Setup

Scheduling

The lab uses a Google Calendar to organize all group activities, such as group meetings, socials, lab clean ups, and institutional events. Send a request to this email to obtain access. This will keep you in the loop on all lab activities. You are also expected to note any time you’re away during group hours on this calendar.

Task management

We currently use Trello to visualize our project and generate to-do lists. It is free and you can use your Google Account to sign in. Once set up, you should develop the habit of reviewing to-do’s on a regular basis. For example, Leo usually spends the last 20 minutes of the day reviewing and planning his activities for the next day on Trello. Since Trello integrates with Google Calendar, you can use your calendar to schedule your to-do activities for the next day, week, or month. Any time you complete items on your to-do list, move them to the “completed” section as you go along. This will help you prioritize and stay focused. More on using Trello for research here

Documentation

Ideas

We use Evernote to record all conceptual aspects of a project, which includes the following:

  • Meeting notes: this includes both group and project meetings, and informal discussions with colleagues and advisors
  • Reading notes: annotate papers that you’ve read and find relevant
  • Clippings: screenshots, websites, web-based tables, etc.
  • Presentation notes: this includes notes you take at conference presentations
  • Ideas: any time you have an idea, for example that stemmed from your research activities, such as follow up projects, new research questions, or ideas on how to solve a bottleneck, write them down so you can articulate them and discuss with Leo or other people later!

You should have one notebook per project. Create a tag for each of the items listed above and tag your notes. This will help you find the note later on (what good is a notebook if you can’t ever find anything?). Get into the habit of writing down something every week, or even every day. Share your project notebook with all project members (including Leo!)

Get into the habit of documenting all of your thoughts on paper! Remember, the only thing between messing things around and science is writing things down!

Experiments

Each experiment you perform should contain these items:

  • protocol (written in a text editor that supports tables, e.g. Word)
  • raw data (e.g. images, numbers)
  • scripts (for analyzing the data, if needed)
  • summary of results

These items should be stored in the same folder with a standardized naming convention, i.e. your initials+experiment number-experiment date-experiment description. For example, let’s say Leo performed his first experiment on January 25th, 2019 when he folded DNA origami, then the folder name would be LC001-190125-origami-folding. All experiments belonging to a project would be stored in that project’s Experiments sub-folder. This sub-folder can contain experiments performed by you as well as by other members within the same project. This project folder will live on a sharable, centralized location, such as the group’s server. More on this in later section on organizing your research.

File storage

All materials generated from your project (including protocols, images, numerical data, scripts for analysis, presentation slides, manuscripts, …etc.) should be kept in a centralized location so they can be referenced by current and future lab members. This location will be equipped with back up and version control. We are temporarily using Dropbox because it is easy. Leo will send you the shared link. This location will also contain all common lab files, such as documentation of archived projects, inventory, working manuscript files, etc.

19.08.27. We will migrating to a Network Attached Storage in April 2020 (NAS), when our permanent lab space is complete.

Inventory management

We use two sets of files to manage our inventory of reagents. The first is a Google Sheet named Lab Purchasing YYYY, where YYYY is the current year. This sheet tracks all orders placed for that year. Leo will share access to this file to you along with group calendar access. Members will use this sheet to request reagents and supplies, check if orders have been placed, and document items that have been depleted from the inventory (see ordering). This sheet will also be used to periodically update an Excel file on our server called a Master Inventory (done via a script). You can peruse Master Inventory for all items purchased in previous years.

Remote journal access

You should be able to access journal articles off-campus by setting up virtual private network (VPN) on your computer. To do so, go to UTORVpn and choose the right install for your computer (e.g. PC vs. Mac). Once installed, you will be able to access the UofT network via VPN. This should provide you with journal access directly from your browser as if you’re on campus.