On motivation in the lab


Without going into too much detail about the state that our lab is in due to the economy and sequestration, there is a great lack in motivation in some people in the lab. This is not new, as I have written about this before, but it does make me wonder what PIs do to motivate people in their lab. How do you make sure people stay enthusiastic about doing experiments and if they’re not, how do you try to help them? Personally, I find that it helps to associate with people that are working hard and are trying to be productive rather than to hang with the people that seem to have given up hope to get experiments done and papers written. But other than that, when I am in the position to mentor someone (like an undergrad, summer student or tech) I find it hard to find a balance between giving someone the freedom to schedule their experiments and plan their time for them for example. How do you go about motivating the people in your lab? Or do you feel that’s not necessary as people should come with enough intrinsic motivation?
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1 Comment

Filed under experiments, life in the lab, mentoring, procrastination, role models

One response to “On motivation in the lab

  1. I'd love to have only students with enough intrinsic motivation to conduct their experiments, come up with great ideas and push their own work mostly by themselves. But at least here (maybe) one out of 10 students is like that. I think this is often related to their status as “students”, which involves the view that they can come and go as they please and do their work when they feel like it – like they could while being an undergrad. And there is not much wrong with that as long as they are motivated and the work is done in a timely manner.
    And then every student is different and needs different motivation strategies. But for the ones that have difficulties to motivate themselves I found that giving them consistently deadlines for specific tasks helps them to keep their thoughts on the project. Often they come up with own ideas after a while of being forced to think about their project. And frequently but short one-on-one discussions on their progress shows them that their research is interesting and valuable for their supervisor and not only something that has to be done to get a PhD degree. As a supervisor this involves to focus more on this student (at least for a while) but not necessarily to invest more time than with the others. But that of course might not work for all unmotivated students…

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