Policies & Procedures

Updated September 25, 2017

Sparks Laboratory Mission and Guidelines


Mission Statement

The Sparks lab aims to understand the development, morphology, function, and molecular regulation of shoot-borne brace roots in maize. The ultimate goal of this work is to match brace roots to their environment and improve plant production. This goal will be achieved through the dedication and training of the next generation of scientists. The lab is committed to equality and creating a safe inclusive space for research and training. Further, the lab members will facilitate an open and collaborative environment that promotes scientific advancement.


What to expect from the PI

Upon joining the lab, each individual will have a meeting with the PI to formulate an individualized training and career plan. This plan is adjustable throughout your time in the lab, but will allow both you and the PI to track your progress and work towards a common goal – your success. Regularly scheduled one-on-one meetings are expected to continue throughout your duration in lab.


Expectation of Work Hours

Flexible working hours are a big benefit to working in a lab, and I understand that experiments do not always run on a 9am-5pm schedule. However, it is expected that full-time lab members will be present in the lab space for at least 6h during the 9am-5pm period unless they have received prior approval from the PI. Part-time employees and students are required to be present for at least 2h in a day. This requirement is to promote overlap between lab members and facilitate lab communication. If you are in lab by yourself on the evenings or weekends, make sure that someone (the PI, other lab members, or a family member) knows you are there. This is for your safety and the safety of others. Undergraduate students may never be in the lab by themselves. If an undergraduate has an experiment that requires weekend or evening time, they must ask the PI or other lab member to be present.


Authorship, Publications, and Fellowships

It is expected that each graduate student and postdoc will have at least one publication from their time in lab and the PI will support the completion and submission of this work. Since written communication skills are an important part of being a scientist, graduate students and postdocs are expected to write their own manuscripts (with the PI providing feedback and input). The PI will return comments on publication drafts within one week unless there are extenuating circumstances, which will be communicated to the lab member immediately. Technicians and undergraduates will be included in publications where their contribution is significant. The Sparks lab adheres to the ICMJE guidelines for authorship regardless of your position in the lab. Manuscripts will be preferentially submitted to pre-print servers and published in open access journals. It is additionally required that graduate students and postdocs write and apply for research fellowships. Applying for research fellowships benefits both the lab (should the fellowship be awarded) and the trainee. At this time, a fellowship is not required to remain in the Sparks lab, but this is subject to the current lab funding level.


Research Ethics and Behavior

Working in the Sparks laboratory comes with specific expectations regarding scientific ethics and personal behavior. Scientifically, it is expected that you will accurately document experimental design, results, and interpretation in a lab notebook, which will become a permanent part of the lab record. You are expected to share reagents and results freely within the laboratory and with the broader scientific community. You are obligated to be honest, trustworthy, and transparent in your scientific research. From a personal perspective, you are expected to be respectful, tolerant, and non-discriminatory towards your colleagues both in the lab and at the university. We adhere to all university policies on harassment and discrimination.


Collaborations and Meetings

A foundation of the Sparks lab is collaboration and participation in the larger plant science community. As such, each lab member will likely have collaborators within the university, at another institution and/or with corporate partners. The PI may support lab members to travel to one meeting per year to present their research and engage with other scientists. Students and postdocs are expected to apply for travel grants and support when available, and must present their work by poster or oral presentation. Anytime you are representing the lab at external events (e.g. visiting another institution/company or attending a meeting), the behavior guidelines outlined above are in effect.