The prime directive in both research and learning is not to take things TOO seriously. That is often difficult with the pressures and workload of a professional training program but if it's not enjoyable it's not worth doing, right? So humour is an essential part of our environment.
In more solid terms, we have a general laboratory (850ft 2) and two adjacent side rooms; one for cell culture (150ft 2) and another for microscopy (150ft 2). The main laboratory is fully equipped for protein work (western blots, immunoarrays) and mRNA studies (RT-PCR, siRNA) as well as for cell isolations and tissue printing. For cell culture we have access to a level 2 biological safety cabinet and 3 incubators (2 standard CO2 and 1 that also allows regulation of O2 levels), as well as a particle analyzer for measurements of cell numbers and volumes. Our microscopes allow for brightfield, phase contrast and fluorescence microscopy.
Graduate students have a dedicated office (125ft 2) and each student has their own desk with a PC workstation and shared printer. We have a ‘virtual laboratory’ online allowing live access to all of our laboratory protocols, guidelines, reagent inventories and so on. Beyond our own research area, we have extensive access to other instruments, techniques and expertise through a core equipment facility within Pharmacy, and excellent collegial interactions with other research teams in the School.
All students use cell culture and multiple cell and biochemical assays; however they may learn other techniques even if not a core part of their projects. Students participate in equipment and bench management on a rotational basis; it is a lab rule that everyone knows the principles of every assay they do and instrument they use.
Students meet with the Supervisor on a regular basis - weekly if formal meetings are necessary but Dr Blay spends a lot of time available in the laboratory. There is also an Advisory Committee for graduate students. Expectations for program and lab performance are explicit and contained in a series of ‘FAQ’ documents, with titles such as ‘The Overall Goal’, ‘Progress by Year’, ‘Manuscripts and Data’ and ‘Scientific Advice’. Lab meetings are held on a biweekly basis and students present their latest work with a list of goals for the ensuring two weeks. We also have joint lab meetings with other laboratories to allow presentation of work to a different audience and the chance to hear different perspectives.