Culture

We are a highly collaborative and diverse group of scientists working in an obligate, but mutualistic symbiosis. Parasites and commensals are not welcome.

Mentoring philosophy: Life as a mono-culture is just as foreign to scientists as it is to our microbial symbionts. I help to foster a supportive and productive training environment by emphasizing collaborative research and close inter-connections between members of the lab. This fits with the spirit and philosophy of UCSF, where labs regardless of department openly share equipment, reagents, and expertise without concerns about internal competition or ego. Collaborations usually emerge organically within our lab depending on the needs of a particular research project due to the multi-disciplinary nature of our team, allowing each lab member to bring their own unique set of skills and background knowledge to bear on the problem. At the same time, each lab member has a clearly defined set of scientific questions and/or technical expertise, ensuring that they can take ownership of their primary research efforts and enable a smooth transition to scientific independence.

Giving feedback: Science is hard and our research team values work ethic, creativity, intellectual curiosity, and team spirit above the rate of progress. We aim to celebrate well-designed and executed experiments regardless of the result. I schedule weekly one-on-one meetings with all lab members to provide regular feedback on career progression, collaborations, and experimental results. In these meetings and our weekly group meeting, we focus on constructive criticism, highlighting key successes and working together to troubleshoot problems. In return, I expect lab members to be open and honest with me about my mentorship style and ways that we can continue to strive for excellence.

Weekly group meeting format: We start each meeting with announcements, including celebrating recent grants, fellowships, and personal milestones. Each lab member then gives a 1 minute “elevator pitch”, filling in the lab on their research progress in the past week. Our main talk (30-45 minutes), is presented by one lab member and limited to 10 slides. The goal is to get feedback about ongoing experiments, not to comprehensively summarize all the amazing work they’ve done in the past. Speakers are welcome to present new ideas, inspirational papers, or talk about career issues.

Annual planning meetings: Inspired by Angela DePace and the NIH guidelines, I meet with each lab member at the start of each year to discuss notable accomplishments and challenges in the past year. Each of us comes prepared with a pre-written set of ideas and together we plan our strategy for the coming year. We also focus on opportunities for further improving our lab culture and the broader UCSF work environment.

Turnbaugh Lab Challenge: Each August we meet at one of the beautiful San Francisco city parks for a battle of wits and fine motor skills. Lab members form teams of two and we compete for an esteemed prize – the winner gets bragging rights and a crown labeled with the elite scientific journals of our time. The losing team gets a poo mask and an opportunity to consider their failures. Participants are sworn to secrecy, but past events include “Name that Gut”, “Speed Pipetting”, and “Science Pictionary”.

Lab retreat and portraits: We are currently planning our first lab retreat and silly photo session. Stay tuned for more information!

Lab space and facilities: Our lab space was fully renovated in 2016, with bright orange walls, a nap nook, espresso bar, and IdeaPaint brainstorming walls. Outside our windows, just 1 floor away from the highest point on the Parnassus campus, itself on the side of Mount Sutro, we are treated to birds flying, the occasional double rainbow, and the Blue Angels. The Parnassus campus is home to a rich community of scientists and located directly next to Golden Gate Park. Just a short walk from our lab you'll find a science museum, art museum, bison, horses, and old men with toy boats. Many of our lab members live in the family-friendly Sunset and Richmond neighborhoods, or in subsidized university housing on top of the mountain. The other (far inferior but technically useful) UCSF campuses are a brief shuttle ride away.