Lab Culture


Gladfelter Lab Core Values

Our lab is brought together by shared scientific curiosities of the organizational strategies of complex cells. While our model cell or organism of choice takes many forms, we have a common passion for applying mechanistic cell biology to an array of problems. We value collaborative science where we share our excitement and expertise with each other, both because it is more fun and because we believe it results in better science. While our common interest is biology, we become part of a community when we join the lab. We recognize that we each come into our community as human beings and scientists as well as all the other roles we play in life. We prioritize empathy, kindness, and mutual support during times of both agreement and conflict. We strive to make the research community as a whole a more inclusive, supportive, and joyful space, and we believe this starts with modeling our own community in that likeness. We believe in the intrinsic potential of all lab members and that ground-breaking science is done in a space where humanity and creativity are supported. Below is the lab compact crafted by and for the lab to ensure these values are the basis of lab life.

General Lab Expectations

  • Be an active member of our community. All lab members are expected to support their labmates intellectually and materially, sharing knowledge and skills. Mentoring is essential to passing down scientific skills, and everyone is expected to participate in both formal and informal mentoring throughout their time in the lab.
  • Be kind. Our default is to treat each other with grace, respect, and compassion. Part of being a human being is making mistakes. We strive to create an understanding, empathetic community that accepts these mistakes and facilitates healthy growth.
  • Be curious. All members should seek new approaches and collaborators, read widely and find wonder in the workings of cells.
  • Respect common spaces. Our lab is a shared community space whose cleanliness and organization is essential for everyone’s safety and the success of their science. Everyone is expected to contribute to the cleanliness and organization of the lab. We strive to leave our common lab spaces and equipment better than we found them.
  • Take care of yourself. The scientific process can be exhilarating, but it can also be incredibly difficult and draining. While we value creativity and resilience, we know that this comes only with good mental and physical health. Therefore, we expect each lab member to reflect on their own individual needs and take the time, space, and steps necessary to come into our community as healthy as possible.

Scientific Expectations

The mission of the Gladfelter lab is to discover new biology through supporting the development of all lab members to be rigorous, creative and careful scientists. Working in the lab will require individuals to organize their days and experiments in order to be successful. Below are some general expectations for lab members to make progress on their projects as well as get the most out of their training.

  • Work ethic: Success in sciences requires a major time dedication that will require working long days and nights or else being highly focused and efficient in a standard workday.
  • Productivity: Our work should be performed efficiently and in a focused manner. Experiments will be analyzed in a timely manner-ideally within the week of when an experiment is performed.
  • Intellectual autonomy: Lab members should practice designing their own experiments with input from Amy and the group. Challenge oneself to build models and interpret data as it is produced.
  • Resourcefulness: We expect lab members to be resourceful when identifying equipment, reagents and analysis software needed for project completion.
  • Reading the literature: We expect lab members to keep abreast of the literature relevant to your project and to read widely as well. Setting up Pubmed searches, eTOCs for key journals and monitoring Twitter are all useful tools to keep in the habit.
  • Integrity: Experimental details need to be written down so that someone can reproduce what you have done.
  • Initiative: We hope our lab members are excited to do experiments, run simulations or think deeply each day and find fulfillment in this work.

Commitment to Communication

We want to maintain a lab that is welcoming to all people and clear communication is essential to keep a harmonious space. We encourage lab members to share not only their ideas and their passions, but also their woes and their discontents. We feel that healthy communication is a defining aspect of our community, and we are committed to practicing open, respectful, and honest communication.

What we communicate about:

  • Science! We are highly enthusiastic scientists who love to chat about our projects and listen to others’ successes and challenges. This is essential for cutting edge discovery and the growth and learning of all members of our lab community.
  • Constructive criticism and feedback. Crafting and delivering feedback is a skill to master, and now is the time to practice it in a caring community. This includes feedback on science, presentations, the lab environment, and anything else that may come up while we’re working together. We use empathy and compassion to use criticism to build people up to be better communicators and scientists.
  • Issues in the labspace that affect other lab members. Experiments can be stressful even when things are working properly, but it’s important to give lab members a heads up about machine malfunctions and reagent availability as needed.
  • Reserving equipment. Signing up for the microscope, FPLC, cold room, tissue culture hood, and other lab spaces is necessary for everyone to plan their days. Be mindful of others’ reservations when hoping to extend a reservation last minute.
  • Scheduling. Notify labmates if you are running late to meetings or training sessions so that they can adjust their plans accordingly.
  • Asking for help. We all need help during chaotic days. If you are unable to come into the lab to complete something time sensitive (e.g. need plates taken out of the incubator, need a few cultures spun down, help with your lab job, etc), then posting to the lab Slack is a good way to ask for help!
  • Things we’re struggling with, to the degree we feel comfortable. Even if it’s as vague as, “This is a hard week and I need some space,” letting people know where you are personally or where you’re struggling in the lab space, especially if you’re working together closely, can help to prevent misunderstandings and conflict later. If what you’re struggling with concerns another lab member, setting aside time to communicate with that individual one-on-one (or with a mediator) is a crucial first step to getting back to harmony.

How and where we communicate:

  • Talk to Amy if there is any concern in the lab that your or other’s physical or mental health is at risk.
  • Always strive for direct, respectful communication for all conversations, whether they are happening in person or virtually. We acknowledge that not everyone communicates the same way, and what feels direct to one person may be unclear or confrontational to another, so we do our best to be kind and to ask for clarification as needed.
  • For conflict resolution, it is important that all members involved are in a safe environment to communicate effectively, whether that be in person or via Slack/some other virtual communication platform.
  • We value in-person communication in the lab space to obtain what we call “the critical lab mass” necessary for community engagement and problem solving in real time.
  • At the beginning of each lab meeting we address technical problems in the lab. This is a critical time to do group problem solving and should be used in addition to addressing issues via Slack.
  • For the majority of lab-wide communications, we use Slack as a quick way to reach everyone or to direct message specific labmates. It is essential that everyone stays up to date on the Slack channels.

Health, Well-being, and Balance

As scientists, we are expected to work hard and be passionate about our work. We believe that scientists that are happy and fulfilled as human beings outside of the lab do more creative and rigorous science inside of the lab. This means that personal mental health, physical health, family, friends, communities and hobbies are essential to prioritize in tandem with your lab work and identity as a scientist.

  • The makeup of what makes a personal life fulfilling is different for every lab member. We will not compare or judge what is important to other people.
  • Everyone deserves time off; if a lab member is fulfilling their responsibilities to the lab, we will never begrudge them their personal time.
  • We expect each lab member to reflect on their own individual needs and take the time, space, and steps necessary to come into our community as healthy as possible.
  • Communication about difficulties in life is essential, even if specific details are not shared, so we can be aware of how to interact and support each other.
  • If we are not feeling well, we will stay home from work. If we are feeling well enough that we want to be in the lab, but may be contagious, we will follow the updated lab protocols.


We believe that one of the true joys of being a scientist is getting to work with a community of creative, passionate individuals interested in solving similar mysteries. However, in order to flourish a community needs to be tended and we need to commit to putting in active work as individuals to benefit the group as whole.

  • As a community, we will always celebrate one another’s successes and support one another through the inevitable failures that make up the majority of doing science.
  • We strive to create a supportive environment for every member of the lab. This applies to both scientific and psychosocial support.
  • As members of a broader community, we commit to sharing our science through outreach.
  • We commit to making our science accessible, both within the lab and with the broader scientific community (sharing code, data, etc.).
  • We value diversity in all forms and want everyone—regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or ableness—to flourish in our lab.
  • We do not tolerate behavior that makes our lab unwelcoming or unsafe.


Mentorship is the cornerstone of scientific training as knowledge and skills get passed down through generations. Every lab member will be both a mentor and a mentee at different points during their time in the Gladfelter lab. We commit to offer formal or informal mentorship to any lab members who have something to learn from us.

Mentoring is a responsibility we all commit to take on in lab:

  • We are committed to effective, culturally aware mentorship.
  • Learning how to be a good mentor takes time and practice. We need to actively practice in order to build skills. As a community, we commit to sharing resources and talking about mentoring pedagogy.
  • With as large and diverse a group as ours, there is a wide variety of expertise within the lab. This means acts of informal mentorship, where we are reaching out to different members of the lab depending on the question or technique in mind. We commit to being global mentors to the whole community.

Guidelines for mentoring within the lab:

  • Create and share mentoring compact with new members you are training in the lab.
  • Set specific times for talking through questions, making experimental plans, or receiving formal feedback.

Department of Cell Biology

Duke University School of Medicine