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A major goal of the Hainer lab is to foster an environment of consistent scientific excellence and personal development. Through this goal, we can support every lab member in reaching their full potential and have fun while doing great science. We want you to be happy and productive while you are here. Our lab handbook can be found here for more information.


Importantly, the Hainer lab is committed to fostering inclusivity in our pursuit of scientific discovery. We encourage an environment of collaboration, open communication, and trust, which welcomes diversity and respects differences of opinion. These principles allow us to discover new ways of thinking and behaving which will lead to innovation and scientific success.



The Hainer Lab is committed to fostering a supportive research environment. This is essential for doing amazing science. We should all be motivated by a collective mission, not just personal gain. Always remember that the success of the lab as a whole is due to your success. We all bring our own expertise and strengths—our successes are shared as a team. Together, we exceed the sum of our parts. Work in the lab is most effective and productive when members have distinct, clearly defined projects/roles, yet are still sufficiently interrelated so that no one is working in a vacuum. This way, everyone in the lab can consult with and motivate each other.



The Hainer Lab members have a wide range of expertise and experience. We hope to foster an environment in which everyone can freely discuss and learn from each other. Importantly, collaborating can accelerate scientific progress. Although technicians, graduate students, and postdocs should be leading a main project, we encourage people to take on collaborations to enrich their experience. From a short-term perspective, they help the project to get done more quickly and everyone to be in more papers. From a long-term perspective, it develops leadership skills and allows everyone to be exposed to alternative technical and scientific styles. Ongoing, open communication about authorship and contributions is a must, and strong moral fiber in all participants is always expected. All collaborations should be discussed and agreed upon with Sarah and the lab member(s) involved in the collaboration to help support a successful endeavor.



Even when a formal collaboration is not appropriate, communicating about progressing projects helps to inform future decisions and prevent redundancy, thereby expediting the discovery of new information and increasing efficiency as a greater scientific community. In environments where trust, openness, honesty, and mutual support are held as the highest values, competition can occur in a fun and productive way that is exciting, but not stressful. The degree of competition is an inverted U-shaped curve. Without any competition, it is difficult to focus and prioritize. When competition is too intense, quality can be sacrificed for speed. But when there is a healthy balance of friendly competition, you have peers who can inspire you to raise your standards to the next level.



Successes in both grant and papers involve a noisy, stochastic system. Only a small number of people are making decisions; ONE bad vote is sufficient to tank your applications and papers. Accordingly, everyone gets rejections; a lot. And it never feels good, but it feels better if you accept it as inevitable. Forget the failures/mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future. Be sad for a day. Get up and take action the next. You are allowed to take a day off, no questions asked. Do something nice for yourself. Giving yourself permission to indulge in your feelings fully (in a reasonable way) is important and healthy.



Conferences are an important part of scientific career development and an avenue for networking with peers as they allow us to increase the lab’s and individual researcher’s visibility, get feedback on research results, seek new collaborations and update ourselves with what is going on in the field.

It is expected that graduate students and postdocs attend conferences to learn about the field and also present their research. It is possible that technicians and/or undergraduates may attend as well, pending their experience, research interests, etc. If you are interested in attending a conference, please speak to me! There are travel grant opportunities if the lab is unable to fund your conference attendance. That being said, if the lab does fund your attendance to a conference, it is expected that you will present your research at the conference. Therefore, it is typical that within the first couple years you may not attend a conference, and then for the last couple years you will. In general, attending one conference per year once you have data that is ready to present is reasonable.


We recognize that the University of Pittsburgh, and our research laboratory, occupies the ancestral land of the Adena cultureHopewell culture, and Monongahela peoples, who were later joined by refugees of other tribes (including the Delaware, Shawnee, and Haudenosaunee), driven here from their homelands by colonizers. We honor these traditional Native inhabitants of this place and uplift their historic, unique, and enduring relationship with this land, which is their ancestral territory.  We pay our respects to their Elders and their past, present, and future people, community, and culture.  While we cannot change the past, we commit to continued gratitude for the gifts of nature, along with ongoing respect, care, and stewardship of the land, each other, and future generations.

We are mindful that our lives here are possible because the land and lives of people native to this place were stolen. Colonialism and white supremacy have continually tried to erase Indigenous people of this land in the past and present. At this time there are no federally recognized Indigenous tribes in Pennsylvania due to colonialism displacement. Our lives here are also possible because generation upon generation (past, present, and future) of indigenous people in this nation and all over the world are respectful stewards of the earth and its resources.

This land acknowledgement reminds us of the people who have been harmed and oppressed in the past, and of the harms that continue today. It reminds us that we must attend to the intersectional identities and power systems of race, gender, class, religion, and ability … to build peace, and to build a more just and equitable future. 


It’s an honor for me to coach and mentor an amazing team of people who together drive our innovation and accomplishments. My commitment to you is to make the Hainer lab a great and fun place to do science. Importantly, I am invested in your success—the ability to graduate or move to a new position both in and outside of academia. I will provide an environment that is intellectually stimulating, emotionally supportive, safe, equitable, and free of harassment. Regardless of your personal and academic backgrounds, you can count on me to: 1) coach and mentor you with your career goals, laboratory success, and personal health as the top priorities; 2) tailor my mentoring to each individual (and it helps if you communicate your needs/desires to me); 3) advocate for you throughout your career and help you envision, implement, and communicate your research; 3) foster an environment where people are able to give and receive feedback; 4) allow you to pursue the research that most interests you within the framework of our lab’s funded goals; 5) help cultivate your career development and move on to bigger and better goals whatever they may be; 6) help cultivate positive working relationships between all members of the lab; 7) help facilitate clear communication between all members of the lab; 8) delegate responsibility and accommodate everyone’s best interest; 9) listen to your feedback and concerns, be sensitive to your needs, and handle any issues that may arise; and 10) care about not only your research, but you as a person.

A two-way feedback culture is supercritical to a successful lab environment! I am a fan of the “mentoring up” concept, where feedback is given to the mentor from mentees. I am ALWAYS open to feedback to improve yours or others experiences. To that end, we run an annual survey to gather feedback, however, you do not have to wait until December! Please provide Sarah with any feedback at any time. We all thrive when our environment is happy, comfortable, and supportive. Thus, any issues, even seemingly small things, should be dealt with swiftly. If you have any questions or concerns—my door is always open (metaphorically)! You are open to communicate with me at any time of day or any day of the week (via Slack or Text). You can expect that I will respond to you in a timely fashion, especially during normal working hours. I also attend to Text/Email/Slack during the evenings and weekends and will likely respond to you then as well, though this may be slower. Of course, in any workplace, conflicts will arise. This is unavoidable and understandable. What we can do, is control how we respond. If, for any reason, you feel the lab is not a healthy, happy, and productive environment, please tell me ASAP. Do not wait to discuss these issues with me for fear that it will bother me. It won’t. It is very important to me that everyone in the lab is happy and productive. No issue is too small. I’d much rather help manage a conflict/issue when it is in its infancy than later on when it has become unwieldy. Please also come to me if you are having issues with individuals outside our lab. I can help to manage these issues, or guide you to the appropriate resources to deal with this within the Department and University. I hope to be a life-long mentor to the extent you choose to engage me in that role.

If I am not fulfilling these expectations, please feel free to let me know! Communication is important in every relationship, including the mentor-mentee relationship.


In the Hainer Lab, we want everyone to be honest, hungry, humble, and happy. You are expected to bring your enthusiasm and curiosity to the lab. We ask everyone to have a proactive attitude and to contribute to the Hainer Lab. As a member of the lab, you are expected to participate fully in the team, both intellectually and operationally. It is up to you to make the most of all the training and opportunities you are given.

            Lab members come from diverse personal and academic backgrounds. We require all lab members to treat each other with respect and dignity. Disrespectful behavior, harassment in any form, or scientific misconduct of any kind will not be tolerated. It is common courtesy to keep common spaces clean and organized. Please use individuals’ pronouns. If you use a shared piece of equipment, clean it and return it to the common area after use. Do not hoard common equipment and reagents. If you use up common supplies and solutions, please refill them and/or list them on the whiteboard. Mistakes and accidents happen in the lab, and that’s ok. If you break something, say something. By saying something, you alert people of what happened and allow others to learn from the situation. Most conflicts arise when people feel that they are losing appreciation, affiliation, autonomy, status, and/or role. If there are any confusions, please do not assume anything and bring them to Sarah’s attention immediately.

            Please discuss any issues with neutral, professional, and proactive communication and be kind and respectful to others at all times. Acknowledge responsibility for your actions and avoid providing excuses for your behavior. If you have created an issue or conflict, attempt to solve it before it affects other’s work in the lab. If you do not know how to fix an issue that has arisen, ask for help. Do not wait for someone else to notice the issue, as it may negatively affect lab research. Make smart choices. Be respectful, be kind, be safe, be proactive!

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