I consider that being a scientist is the best job in the world, and I feel very privileged to be paid for doing what I love most. Coming to the lab does not feel like a job to me, and this is largely due to the environment in which our group is embedded, which nurtures critical thinking, collaboration and a good sense of camaraderie. I am very lucky to be surrounded by a very talented group of people.
I believe talent is universal, which is why our team includes people from all over the world. When recruiting to the lab, I particularly value a positive attitude and endurance, because doing good science takes a lot of patience and resilience. I am more easily impressed by a genuine sense of scientific curiosity than plain intelligence.
I expect things to go wrong. After all, doing good experiments is not easy. However, I also expect that you will manage to find a way around most problems. Change one thing at a time. Ask for support, discuss with your colleagues and find solutions. Getting the difficult experiments to work is what frequently makes the difference in achieving true progress.
Expectations of all lab members
I expect everyone to be honest and considerate to others, with a genuine commitment to create the most enjoyable environment in the lab. This includes being open and communicative about the things that you like and, most importantly, the things you don’t like — always with a positive and constructive attitude in mind. I believe that creating an environment in which everybody is happy is the best possible recipe for success in a laboratory.
I expect scientific integrity and hard work, but I won’t tell you how you should organise your daily schedule or what time you should come or go. I expect you to be mature enough to do what you need to be productive and at the same time maintain a healthy life style. But I believe that achieving in science requires careful planning and dedication. I have met a few very bright people that didn’t need to work hard to do well, but for most people — me included — it just took a lot of work.
I expect everyone ideas and experiments to be challenged. After all, the people around you will be at least as smart as you, if not more. Your work will be discussed at lab meetings, and constructive criticism will help your research to move forward. I expect everyone to be respectful when challenging your ideas, but you should be able to take in appropriate feedback. Fostering scientific discussion is a core attribute of the lab.
I encourage everyone to contribute to projects other than those that they are directly leading. The questions we aim to solve typically require a multidisciplinary approach, and collaborations frequently accelerate our progress. Most people leave the lab with at least one main publication as a leading author and several other papers in which they have played a pivotal role. In the long-term, I think this contributes to their ability to lead multidisciplinary teams.
Expectations of Oscar
You should expect me to help you in developing your research vision, providing guidance on how to direct your efforts in the most productive manner. You should expect me to help you to communicate and publish your results effectively. You should also expect me to guide your career development, whatever your goals may be.
You should expect my full commitment towards your career development: mentoring the next generation of leading neuroscientists is one of my most important jobs. I will help applying for a PhD programme, preparing job interviews and writing research proposals. And you should expect me to continue supporting your career — reading your grants, recommending you for lectures, writing support letters — long after you leave the lab.
You should expect to have sufficient resources and equipment to do the experiments that will lead to exciting discoveries. This should never be an important limitation for our work. Then again, I expect you not to be wasteful and make the best possible use of available resources. We are not the sum of individual laboratories — all resources are shared and their use optimised to its maximum capacity.
Expectations of postdocs
I expect most postdoc applicants to have completed or being close to completing a successful PhD in any discipline, with at least a first-author publication. However, it is OK if you still don’t have that paper out. A good recommendation letter from your supervisor may go a long way in convincing me that we should interview you.
I expect postdocs to come up with their own ideas about what they want to do in the laboratory, within the context of our current research interests. My goal is to enable you to do transformative experiments that will make the maximum impact on the scientific community.
I expect postdocs to be able to attract their own funding. Most postdocs spend at least four years in the lab, which typically means that I will need to fund their salary at some point. Ideally, a postdoc applicant will secure funding for two years and I will fund the rest of their time in the lab. In some exceptional circumstances I may also agree to fund your entire postdoc, but this is quite unusual.
Postdocs in my lab typically leave with at least a main author paper and several other collaborative works. Postdocs usually move to an academic position after leaving the lab, although some of them have also moved to science-related positions in industry. You can learn more about their careers here.
Expectations of graduate students
As a graduate student, I published most of my work in the Journal of Comparative Neurology, a very respectable but far from flashy journal. This didn’t prevent me from getting a very good postdoctoral position, because I learned a lot about experimental design, got a very good background in neuroanatomy, and had the opportunity to write drafts for all my papers. This is what I expect from my graduate students, that they do their best to build the foundations for a solid career in science.
I expect graduate students to bring lots of enthusiasm, curiosity and a genuine vocation for scientific discovery. I also expect you to develop a thick skin during your time in the lab: being able to cope with failed experiments is an important part of becoming a scientist.
Graduate students in my lab typically leave with at least a main author paper and several other collaborative works. All of my graduate students have gone to top laboratories for their postdoctoral work, most typically with their own funding through a fellowship. You can learn more about their careers here.
Expectations of research assistants
I expect research assistants, including our lab manager, to be fully embedded into our research operation. I expect them to take full control of the functioning of the lab and maintain the highest possible standards. You will be the most stable personnel in a constantly evolving environment, and so you must carry a memory of the place.
I expect your work to evolve during your time in the lab, as you acquire new skills and responsibilities. My goal is to make sure that your job feels nothing like a routine. I expect you to take care of maintaining databases and protocols, equipment and operations, but also to contribute to specific research projects in collaboration with students and postdocs.
Research assistants move from our lab to other laboratories or after acceptance in a PhD programme, but most of them stay with us for a long time. You can learn more about their careers here.