, unmotivated, or overwhelmed, take a break, go home/outside, and try to come back refreshed. I want you to feel comfortable communicating with me and your colleagues during these times so we can figure out how best to move forward.

Defining Research Projects

  • For each member, at the very beginning, I would ask you to develop a paper outline with key figures to accomplish, and you then execute. After a year or two, we should work together to identify meaningful and worthwhile projects that are suited to your interests and current/desired skills. As you progress, I hope to provide you with more and more intellectual freedom to define your own research directions. 
  • All projects should have a clear path to publication when they are started. This isn’t to say we should be chasing papers, but it’s important to know the motivation, background, and significance of our work if we are successful.
  • Good research projects will have a combination of long-term goals and short-term goals. Shorter-term goals should be achievable on the timescale of weeks or months, while long-term goals may take multiple semesters. It’s also good for each project to have a very long-term objective in the 5-20 year time frame. Think of high-level phrases like “if only we could do <capability>, then <societal benefit>”.
  • Sometimes, our choice of research topics will be constrained by the grants we have secured and/or the grant opportunities we are eligible to apply for.


  • There are both informal and formal collaborations.
  • For formal collaboration, I encourage everyone to discuss potential authorships at the beginning of the collaboration so that everyone is on board and knows the responsibility and commitment. Read this article about why you should do so. https://www.science.org/content/article/i-avoided-authorship-discussions-collaborators-until-i-learned-some-hard-lessons
  • For informal collaboration, authorship can be discussed when the manuscript is finalized.
  • Internal collaboration. Everyone group members should be highly collaborative with each other. However, it does not mean that you will count on others to do the work for you.
  • Be extremely respectful of your collaborators both inside and outside Northeastern University. We have a few collaborators in other institutions, and it is critical to keep our collaborators informed of your progress via emails, regular meetings, etc.
  • When you reach out to collaborators, please copy your advisor in the email.

Inventories (Ten simple rules for managing laboratory information)

  • Chemical inventory. We keep a Google Excel spreadsheet that documents catalog, location, storage temperature, and vendors.
  • Mammalian cells: We keep a Google Excel spreadsheet that documents location, passage time, date, medium recipe, etc. New lab members are required to notify senior members for accessing our cell stocks in the liquid nitrogen tank.
  • Bacterial and plasmid stocks: We keep a Google Excel spreadsheet that documents location, sequencing data, antibiotics, source, and benching link. Only sequencing verified plasmids and corresponding glycerol stocks will be moved into our inventory and you should have benchling links with sequencing results attached to each plasmid and glycerol stock.
  • Lab members are required to update the inventory on a regular basis and restock the items when they are running low. For example, when only two vials of mammalian cells are left, you must start to expand and freeze down extra vials.


  • We have a Google Drive folder that maintains common protocols. You should strictly follow the protocols to ensure reproducibility.
  • You are allowed for certain flexibility by editing and revising the protocols when the protocols are not working for you. But you need to track your changes and alert your supervisor when such changes are made.
  • Every new lab member, regardless of your prior experience, should assume that you would need to follow the protocols in our lab as opposed to your previous labs.
  • When developing a new protocol, you are advised to refer to at least three different sources from (1) commercial kit manuals and (2) literature. It is anticipated that new protocols require several rounds of revisions between you, other lab members, and your advisor. A finalized protocol will be uploaded to the Google Drive folder once you have successfully obtained desired results.

Data management and reporting

  • You should upload raw data such as flow cytometry, gel images, fluorescence images, etc. as soon as they are acquired to prevent data loss; It is especially critical as nowadays some journals require you to submit raw data along with your manuscript.
  • We have a Google Drive folder that stores raw data on each desktop and make sure you upload them to the correct folder each time when the experiment is over.
  • Never procrastinate when it comes to data analyses. You should use Google Powerpoint to manage your data with Dates and detailed experimental conditions to track your progress and facilitate our weekly one-on-one meetings.
  • Your total data organized in Powerpoint slides will eventually become key figures in your manuscript. So please take it seriously when updating your slides.