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Posted by Rebecca on May 24th, 2017  ⟩  0 comments

TSE Certificates come packaged with products that could potentially have TSE risk, such as BSA (Bovine Serum Albumin), but many people don’t know what they mean or why they’re so important.

BSE/TSE Certificate of Compliance

If you’re shopping for bovine-derived reagents for your research, you’ve probably come across a mention about being ”TSE Compliant” quite a few times, but wondered what that meant or why it matters. I’ll discuss what it means to be TSE (Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy) compliant and why TSE certificates are so important.

TSE compliance certificates are a type of CEP (Certificate of Suitability to the European Pharmacopoeia). They are used to maximize safety when working with materials that could potentially be contaminated with TSE. Any material with a TSE CEP has been confirmed by the European Directorate for the Quality of Medicines to be suitably controlled by the relevant monographs established by the European Pharmacopoeia. What this means is that the substance is compliant with the standard measures used to minimize the risk of TSE contamination. These CEPs are recognized by members of the European Pharmacopoeia as well as institutions in other countries such as the FDA in the United States. Minimizing the risk of TSE contamination in products like GoldBio’s Bovine Serum Albumin is extremely important to human safety, but why?

TSEs are diseases caused by prions which lead to degeneration of the nervous system. Some examples of TSEs include Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, scrapie in sheep and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (commonly referred to as mad cow disease). These illnesses have existed for quite a long time, with the first documentation of them occurring centuries ago.

In the 1980s, when the first TSE epidemic occurred, scientists began focusing more of their time and effort to understand these conditions. In the UK, it was discovered that cattle were being fed with a supplement containing dead sheep, supporting the theory that bovine spongiform encephalopathy arose due to ingestion of scrapie-infected sheep. Rules and regulations began to be put in place by the governing bodies in the UK and research of the topic continued to increase. By 1996, a link between the human form of mad cow disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, and BSE from ingestion of beef was found.

With the link between BSE and Creutzfeldt-Jakob being discovered, scientists confirmed that horizontal transmission of TSEs from animals to humans can occur. This is of great concern when working with certain animal-derived reagents in the lab because there is currently no cure or treatment for TSEs. With an incubation period of months to decades, the nervous system is highly affected at the time of prion disease diagnosis. Once symptoms become apparent, prognosis is not good—patients usually die within months to a few years.

Although the prevalence of TSEs is low globally, it is important to take precautions to ensure their spread is minimized. Many scientists work directly with products derived from bovine serum and this would be reason for concern if TSE compliance had not been developed.

It is important to remember, however, that many materials used in labs are synthetic or derived from animal tissues that do not pose a risk of contracting a prion disease so not all products will be TSE certified. It is important, however, to ensure TSE compliance when purchasing products like BSA, especially if purchasing from Europe or other countries where there is a higher risk of TSE contamination.

Next time you see a TSE Certificate when opening a new shipment of Bovine Serum Albumin from GoldBio, you can be glad to know that it is TSE CEP certified. Our BSA is protease and certified TSE CEP compliant, manufactured in the United States in a closed loop system from USDA-inspected, healthy animals.

References:

Prion Disease - History. (2010, February 1). Retrieved June 17, 2016, from http://prion.systemsbiology.net/page/PosterView/display/poster_id/1

Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy. (2016, March 17). Retrieved June 17, 2016, from http://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/GuidanceComplianceEnforcement/ComplianceEnforcement/BovineSpongiformEncephalopathy/ucm2006517.htm

Section VIII-H: Prion Diseases. (n.d.). Retrieved June 17, 2016, from https://www.cdc.gov/biosafety/publications/bmbl5/bmbl5_sect_viii_h.pdf

Ramachandran, T. S., et. al. (2014, October 27). Prion-Related Diseases. Retrieved June 17, 2016, from http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1168941-overview#a6


    
              Rebecca Talley
         GoldBio Staff Writer


Rebecca is a medical student at the University of Missouri.
She previously worked as a lab technician while studying
biology at Truman State University. As an aspiring
reproductive endocrinologist with an interest in global
health, Rebecca has traveled across Central America on
medical mission trips. With a passion for the life sciences,
she enjoys writing for GoldBio.

 

Category Code: 79104, 79107, 79108, 79109

Posted by Rebecca on May 8th, 2017  ⟩  0 comments

With tenure track positions being few and far between and thousands of applicants to each position that opens, successfully getting a permanent position as a professor requires more than just becoming the best scientist you can. Follow this guide to increase your chances of getting tenure after postdoc.

When you first begin your Ph.D. program, you probably envisioned a career path where you would graduate, complete a postdoc (or maybe two) and obtain a tenure position at a respectable research institution. A few years down the road, you dreams haven’t changed. You’re still working long hours in the lab in an effort to produce quality publications and hopefully get an edge on your competition so you can finally become an independent researcher. The only problem is that there are significantly more postdocs applying to very few tenure track positions, and this is true across the nation.

There are more postdocs than there have ever been. Scientists are spending more time in a postdoc position than they had previously done. They’re also completing more postdoc fellowships than life scientists before them completed to get into their permanent position. This guide—combined with some good luck—will help you maximize your chances of getting a tenure track position at the completion of your postdoc.

Network, Network, Network

While this is true for any field, networking is extremely important when it comes to advancing your academic career in the life sciences. With few tenure-track positions available, having contacts in your field and at institutions you’re interested in can make a huge difference when you are trying to get your foot in the door. As a postdoc or nontenured faculty, reach out to those who have tenure positions at not only your university, but others in your area as well. Attend conferences and network with people there; get their contact information and be sure to write down any details you remember about their position and research. Another way to network is to reach out to people who have published papers that strike your interest and ask them about their work. Simply getting your name out there before it’s time to apply for a tenure-track position can help your application stand out.



Avoid the Perpetual Postdoc

I’m sure you’ve heard it before—timing is everything. You don’t want to apply for tenure-track positions before you’re qualified and armed with a competitive application, but it would worse to wait too long to apply. With postdoctoral fellowships lasting longer and longer, many life scientists are getting caught in the trap of never leaving their postdoc position once complete and starting another postdoc cycle.

So when is the best time to apply? First of all, you should be nearing completion of at least one postdoc before you start applying for tenure-track positions. It is not uncommon to have completed two postdoc positions before receiving a position, however, according to Science, completing more than two may actually hurt your chances of getting a professorship. Avoid becoming the perpetual postdoc by preparing early—publish as much as you can in high-quality journals, broaden your area of expertise and showcase your skills on your application.

ProTip: If you become first-author of important research in your field that is published in an impressive journal, do not delay applying for tenure-track positions. Having recently published, relevant work can be a great way to get your application noticed and get an interview.



Ace the Application

Often times the application is not only the first impression the hiring department will get of you, but it can also be the only impression if it does not impress enough to receive an interview. Because the application is so important, you have to ace it. Let’s talk about how.

  • Cover letter: The cover letter will determine how much time the reviewer or committee spends looking at your application, if any time at all. You should have a fresh cover letter for every single job you are applying for. Using a generic letter will not convey the reasons you are a great fit for that particular position and institution so take the time to cater your letter specifically to the job you are applying for. Tell reader why you want the position for which you are applying and why you are a great fit. Also include information on where you did your training and describe your most interesting current research projects. It is also great to include what your future research plans are and how you will accomplish them in this position. Convey excitement and passion for your field and the position throughout the letter.
  • Application: Follow any and all instructions provided to you by the institution. Be sure that all of your answers to application questions are catered to the specific position you are applying for and even to the school you are apply to work for. Include an updated copy of your CV, which highlights the specific experiences you have that pertain to the job you seek.
  • Mailing the application: If there is an online application, use it to apply and attach your CV. If there is only a paper application, you can scan and email it, send it via FedEx or another mailing service, or simply send it via standard USPS. Pay attention to any deadlines you may be approaching and take any necessary steps to make sure the application arrives on time.


Be Flexible

With few highly-sought after tenure-track positions available, one of the best ways to optimize your chances of being offered a position is to be flexible. There are only so many universities in each state and even fewer in a single city. If you are not tied down to a specific location for family or other reasons, applying for positions all over the country can greatly increase your odds of getting a position. Universities will usually pay for your travel expenses for interviews so it is an advantage to seek out these opportunities if you would be willing to make the move for a tenure-track position.



Make a Plan B

Whether you’re going to use your plan B or not, it’s always nice to have one incase plan A doesn’t work out. There are many postdocs who continue to apply for tenure-track positions and don’t succeed. It can be easy to stay in the postdoc world and hope that next time you apply things will be different, but you should also consider careers outside of academia. After crowdsourcing information from a variety of sources, I have found that most life scientists agree that after completing two postdocs and applying for tenure-track positions during and after them, a back-up plan should be considered. You can read about  alternative careers for life scientists in my previous article. Of course, I’m not saying you should give up on academia if it is your dream, but you should be aware of the other paths and options that exist because they can be very rewarding, too.

Following these guidelines will give you the best chances of getting the tenure-track position you are working so hard for, but my best advice to you is to not let the stress of looking for a job get you down. Finding the perfect university and position to fit your skills and personality can take some time, and many current tenure-holders were denied positions before they made it to where they are today. Stay positive and be open to all opportunities that come your way—academic or otherwise.  


    
              Rebecca Talley
         GoldBio Staff Writer


Rebecca is a medical student at the University of Missouri.
She previously worked as a lab technician while studying
biology at Truman State University. As an aspiring
reproductive endocrinologist with an interest in global
health, Rebecca has traveled across Central America on
medical mission trips. With a passion for the life sciences,
she enjoys writing for GoldBio.

 

Category Code: 79107, 79108

Posted by Karen on April 18th, 2017  ⟩  0 comments

All right, so you’re starting a new project that requires you to use the luciferase assay, and this is your first time. You might have a lot of questions. You might also have a lot of assumptions or misconceptions. So what do you need to know in order to get started? What should you look out for?

  A Crash Course on Luciferase Assays

Relax, sit back. We’ve got you covered. Scroll through our luciferin/luciferase crash course and get the answers to some of your most immediate questions about the luciferase assay.

What’s Covered:







What Is The Luciferin/Luciferase Reaction – How Does It Work?

In nature, bioluminescence occurs when chemical energy is converted into light. Many organisms such as fireflies, fungi and sea organisms use this process for a variety of reasons. The process occurs when luciferase catalyzes the oxidation of luciferin resulting in the emission of light.

The actual reaction below shows the process where luciferin is catalyzed by luciferase in the presence of ATP, oxygen and magnesium. The result yields oxyluciferin, CO, AMP and light.

Luciferin luciferase reaction - a crash course on the luciferase assay





What Is The Primary Purpose Of The Luciferase Assay?

Luciferase is a great way to test the strength and activity of a promoter. If, for example, you wanted to research the transcription within a promoter region, you can put the luciferase gene behind the promoter. When the gene gets transcribed, you will know whether or not you have a strong promoter based on the amount of light produced. More light produced in the assay means more luciferase was transcribed, which means you have a stronger promoter.

Another question you might have is when would you choose the luciferase assay and when would you choose qPCR if you’re examining gene expression. Here’s what to keep in mind: The qPCR method is going to measure your gene’s transcripts. It’s not going to tell you about the control of transcription. With luciferase, however, you can measure promoter activation and transcriptional regulation. Another thing to consider is how deep you want to look at your gene regulation. You might find that performing both techniques are a must in order to understand major aspects of your project.





What Am I Going To Need For The Luciferase Assay?

Before I talk about what you’ll need to perform the luciferase assay, I want to highlight something in case this is still very new territory. The luciferase assay is performed within the cells. Bioluminescence studies with the luciferin-luciferase reaction can also be performed in other models such as mice; however, in that example, it’s called bioluminescence Imaging. BLI still uses luciferin, but the instruments you use and protocols you follow will be significantly different. This article only covers information about the luciferase assay and does not go into more detail about BLI.



Reagents:

You’re going to need your reagents. You can either use a kit, which supplies you with everything you need or shop for the reagents a la carte.

For the necessary reagents if you plan to do this a la carte, refer to either our in vitro Luciferin Handbook. GoldBio provides most of what you’ll need including very high-quality luciferin for the best price around.



Equipment:

Luminometer

As far as equipment, you’ll need a luminometer. You may already have one, and if so, take note of whether it’s a microplate reading luminometer or a single tube luminometer. Find out if your instrument has injectors or not. And find out what wavelengths your instrument works on and at what temperatures. This is all going to help you further down in planning your experiment.

The microplate luminometers allow you to read samples in well plates. This can range usually between 96 and 384. The single tube luminometer, on the other hand, is going to read a single microcentrifuge tube.

Luminometers with injectors are important when you’re working with a flash type assay involving several samples. The flash luciferase assay kits are very common and provide higher sensitivity; however, they have a short half-life. In order to get a consistent read in time, the injectors inject the luciferin into your sample immediately.

If you don’t have injectors in your luminometer, that’s fine. I’ll address that later in the article.



Well Plates/ Tubes

Now you know what kind of luminometer you have, or the one you’re going to buy or borrow. You’ll also need tubes or well plates depending on what instrument you choose. 

luciferase assay crash course - luciferase assay for dummies - choosing your assay

When it comes to well plates, you’re going to encounter some choices here: flat bottom plates, clear plates, white or opaque plates, white plates with clear bottoms and so on.

Flat bottom plates are a must for this assay type (do not use round bottom well plates). They were especially designed for optical measurements and cell culture applications. More information about the flat bottom plate or F-bottom plate can be found at the well plate site. This website also has a more comprehensive list of the different well plate bottoms and what they are designed for.

Clear well plates allow you to see your lysates, but the drawback is that you can get background luminescence from neighboring wells. White well plates prevent that background; however, you can’t see you’re the lysates when you’re working with them. The white plates with clear bottoms are a solution to the visibility and background issues, but they can be expensive. Just keep those factors in mind in deciding what route to take.



What Luciferase Assay Kit Pack Size Should I Buy

The way to answer this question is to understand what constitutes an assay. For example, with our Luciferase Assay Kits, we have kits ranging from 50 assays to 10,000 assays. The question we have encountered is, “does that mean 10,000 plates or 10,000 tubes/wells in a plate?” One assay is one tube (one well/one reaction). Therefore, think about your experiment and the requirements you’re going to have.

Whether you’re using a single tube or a 96-well plate, the volumes used in our protocols will be the same. The protocol is written to accommodate a 96-well plate, but this can just as easily be used in a tube.





Do I Need To Use The Kits? What Do The Luciferase Assay Kits Include?

luciferase assay guide information - do you need to buy a kit?

This is a very simple answer: You don’t need the kits. You can order the luciferin, the ATP, and everything else, and then follow the protocols in order to perform the experiment. If you’re doing your work in vitro, then our D-Luciferin In Vitro Protocol Handbook will be very helpful.

If you are shopping for individual products, then we encourage you to consider quality, especially when it comes to your luciferin. The difference in purity can have an impact.

Other considerations when choosing luciferin can be found in this article, which goes in some detail about solubility considerations, assay considerations and more.

However, the kits present considerable convenience. For example, you don’t have to make the buffer since it’s already provided in the kit. When making your luciferin stock solution, there is no weigh out required because your luciferin is already measured. It also provides uniformity in your experimental setup.

Another advantage the kit offers is clarity on the products you need. For example, you may have almost all the individual products you need except for the luciferin and the buffer. If you’re new to the luciferase assay, you might be unsure about which luciferin to choose (sodium, potassium, free acid, etc.). You might also be unsure about which buffer to choose or how to make the buffer. The kit spares you from a lot of confusion and additional research on what to buy. However, should you need to purchase accessory products, our team is here to help you sort out what you need.

Note: GoldBio does not sell the reaction buffer individually. It is included in the kit, however. Our 5X Luciferase Lysis Buffer is a lysis buffer only. You can refer to pages 4-6 of the In Vitro D-Luciferin Handbook for instructions on how to make the reaction buffer.

Your approach to this decision is going to depend on what you have time for, what you might already have in the lab, what you feel like doing and don’t feel like doing, and what you can spend.

The kit components will vary based on which kit you choose. For example, the IlluminationTM Series Firefly & Renilla Luciferase Enhanced Assay Kit by GoldBio comes with: 5X passive lysis buffer, firefly luciferase assay buffer, GoldBio’s d-luciferin, renilla luciferase assay buffer and enhanced coelenterazine. 





What Are The Basic Steps Of The Luciferase Assay?

The steps of the luciferase assay are going to remain very similar whether you’re doing a dual reporter assay or a single reporter.

Step 1: Choose your luciferase reporter gene (firefly luciferase or renilla luciferase, etc.). I’ll get into the different methods which will factor into your choice further in this article. But for the time being, just remember that if you’re doing a dual reporter assay, your luciferases need to have different spectral measurements.

Step 2: Clone your reporter into your plasmid. If you’re doing a dual reporter assay, then you will clone your other reporter into a separate plasmid.

Step 3: Cotransfect your experimental cells with your plasmid.

Step 4: After an incubation period of 24-48 hours, remove your media and lyse your cells.

Step 5: Add the buffer containing luciferin to the lysate. The light from this reaction can be measured with the luminometer.

These are the general steps you can expect to follow. Your method is going to vary to some degree based on the type of assay you’re performing and the objectives of your experiment.





Which Luciferase Assay Method Do I Choose?

There are different types of luciferase assays to choose from. There are flash types and glowing assays. You could also perform a single assay or a dual luciferase assay (in rare cases, even a triple). You might be wondering how to choose. This is all going to depend on what you need for your experiment.



Flash Assays vs. Glow Assays

Flash

The flash type luciferase assay, which is the most common assay type, means that upon adding your substrate, the reaction is going to happen very fast. You have a very limited amount of time to add the substrate and measure the light emission. When working with a single assay (tube), this won’t be much of a problem.

Let’s look at a hypothetical scenario where you would be working with a 96-well plate doing a flash assay. Because the assay runs so fast, if you were using a multichannel pipette, but the time you finish pipetting substrate into the final wells, you’ll have lost maximum sensitivity in your first wells. It would be impossible in that setup to get an accurate reading. Another option, when running your experiment with a 96-well plate is to pipette substrate into a single well, get a reading, and then move on to your next well – 96 times. This is possible to do, but it’s going to take considerable concentration and patterning in your behavior to get the consistent results you need.

As mentioned earlier in this article under the equipment section, some luminometers that measure the light emission from this reaction have been designed with injectors that automate the process of adding substrate, making it immediate and consistent. This ultimately solves the problem you face when working with a lot of samples in a short period of time. But luminometers with injectors require more substrate for an experiment. The reason is because some substrate is always lost, and it prevents the potential for running out.

The benefit of a flash type luciferase assay is that it produces very sensitive results. If this is extremely important for your experiment, and you have the equipment to carry it out, this is the type of luciferase assay you want to choose.



Glow

Maybe you don’t have a luminometer with injectors, but you’ve got a lot of samples to work with at a time and you want to ensure consistent results. The glowing luciferase assay is an alternative that buys you time. GoldBio’s Dura-Luc Lyophilized Firefly HTS Assay Kit has a half-life of nearly 3 hours. This allows you to pipette substrate into several wells before the signal fades. Another huge benefit is that it lets you compare results over multiple plates. The glow assay provides you with the accurate, consistent read your experiment needs. The downside, though, is that it is not as sensitive as the flash type.



Single Reporter Assays vs. Dual Reporter Assays

Single Reporter Assay

The reason you might lean toward a single reporter assay is because it cuts cost and time when studying expression. In the single reporter system, you would be using only luciferin (or coelenterazine if you’re working with renilla) as your substrate, and measure emission from that alone.

The drawback to only doing this is the lack of normalization. It’s not going to produce as detailed results as using the dual reporter assay.



Dual Reporter Assay

The dual assay system is most commonly performed with firefly and renilla luciferase. The dual system improves your overall accuracy by normalizing your data.

In this system, one reporter (e.g. firefly luciferase) will look at the experimental promoter activity. The other (e.g. renilla luciferase) is going to be used as your control for transfection efficiency. Therefore, in this experiment, your green firefly luciferase is going to measure experimental conditions, while your blue renilla luciferase is going to be connected with a constitutive promoter, measuring transfection and cell viability. The order can be reversed and firefly luciferase can be used as your control instead.

When performing the dual reporter assay, it’s important to choose reporters with spectral differences (different wavelength emission) in order to get an accurate read.



What to choose

Ultimately, this depends on what you need for your experiment. If you need the setup to be highly accurate and detailed, use the dual-system.

Outside of common practice, researchers have used the dual reporter system to shed light in other, innovative ways (some researchers have even used a triple reporter system).



Additional Resources

This article will only give you a little more clarity on the project ahead. But fear not. GoldBio’s handbooks and other articles might help address questions that arise. Below is a list of other helpful resources that might become useful later down the road:

Resources Description
Luciferin In Vitro Handbook Details the preparation and steps for working with luciferin in in vitro settings.
Luciferin In Vivo Handbook Details the preparation and steps for working with luciferin in in vivo settings.
Beetle vs Firefly Luciferin Firefly luciferin is pretty common, but you might be also hearing “beetle luciferin.” What’s the difference? This article sorts that out.
Luciferin FAQ This FAQ page lists the most common questions pertaining to luciferin.
10 Things and Beyond to Consider When Shopping or Using Luciferin/Luciferase
If you find yourself questioning the difference between various luciferase or luciferin types, this guide will set it all straight. Find out what to look out for when shopping for ...

Does My Chemical's Purity Really Matter?

One of the questions we receive at GoldBio is whether purity really matters when it comes to chemicals. In this article, we go into detail about why it does matter, even examining what a small percent difference can do to luciferin.


References:

96-Well Plate Bottom Shapes - Difference Between Bottom Shapes. (n.d.). Retrieved March 22, 2017, from http://www.wellplate.com/96-well-plate-bottom-shap...

Carceles-Cordon, M., Rodriguez-Fernandez, I., Rodriguez-Bravo, V., Cordon-Cardo, C. and Domingo-Domenech, J. (2016). In vivo Bioluminescence Imaging of Luciferase-labeled Cancer Cells. Bio-protocol 6(6): e1762. DOI: 10.21769/BioProtoc.1762; Full Text

Differences between in vitro, in vivo, and in silico studies. (2012, January 03). Retrieved March 24, 2017, from https://mpkb.org/home/patients/assessing_literature/in_vitro_studies

F-Bottom Shape - Flat Well Bottom - Precise Optical Measurements. (n.d.). Retrieved March 22, 2017, from http://www.wellplate.com/f-bottom-shape/

Khan, F. (2013, August 26). The Luciferase Reporter Assay: How it works. Retrieved March 23, 2017, from http://bitesizebio.com/10774/the-luciferase-reporter-assay-how-it-works/

Ling A, Soares F, Croitoru DO, et al. Post-transcriptional Inhibition of Luciferase Reporter Assays by the Nod-like Receptor Proteins NLRX1 and NLRC3. The Journal of Biological Chemistry. 2012;287(34):28705-28716. doi:10.1074/jbc.M111.333146.

Smalle, T. (2010, May). Luciferase Assay. Retrieved March 24, 2017, from http://cshprotocols.cshlp.org/content/2010/5/pdb.prot5421.long

U-Bottom Shape - Round Shaped Well Bottom - 96-Well Microplate. (n.d.). Retrieved March 22, 2017, from http://www.wellplate.com/u-bottom-shape/


    
              Karen Martin
GoldBio Marketing Coordinator


"To understand the universe is to understand math." My 8th grade
math teacher's quote meant nothing to me at the time. Then came
college, and the revelation that the adults in my past were right all
along. But since math feels less tangible, I fell for biology and have
found pure happiness behind my desk at GoldBio, learning, writing
and loving everything science. 



Category Code: 79104 88231 79107 79109 88251

Posted by Rebecca on April 7th, 2017  ⟩  0 comments

Any type of interview can be nerve-wracking and post-doctoral interviews are no exception. While they typically include the traditional interview where you allow the interviewer(s) to get to know you and answer the questions that they have, it may be conducted in a variety of formats. It may be a traditional one-on-one interview with the PI or it may be organized as a group interview with multiple interviews and multiple candidates being interviewed. The postdoctoral interview also generally includes a talk portion, where you have the opportunity to present your thesis to the department. Being prepared for the entirety of your interview can be a great way to stand out from the rest of the candidates. Review our tips below for steps you can take before, during, and after the interview to put your best foot forward along this part of your journey to a post-doctoral position.

Before the Interview

1. Apply to the Right Positions

When you are deciding where to apply for your post-doc fellowship, there are a few things you need to take into consideration. You want to apply for positions that genuinely fit your interests and that are a good fit for you as a scientist. If the researcher you are applying to work with is not doing research in your field of study, you may want to consider looking for other options. Additionally, you want to be sure to apply to positions that are looking for someone with your experience and skill level. A general rule of thumb to use is to apply to safety positions, target positions, and stretch positions. You can read more about these categories of post-doc fellowships and more tips on choosing where to submit applications and find a detailed timeline and guide to applying for postdoctoral positions in our article “A Detailed Guide to your Postdoc Application.”



2. Do Your Research

Once you apply for positions and start scheduling interviews, you need to do your research. This entails learning as much as you can about the PI that you will be working with and the research the lab is currently doing. You should also find information on the people who are working in the PI’s lab with him or her already and the department as a whole. Having an idea of what research is currently being conducted will allow you to better discern how you are a good fit and to advocate for yourself during the interview. This will also give you some great talking points to bring up and questions to ask during the interview day, but I will discuss more on this below.



During the Interview

3. Dress the Part

The first impression you give to your interviewer and the department you wish to work in will make a large impact on whether or not you are offered a position in their lab as a postdoctoral fellow. While researchers do not generally dress professional when working in the lab, it is essential to wear business professional attire on your interview day. This will not only show that you are serious about the position, but will also boost your confidence throughout the interview process. However, dressing the part does not only refer to what you wear, but also refers to the demeanor you have during your talk and interview. As you know, a post-doc position is just one part of the pathway to becoming an academic scientist and teaching will be expected of you. You want to show your interviewers and audience that you will be an effective educator, which requires you carry yourself in a way that ensures your students you are confident in the material you are teaching. You can read more about effectively delivering talks in our article Public Speaking Dos and Don’ts – A Life Scientist’s How-To Guide.



4. Prepare to Answer Questions

While this might seem like an obvious preparation strategy, there are quite a few resources out there that you can use to help you prepare to answer the questions you are asked during your interview. There are a lot of online resources with typical interview questions. Here is a list of sample questions and answers provided by BitesizeBio specific for students doing post-doctoral interviews.

One question that is bound to be asked during the first moments of your interview is “tell me about yourself.” Having an idea of what you will say if and when this is asked can ease your nerves about the interview and ensure it starts off on a good note. Start by giving a brief introduction about yourself, where you are from, and by where you currently are in your career. Are you currently finishing your graduate degree or are you in another position? After you give a brief introduction, tell the interviewer(s) where you see your career going in the future and what goals you have for your career as a whole.



5. Ask Questions

What many post-doctoral position candidates fail to realize is that the interview process is not only about the lab determining if you are a good fit to work with them, but it is also about you figuring out if the PI and lab is a good fit for you and your career. What this means is that while you will be doing most of the question answering during the interview, you should also be asking questions to find out more about the lab, department, and people you will potentially be working with. Many times, questions will arise throughout the conversation and it is important that you feel comfortable to ask them. Sometimes, however, you may find yourself not knowing what questions and this may be partially due to your nerves. One strategy is to have an idea of questions that you can ask before you begin the interview. If you come up with other questions along the way, you don’t necessarily have to use your prepared questions, but you will have them in the back of your mind if you do need them.

Here are two sources you can use that provide a list of questions that may be important to you as you make your decision on where to complete your postdoctoral fellowship. This LinkedIn article provides a list of questions as well as some ideas on how to come up with questions on your own based on what you value in a position. Another source is this article from Nature Jobs that provides you with questions to ask that will help you narrow down the best-fit position for you and your career.



6. Give Your Best Talk

If you’re going to be giving a talk during your interview, you need to be amply prepared. According to one Reddit user who answered my question on best ways to prepare for your talk, you should be prepared to give it in any combination of circumstances—if you’re sleep-deprived, dehydrated, or anything else.

As part of your preparation, you should make sure your talk is well-organized. You will typically be presenting your current research project and will want to present it in a similar way as you would write a journal submission. Begin by stating the questions or problem your research sought to answer—what are your objectives? Then discuss background information and methods. You can follow it up with results, discussion, and conclusion. Be sure to address the significance of your research within your field. You can follow other outlines as well. For example, some people like to begin with the conclusions and then discuss how they got there. How you organize it is up to you, but make sure that it is organized in some way and that leaves you time for your audience to ask questions as the end.

Another Reddit user suggested making sure you have time to meet with the PI and lab members before giving your talk. This can help ease your nerves and get to know more about expectations and moods before you begin presenting your research.



7. Practice

Practicing for your interview is a great way to help calm your nerves and prepare yourself to make a great impression. A great resource you can look into for interview practice is mock interviewing. A lot of universities will have a career or employment center on campus that allows students to schedule free practice interviews where someone who has been trained in interviewing will interview you and provide you with feedback on how you did and ways you can improve before your actual interview comes around.  

If your school does not offer this, partner up with someone else from your program who is also going through the interview process and take turns asking each other questions and providing each other with constructive criticism. You could also do this with a family member or friend if they are more accessible to you.



8. Get to Know the Department

While you are at your interview day, you will likely have a few opportunities to meet others who are working in the lab you are interested and in other labs in the department. Whether it is before or after your talk or during lunch, put in effort to get to know the people you may be working with in the future. While it isn’t a formal part of the interview, the PI will want to know that you can get along with the rest of his team and other colleagues you may end up working with during your postdoc fellowship. He may even ask their opinion of you after the interview is finished. Beginning to form a relationship with them by showing interest in their work and backgrounds can give you the extra boost you need to be offered the position that you want.

Also, it doesn’t hurt to make friends with others early. If you end up choosing to work at that university, you may need some advice on living in a new city and finding housing. The other team members can be a great resource.



After the Interview

9. Don’t Forget to Follow-Up

Following up with a thank you email after your interview is important. It gives you an opportunity to thank the PI for your chance to interview as well as let him or her know how you are a great fit for the position now that you have learned more about it. If there was something you thought of after the interview that you wish you had mentioned, you can include it in the thank you letter as well. This email should be sent to the PI as well as anyone else who interviewed you within 24 hours.



10. Be Patient

After the interview is over and you have sent a thank you letter, be patient. The amount of time it takes for a lab to get back to you can vary depending on where they are in the interview process. If you were the first person they interviewed, it may be quite some time until you hear back, and if you were one of the last interviewees, you may hear sooner. Instead of worrying about when you will hear from the PI, focus on preparing for your next interview. Start researching the next lab and PI so that you can give each position your best impression.

Having a successful postdoctoral interview process is very important and following these tips will help you to paint yourself in the best light. Scheduling your interviews can also play a role in how you do at each one. If you’re really hoping to get a certain position, try not to make that your very first interview because you will be more comfortable and have more practice after you have one under your belt. Good luck!


    
              Rebecca Talley
         GoldBio Staff Writer


Rebecca is a medical student at the University of Missouri.
She previously worked as a lab technician while studying
biology at Truman State University. As an aspiring
reproductive endocrinologist with an interest in global
health, Rebecca has traveled across Central America on
medical mission trips. With a passion for the life sciences,
she enjoys writing for GoldBio.

 

Category Code: 79108

Posted by Rebecca on March 24th, 2017  ⟩  0 comments

Life science labs come in many varieties. Some are small with just a couple people and some are very large. According to Nature, the ideal number of members in a lab is 10 to 15. While this number of people has been determined to be great for productivity, it can often be difficult for everyone to get to known each other and come together to work as a team—especially if there is significant turnover of employees. As a lab manager, it is your job to keep everyone working together and motivated, and here we will discuss the best ways for you to successfully fulfill this role.

how to motivate your labmates

Lab Philosophy or Mission

In order for your team to be successful, it is essential that you lay out what your goals are and what the overall mission of the lab is. When you give a purpose to what you are doing and identify certain values that are important to your lab as a whole, everyone on the team will be better able to strive for fulfilling the lab’s philosophy. Without some type of mission explaining the overarching purpose and motivation behind the work you are doing, it will be hard for your team to understand why they are there and why their work matters. When this is present, they can easily identify how their work is contributing to the field and how it will make a difference long-term.



Lay Out Attainable Objectives

Along with forming a mission statement, your lab should lay out obtainable objectives for each project it takes on. Typically, objectives are essential to forming the problem and hypothesis that your research project plans to address; however, they should be slightly more in depth and detailed than just stating what questions your project seeks to answer.

For example, the goals you lay out for your team may have ideal durations that each phase of the research should take and certain standards that you would like to uphold throughout the investigation process. Remember, these should be reachable and reasonable in order to be motivational. If you’re considering using stricter objectives to increase productivity, remember that having goals which are impossible to meet will bring your team down, rather than encouraging them.



Show Appreciation

When your team performs well and meets the goals you have set together, show them your appreciation. There are a variety of ways to do this, but you don’t have to do anything elaborate. Simply acknowledging that they did a great job and saying thank you for their hard work can go a long way in encouraging them to keep performing at their best level. If something goes particularly well and you want to go above a simple thank you to show your appreciation, get creative with your gratitude. Bring in a homemade dessert one day or order lunch in for your team. Letting people know that their work is appreciated is imperative to maintaining a happy research environment.



Avoid Perfectionism

While most lab managers know that perfectionism is impossible in the field of research, many still have that expectation. These high standards are not only held for people who are working under you, but for yourself and your performance as well. If you are constantly expecting perfect work and perfect results, you will be consistently disappointed—research is a field where there are many unknowns and unexpected outcomes. Your team will pick up on the vibes you put off and how you react when things do not go as planned.

If you show, by example, that it is okay when unanticipated events occur and experiments don’t work out perfectly, your team will likely mirror your attitude. This prevents your team from becoming burnt out and losing their motivation after failed experiments, which are sometimes unavoidable.

A good rule of thumb is to hold your team to the same level of performance that you expect from yourself. In a lab, doing your best might not always correlate with results, but it is more about maximum efficiency and knowledge.



Call in Help if Needed

Many life science projects will have certain aspects that the members of your team are not fully experienced and comfortable with doing. In some cases, there may be lengthy statistics that would require a lot of research, practice and time for your team to learn. This may be a case where hiring a temporary statistician would be worth the extra money. Your team can stay focused on doing the type of work they enjoy—science—and the statistician can ensure your research is analyzed and interpreted accurately.



Regular Productive Meetings

Meetings can be incredibly productive or incredibly unproductive. According to an article produced by Inc., the average employee wastes about four hours per week in meetings that don’t benefit the team. Productive meetings on the other hand, are those that only require the presence of those who really need to be there, that start on time, and that end as quickly as possible. This type of meeting allows the team to update one another on their progress and address any unresolved issues.



Outside Activities

Finding ways to encourage further development of your team can be a great motivational strategy. These can be either research-related, knowledge-based developments or team building. For example, you may take your team to a conference to learn about other research that is being done in your field or you may attend training sessions on how to use new equipment that your order for your lab. An outside activity may also simply be having your team over for a BBQ or going out to dinner together to get to know each other outside the lab. Encouraging growth and learning will help increase your team’s overall cooperation and productivity.



Be a Leader, Not a ‘Boss’

Micromanaging a team is a surefire way to foster negativity in your lab. Having been in this situation before, I know it can be extremely difficult to be productive when someone is constantly looking over your shoulder to ensure no mistakes are being made. This can cause unnecessary workplace anxiety and tension. Instead, be a leader. Provide your team with concrete expectations and provide feedback as necessary, but not constantly. While you may have one way of getting a task done, one of your postdocs may have different method that works just as well. Allow your team to figure out what works best for them and give them the autonomy to do so. This will encourage motivation and positivity rather than resentment.



Fair Compensation

While this applies to any position, it is especially applicable in the lab setting where employees are often working semi-independently on one aspect of a team project. Your employees and team should feel that they are being compensated adequately for what they are worth. When people feel that they are being taken advantage of or that they could be paid better elsewhere, they will not have an incentive to perform well in order to stay at your lab.

It is important to note, however, that this may not be applicable to graduate students or someone who is working in the lab as part of their education requirements and not really receiving a salary or hourly wage.



Foster a Positive Atmosphere

Creating a place where employees enjoy coming to work can have a great impact on your research and team productivity. Offer praise to your team members in front of their peers when something goes well, but save criticism for private meetings and keep it constructive. Don’t look at mistakes as failure, but rather learning opportunities and emphasize this with your team. A lot of your lab atmosphere comes down to your attitude. If you’re happy, your lab is more likely to be happy; if you’re motivated, your lab is likely to be motivated.

For more ways to create a positive atmosphere, check out our article on how to  Up Your Lab Manager Game.



But what if you’re not motivated?

As a leader, it is your job to constantly motivate your team. While the above strategies are great for inspiring and leading your team to success, some of them require a fair amount of motivation on your part to work. So what do you do when you are the one who isn’t motivated? Here are some steps you can take to increase your own motivation:

  • Be passionate. Try to remember why you went into this field of science in the first place and what excites you about your research. Take some time to reflect on your own goals and what brought you to where you are today.
  • Recognize your declining motivation early. The earlier you realize you aren’t as motivated as you once were, the sooner you can make a change and prevent your team from losing motivation with you.
  • The lab is not your life. You have to have hobbies and people outside of the lab that can help you relax after a long day or week at work. Having a support group of friends or family can help keep your spirits up. According to Dr. Joelle Jay, a senior manager at a leadership firm and author of “The Inner Edge: The 10 Practices of Personal Leadership,” “when you’re a leader, all of the people below you lean on you…you don’t have anyone above you to lean on.” Family and friends can be great for this, or you can find an outside mentor who is more familiar with your field.
  • Remember that your feelings don’t necessarily have to be reflected in your actions. Even when you aren’t motivated, the bottom line is that it is still your job to keep your team motivated.

Motivation is something that is constantly changing regardless of whether you’re a lab manager or another member of the team. It is important to know that this is normal, and you should not feel guilty if you are in a slump. Instead, use these tips to help pull yourself and your team back up and always encourage positivity—a happy attitude can go a long way, and a negative attitude can cause a lot of unnecessary problems in the lab. If a lack of motivation and cohesion has already occurred and conflicts are arising in your lab, check out our article on  Common Causes and Solutions to Conflicts in the Lab.

Resources:

Economy, Peter. “9 Super Effective Ways to Motivate Your Team”. Inc. 2016. http://www.inc.com/peter-economy/9-super-effective-ways-to-motivate-your-team.html.

Zielinkska, Edyta. “How to Run an Efficient and Creative Lab without Micromanaging”. The Scientist. 2012. http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/32082/title/Motivate-Your-Lab/


    
              Rebecca Talley
         GoldBio Staff Writer


Rebecca is a medical student at the University of Missouri.
She previously worked as a lab technician while studying
biology at Truman State University. As an aspiring
reproductive endocrinologist with an interest in global
health, Rebecca has traveled across Central America on
medical mission trips. With a passion for the life sciences,
she enjoys writing for GoldBio.

 

Category Code: 79107, 79109