The Kindsvater Lab is an inclusive environment. In the Dept. of Fish and Wildlife Conservation at VT, a central goal is to create and maintain an equitable and inclusive academic community . In our lab, we want to foster academic growth and also create a healthy and thriving lab group where all members feel like they belong. We love science and field work that takes us to beautiful places. We want to make sure that this positive experience is accessible to everyone.

This document outlines the expectations for members of the community. Specific information on expectations for prospective undergrads and graduate students is also available.

Expectations for Dr. Kindsvater and others fall into four categories:

1. Respect. As the principal investigator I will strive to be respectful, fair, and professional, and to encourage a healthy lab culture. I ask the same of you. Please be respectful of the personal space and time of others. This includes being on time, attending lab meeting, providing constructive feedback, and contributing to lab group responsibilities (these range from keeping shared spaces clean to contributing to group projects).

Respect also entails being aware of how your actions or words can affect others. Everyone has blind spots. Recognizing that, and working to be self-aware, goes a long way toward preventing misunderstandings (or worse). Unprofessional conduct, such as bullying, inappropriate comments, or unethical behavior, will not be tolerated.

2. Communication. Please keep lines of communication open. While science is a professional discipline, we are humans. Our work habits and preferences can differ, and that’s OK, but it helps if I know roughly where my lab members are and what they are doing, so engagement with the lab Slack channel is expected. I also would a like a record of what you have done when it is over - e.g., a Github repo.

My primary focus is on your wellbeing. If something is going on with you, I’d like to know about it sooner rather than later, especially if it involves someone else in the lab. That being said, we all have a right to our private lives, and boundaries are healthy. If you need extra help with mental health or other specific challenges, I will be happy to help you identify resources for professional help.

3. Sustainable work habits. We all need to work to sustain our personal, educational, and scientific goals. Science training involves a steep learning curve. You are expected to become an expert in your discipline, spending long hours teaching and doing research, for little pay. It is not easy, but it is not impossible, and ideally it should even be enjoyable! We can’t succeed scientifically and professionally without hard work, but this does not mean we must have a culture of overwork, where personal time and wellbeing are not valued.

If you are struggling with your workload, or frustrated with your progress toward your goals, then you are in an unsustainable position. I can’t solve every problem for you, but I can help you identify strategies for sustainable work habits to prevent or rectify these situations. The whole point of mentoring is that no one has to do it alone.

4. Supporting success. Success in science looks different for every individual. We each need to identify what success means for ourselves, and then support each other in attaining that goal. For lab members that are supported by my grants, this also means that our ideas of success will need to align to some degree. We will need to work together to identify a version of success that we both are satisfied with. Communicating this early and often is key. For all lab members, regardless of funding, I won’t tell you exactly what to do to succeed (i.e., micromanage), because many times I won’t even know the answer (in research, we often don’t know what is going to work out and what isn’t). Even if I knew what to do for myself, it might not equate to success for you. Instead, my role is to coach you on the journey. I will do this by providing respect and communication, and encouraging sustainable work habits.

Further reading:

Detailed and thoughtful advice on all aspects of graduate school from Dr. Raul Pacheco

On Power Structures in Academia (2018) Academics Taking Action.

S. M. Zavattaro and S. K. Orr (2017) Reflections on Academic Lives: Identities, Struggles, and Triumphs in Graduate School and Beyond New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.