Statement of mutual expectations for the Pop lab

This page outlines the fundamental duties and responsibilities of the graduate research assistant and further describes the details of the assistantship. Its purpose is (1) to assist the graduate research assistant in better understanding his/her duties, how to fulfill them and how to meet the supervisor’s expectations and (2) to provide a framework for assessing progress in the program and the relationship between advisor and advisee.

The information provided here is meant to be the start of a conversation between students and their advisor, rather than an immutable set of “laws”.

0. Preamble

Membership in the Pop lab is a mutual and voluntary agreement between a student and Prof. Pop.  Should the student/research assistant decide that they no longer wish to be a member of the lab, they can, at any time, ask Prof. Pop for assistance in switching labs.  This process may require the student to finalize activities sponsored by Prof. Pop’s funding (e.g., finalizing reports, cleaning up data sets, documenting software, etc.).  

It is not uncommon for students to switch labs as their research interests change, or as they decide that the environment provided by the lab is not consistent with their needs. While this is often a difficult decision to make, Prof. Pop commits to helping students in making the decision and to assist with the transition process.

I. Responsibilities of Research Assistant 

All members of the Pop lab are expected to abide by the lab’s community norms as detailed here .

1. Service to the lab. The stipends of students in the Pop lab are supported in part by funding received for specific research projects, or through teaching assistantships.  All students in the lab are expected to devote an average of 20 hours per week in support of such activities, independent of their own projects or research interests.  As much as practically possible, Prof. Pop will assign service activities that are aligned with each student’s research or that directly benefit each student’s professional growth.

In addition, students are expected to:

  • actively participate during lab meetings or other lab events;
  • help train and integrate new members of the lab;
  • help guide and supervise undergraduate and high school research interns;
  • contribute to the shared lab infrastructure by sharing code and ideas, or maintaining shared computational tools and data.

2. Service to the community. Prof. Pop has a strong commitment to a diverse and inclusive research community within the lab, University, and the scientific community at large.  Members of the lab are expected to actively participate in relevant outreach activities.  Some examples include giving a presentation at one of the summer camps organized by the Iribe Initiative, helping mentor a high-school student, or writing a blog post or similar article aimed at popularizing science. The frequency and extent of such activities will be mutually agreed upon by the student and Prof. Pop in order to ensure that they do not negatively impact the student’s progress towards their degree.

3. General academic duties.  During their time in the Pop lab, students are expected to diligently develop their academic knowledge and skills.  Specifically, students must:

  • become aware of the research of other students in the lab;
  • read scientific literature and popular media related to the broad research being undertaken in the lab as a whole;
  • attend research in progress seminars as well as other relevant seminars;
  • meet with visiting speakers, including those outside their immediate area of research – developing a broad understanding of science is critical for academic success;
  • practice their oral communication skills by carefully preparing and rehearsing presentations, and volunteering to present in research in progress seminars as well as other opportunities on campus or at scientific meetings;
  • practice their written communication skills by writing scientific reports, papers, blog articles, perspectives, and even fiction on a regular basis. The goal is to eventually routinely write 2 or more single spaced pages per week.
  • learn how to properly use modern word processors such as LibreOffice and MS Word, as well as citation managers such as Zotero and EndNote. See the guide here: . Important Note: the Pop lab does not use Latex for typesetting papers or research proposals. 

4. Conduct of research. The goal of a PhD program is to train students to conduct effective independent research that advances scientific knowledge.  During their time in the lab, students will be expected to:

  • conduct thorough literature surveys relevant to their research project;
  • stay up to date with the most recent developments in the field related to their research project;
  • propose hypotheses and design scientific experiments to test them;
  • run experiments;
  • summarize the results of experiments in reports or publications

These activities will strictly adhere to the ethical standards that govern scientific research in general, as well as the rules and regulations of the University of Maryland, and any additional requirements associated with the individual project.

5. Conditions for advancement to candidacy. The candidacy exam is an oral exam that tests that students can frame a relevant scientific question, can plan a scientific approach for addressing this problem, and that they have the necessary technical knowledge to successfully conduct the proposed research.  Prior to being allowed to schedule the candidacy exam, students must finalize, together with Prof. Pop, a research proposal that is consistent with the requirements of the relevant graduate program. In addition, students must provide an annotated reading list of approximately 30 scientific publications. Each paper must be annotated with a short paragraph structured as a rhetorical précis (for more information, see here: https://writing.wisc.edu/Handbook/nonfictionanalysis.html).  

6. Conditions for defending. The expectation is that prior to receiving their PhD, students in the Pop lab have demonstrated the ability to conduct independent research and to effectively communicate the results of this research.  Prior to being allowed to defend, each student must have demonstrated strong oral communication skills, in the form of a presentation in a public venue. The presentation must be prepared with minimal help from Prof. Pop, and he must be in attendance.  Prior to being allowed to defend, each student must have demonstrated evidence of independent research abilities.  In brief, each student must have developed a research idea, constructed and conducted a research plan, and written a publishable paper with minimal support from Prof. Pop.  

II. Responsibilities of Supervisor 

  • Prof. Pop will ensure that the student receives access to the information and resources necessary to conduct research in the lab.  This includes approving a UMIACS account and linking it to the lab’s space, adding the student to the lab’s mailing list, and giving the student permissions to the lab’s Google Drive space and website.
  • Prof. Pop will ensure students in the lab can meet with him on a regular basis.  He will provide a mechanism for students to self-schedule appointments, and prioritize, as much as possible, meetings with students in the lab. 
  • Prof. Pop will respond within 24 hours to emails from his students. Students who have not received a reply within this time frame should resend their message.
  • Prof. Pop will schedule and hold an expectation setting meeting each semester during which he will review the current document with each student and will assist the student in establishing and refining their Individual Development Plan.
  • Prof. Pop will inform students if their progress is inadequate and develop a mutually agreeable Performance Improvement Plan to remedy the situation.
  • Prof. Pop will help students make personal connections to potential research collaborators or future mentors.
  • Prof. Pop will help advertise and promote the students’ research and accomplishments, writing letters of recommendations for jobs, and nominating or supporting the nomination of students for relevant awards.
  • While the expectations outlined in this document apply equally to all students in the lab, Prof. Pop will make reasonable accommodations on a temporary basis for students who encounter medical, family, or other difficulties.  
  • Should a student decide they no longer wish to be a member of the lab, or should Prof. Pop determine that a student’s progress is not satisfactory, Prof. Pop will work with the student, department, and the University to ensure that the separation from the lab does not cause undue difficulties for the student.

III. Scheduling: 

One on one meetings. It is expected that all graduate students in the lab meet Prof. Pop at least once every 2 weeks.  It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that these meetings take place. 

Scheduling of meetings can be done directly through Google calendar by using the link: http://ter.ps/1on1 . If no times are available, appointments should be made directly by emailing Prof. Pop.

Lab meetings. The lab meets every week, currently on Thursdays at 1pm.  An agenda for the meetings is typically sent a few days prior. Students must generally make all efforts to attend the meetings with two exceptions: (i) if the agenda specifically targets a sub-group of the lab; (ii) if no agenda was sent prior to the meeting.

Work schedule. During weekdays, students should make all efforts to maximize the time they spend in the lab so that they can interact with colleagues and with Prof. Pop. Except for rare circumstances, working from home for the majority of the time is not acceptable.

Effective research does not follow strict schedules, therefore there are no specific requirements on the hours of time spent on research (note, however, the requirement for devoting 20 hours per week on the duties associated with the teaching or research assistantship).  

Scheduling vacations. Before scheduling any vacation longer than a couple of days, you should contact Prof. Pop to make sure that the vacation does not interfere with the progress of projects in the lab.

IV. Procedures and Best Practices: 

  • Before bringing a paper to Prof. Pop, make sure you follow the Paper Writing Checklist available here: https://go.umd.edu/pop-paper-checklist
  • Best practices for being successful in graduate school are provided here.

V. Professional Development and Individual Development Plan: 

Students should visit the following website on a regular basis and complete the individual development plan http://myidp.sciencecareers.org/ . This can serve as a starting point for regular discussions with Prof. Pop.

Focus on SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic, Time-bound

VI. Organizational Culture: 

All students in the Pop lab are expected to abide by the lab’s Community Norms.

All students in the Pop lab may refer to him by his first name.

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