Lab Values

Lab values are important to talk about, share with new group members, and live. Our group completed an exercise in writing down our lab values recently. Below is a summary of what we came up with, along different key topics:
[Ethics | Diversity | Community]


Bring your ethics to work. Whether it’s about the way we approach human subjects, or the way we treat each other, fairness, justice, and beneficence are core values of this group. As a mentor, I (or you) can’t promise to always be right, or have all the answers, but we can take the time to think and talk about what is right, and provide guidance about professional ethics. Some practical places this comes up:

  • Science: Good science requires careful attention to things like note taking, keeping track of experiments, rigorous data analysis, reproducibility, and a deep commitment to honest evaluation of your data. This is a place for ongoing learning throughout the career, and one that we should talk about regularly as a group.  In addition, some good practices to consider:
    • Document your code
    • Use version control (gitlab is preferred as it is locally hosted and free)
    • Use scripting to generate results to increase their trustworthiness
    • Learn about statistics or make use of resources to get them right
    • Memo regularly during interviews
    • Keep a research notebook of some sort, online or off
    • Help our group define what these practices are. Ideally, work to standardize on some tools and all learn them. 
  • What we study: In what we study, the ethical implications of the data we collect and the software we build should always be a consideration.
  • Authorship and Credit: Authorship on papers, which is often used as a proxy for credit for work done, is a place where bias, confusion, and ethics easily can come up. It is important to discuss this early, and revisit it if you are uncomfortable. This is also a topic I study.
  • Career development: As a mentor, it is important to ask about short term and long term goals, and to help support both (or get advice on how to do so if you are new to mentoring).
  • Harassment: Sexual harassment and other forms of mistreatment are an ongoing problem in academia (e.g. see this National Academies report on sexual harassment). It is a responsibility of all of us to help address this when we see it (and as of recently there is required training for new UW employees on sexual harassment). If you observe or experience problems, and need any help or guidance in dealing with them, please feel free to come to me for advice and support.
  • Student code of conduct and Faculty code.


Diversity is an important part of the goals in our group, and in Allen School, which has its own Allen School diversity statement, and at the UW. Other useful resources include  UW women’s center and the Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity. There are also multiple faculty in DuB who have spoken out about issues around gender in academia.

As a woman and person with a disability in technology, I have seen first hand how important it is to increase equity and improve access. Technology today is used by people across the globe, from every walk of life — its creation must represent that range of perspectives as well. Yet events such as GamerGate, unevenness in access and public statements and documents demonstrate ongoing hostility to this inclusiveness.

I aim to make my group accessible and welcoming to a wide range of students, and welcome any feedback or specific requests that can help improve this. I also engage these topics in my research, and welcome students interested in considering (or focusing on) diversity in their work.

There are some practical actions that relate to this:

  • Educate yourself: There are lots of opportunities to learn more about these issues at the UW, including ally training relating to undocumented students, and violence prevention through the SafeCampus program.
  • Show respect for individual choice and identity
    • I hope we can all strive to make the group a welcoming environment for each person in it. Please let me know if you see opportunities to improve this.
    • Pronouns: I use she/her, please let me know if you have any specific pronoun preferences
    • Time away from work: There are many individual differences in how we approach work. It is important to ask about and respect away time in all its forms. Some examples of things that people might prioritize include a specific bedtime, a religious holiday, time on the weekend for self renewal, or scheduled exercise. Conversely, it is important to communicate these wishes to your mentors in the group.
    • Email: We all work on many different schedules. Please do not feel obliged to answer an email immediately just because it is sent. A response within 24 hours is a good goal, but could reasonably provide a plan for when to answer rather than an answer itself depending on the complexity of the task.
  • Practice accessibility
    • Papers should be made accessible. At submission time, this means (at a minimum) including the \Description tag if you use latex, and uploading source as well as pdf for both Latex and word. At acceptance (final) time, this means also making your pdf fully accessible. There are great instructions for making your paper accessible on the SIGACCESS website. I’d add to them that you should always double check the reading order and check for correct labeling of headers.
    • Similarly, you should caption videos.
    • Lastly you should make your talks accessible, including those given within our group. Again, there is a great tutorial for making your talk accessible thanks to Richard Ladner and Kyle Rector.

Building a Community of Shared Values

Being part of this group means making a commitment to learning together. This should be no surprise, but it’s worth pointing out a few places that are worth paying attention to on this front.

  • Work toward shared goals. I hope we can identify core focus areas and have everyone in the group contribute to them in appropriate ways.
    • It is extremely difficult to raise money and lead a group when everyone is going in different directions, yet co-advising as well as our tendency to pick and focus on real world problems tends to lead in this direction. Thus I ask everyone in the group to contribute to efforts to center and focus us, both determining what those foci should be and contributing to them.
    • Just as the group needs to work to have a center and a focus, we should be trying to work to see how we can best support your center and focus. Ideally these will converge or complement each other. 
  • Take skills seriously. For example, everyone in the group should spend time learning about writing and time management. Some key skills we can talk about:
    • Time management
    • Writing & Presentation
    • Techniques to help defining a vision, scoping it at different stages, and planning each stage
    • Understanding your research community (and sub communities)
    • Mentoring (see below)
  • Be present when you’re present. We should talk as a group about what this means, and when. To me, this is both about our individual relationship (showing up when you say you will) and about the lab life (having core hours when people are around) and about community — e.g. not being on devices during lab meetings. It also means bringing energy and optimism to learning and challenging your comfort zone and your mentors!
  • Transparency and Communication. I will try to be clear about how decisions are being made, and invite bottom up contributions to them whenever possible. Some specific things to do here
    • We should work together to make lab wide decisions, and discuss things like authorship and IP ownership before final decisions are made. 
    • Please tell me when something isn’t working for you (and I hope when it is).
    • Regular communication is important. The News of the Week (NOTW) is part of that,  But ideally I think we should all take the time to summarize goals and accomplishments each week.
  • Contribute to a comfortable environment. There are many ways to do this including workshops where people share what they have learned with each other, reading/writing clubs, and being present in the lab. In this environment, ideally,
    • Questions are welcome
    • New ideas are nurtured
    • Helping others is a value (e.g. by answering questions, providing feedback on research/writing/presentation)
    • Sharing knowledge and collaboration are common practices
  • Be a mentor. This includes peer relationships, as well as formal mentoring. One of my formative experiences in graduate school was having the janitors in my building cheer me on for pursuing a PhD. Equally, it was my responsibility to ask them about their lives and provide support. Mentors help each other in many ways:
    • Provide career guidance and support
    • Celebrate each others’ success and encourage each other
    • Learn about mentoring, conflict resolution, and managing up and down.
    • Provide constructive and respectful feedback
    • Help their mentees to achieve balance
  • Give credit where it’s due. We should share ideas freely, but it’s also important to take note of where ideas come from. When you embark on an idea, make sure that you offer its source an opportunity to join you if you didn’t think of it yourself. However in the end, realize that ideas are cheap and follow through is what matters.
  • Represent us well in public. Whether it’s social media or a conference, you represent UW and our group every time you go out there. Let’s be professional (and talk about what that means).