After having five years of experience as PhD student in a research lab， I would like to talk about interactions in the lab a little bit here. My idea is that the lab should not be just a place for work/study and lab mates should not be merely co-workers. Well, one does not necessarily have to make friends with fellow lab mates (although couples could and do come out of some labs). But maintaining some good interactions with lab mates will foster a healthy and warm lab environment and individual members can often benefit from these interactions. These could include junior students learning from senior students, exchanging information or knowledge, say, about a conference or a new program, and even gossips about other researchers (that are at times good to know).
Also, another important aspect of lab interaction involves the passing on of expertise, usually from more senior members to freshers. The lab is like a train in the temporal sense and every member is a carriage. The train can run only all the carriages are connected. That connection has to be built by the passing on of knowledge and expertise. When a student comes into a lab, he or she will likely to receive training not only from the adviser, but also from other older members. By the time this student becomes an established member and more new students come in, it would be in turn his/her duty to do the same-passing on the knowledge and expertise. Perhaps a better analogy would be a relay race where one runner passes down the baton to his/her team mate and the entire race is dependent upon the performance of all team members. There are some subtle differences in the lab setting/
But interactions may not always happen simultaneously. This is simply the first law of Newtonian physics - things will not move until an external force is applied to them. Organized group events or ad hoc activities are possible ways of creating an avenue for promoting interactions. I used to organize a 'lunch bunch' where students from two labs did casual discussions on issues in the subject of our study. Sometimes just asking your fellow lab mates 'how are you doing' will open the door to a conversation and promote interactions in the lab.
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