Lab Philosophy

Do Good Science

 Our lab is committed to doing great science. This doesn’t mean that everything we do will be flashy and be published in a high impact journal, but we will always strive to make it solid, reliable, in honest.


  • Realize this means being wrong

    -Part of doing science means that sometimes we will be wrong. We will get null results and undoubtedly have findings that are later contradicted (by ourselves and others). This is part of what makes science so exciting! It is evolving and challenging and there is usually no one “right” answer. What makes a scientist great is not always being right, but being able to admit when we are wrong and adapt our science as we learn more. When I (Dr. Swann) was in graduate school someone told me: “every experiment is at least a little bit wrong, but it is all part of the random walk towards truth.” I remember that whenever science feels daunting.


  • Make science open

    -Science does not happen in isolation. The goal of our lab is to advance science as a whole, not to make our lab famous. Part of advancing science means that we should work with other researchers and not let individual egos stand in the way of progress. As such, we will always try to be as open and collaborative as possible.


  • Be inclusive

    -Doing good science requires creativity and thinking about problems in different ways. One of the best ways to foster this kind of diverse thinking to be inclusive to all groups. With this in mind we will strive to ensure that everyone feels welcome in the lab, especially folks from groups traditionally under represented in science and higher education. (We even have a separate inclusion page about this!) Part of being inclusive also means making sure that everyone has a chance to make their voices heard (when discussing science and otherwise). For this to feel safe in scientific disucssion, it means that when we disagree with someone’s ideas, we should challenge, but not disparage. We should never degrade another human being or make them feel that their ideas are not worthwhile. We will also hold this in mind when challenging others outside the lab – either in scientific papers or discussion.


  • Be a teacher

    -Doing good science means being a good teacher. This can mean formal teaching, but maybe even more importantly means mentoring new scientists in the lab, teaching other researchers what you have learned with your papers, and teaching the public about what you do and why it is important. In our lab being a good scientist means being a good teacher. We strive to be thoughtful in how we explain topics and mentor others – recognizing that learning styles are unique and that your approach should tailored to whoever you are trying to reach. This will mean adopting different strategies, looking at things in new ways, and, importantly, becoming comfortable with saying “I don’t know!” Read Dr. Nicki Swann’s teaching philosophy here.


  • Remember the Big Picture

    -In Science : in our lab we challenge ourselves to consider every new experiment in the larger context of science as a whole. What would these (potential) findings really tell us about the brain? Does it matter? Considering our work in this context not only keeps us grounded, it can also keep us motivated. What we do is super cool (we think), and one of the best ways to remind ourselves of that is to consider it in a larger context. If our science is criticized in a way that is incendiary or degrading we will remember that any use of toxic tone reflects on others, not us, and take the higher road – challenging with respect. Remember, we are all on the same team — team science!

    -In Life : Yes, we care about our science, but at the same time, we also have lives and that matters even more!  In the lab we encourage efficient work, but also encourage that everyone takes time for their own mental health and well being when they need it. Go for a walk, spend time with the people you care about, take a vacation. Science is hard, can be frustrating, or even demoralizing at times. Taking a moment to breathe can give you a new perspective when you come back to work. In this way, maintaining a personal balance can actually make you more productive, or at least keep you happier during the process!