There are a number of employment opportunities in my laboratory for hard-working individuals who are willing to strive for excellence in viral pathogenesis and genomics research. Like most academic research labs, my lab's size is dictated by current funding and will fluctuate over time.
It is safe to say that there are almost as many laboratory designs as there are laboratories, and all principal investigators have different perspectives on the makings of a successful laboratory. I view my laboratory like a NCAA basketball team, and I am its the head coach. It is my responsibility to ensure the long-term success of the program, and to make sure that we continue to compete at the highest possible level. It is up to me to motivate the lab, provide its direction, and serve as a mentor to all of its members. I need to balance the needs of individuals against the needs of the team, and sometimes make difficult decisions to ensure the lab's long term success. I need to be sensitive to the aspirations of all members of the group and work with them to achieve their goals.
In return, what do I expect from my 'players'? I can diagram experiments like a basketball coach designs plays, but ultimately the responsibility of execution rests with the player. Members of the lab must work hard, sometimes even obsessively, to execute their experimental plans. What does this mean? In basketball, practicing free throws in the gym for 2 hours each day can make it much more likely that you will make a free throw in the waning seconds of a close game -- or not, depending on how focused you are in practice. To quote John Wooden, "Never mistake activity for achievement." The same is true in my lab. Experiments are the lifeblood of a research lab -- the more you do, the more likely it is that your work will prosper. However, simply spending lots of hours at the bench without critically evaluating your experiments and thinking about your work is a self-defeating habit. To borrow another quote from John Wooden, "Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming." This is what I demand from all members of my lab team, nothing less than a complete commitment to doing their absolute best, coupled with a strong sense of personal investment and responsibility in the work that they are performing.
With that lofty pontificating out of the way, there are four general employee categories within the lab:
1. As per university requirements, all research technician positions (full-time, with B.S. in Biology or equivalent) are posted through the University's HR department.
2. Undergraduates interested in gaining research experience should contact me directly. I do not accept Bio 152 students because I do not believe one semester is long enough for a meaningful research experience. We are particularly interested in high-achieving undergraduate freshmen and sophomores who are considering graduate or medical studies. Classroom success requires the same type of tenacity, motivation, and diligence needed for success in a research laboratory, though academic achievement alone is no guarantee of laboratory success. The roles and responsibilities of undergraduates will be determined by their experience. Generally, undergraduates will begin as paid student hourlies responsible for general laboratory chores. Mentored research is a possibility and a privilege for those undergraduates who excel as student hourlies. If you are serious about wanting to work in my lab, I expect that you will at least look at my website before contacting me. So please include the password “Bucky” in your initial email contact so I can give you bonus points if you took the time to read this page.
3. Doctoral graduate students in the Department of Cellular and Molecular Pathology, Cellular and Molecular Biology, the Graduate Program in Clinical Investigation, and Microbiology Doctoral Training Program are encouraged to contact me directly about conducting research in my laboratory. I am also a trainer in the UW-Madison Molecular Biosciences Training Grant program. Choosing a lab is a major decision for a predoctoral candidate, and it is important to know a prospective mentor's philosophy on graduate education. Mine can be found here.
4. While I am not actively hiring post-doctoral researchers, individuals interested in MD or Ph.D. post-doctoral opportunities should contact me directly. Candidates are expected to have a strong publication record in internationally recognized, peer-reviewed journals indexed in NCBI PubMed. Additionally, post-doctoral candidates are expected to provide a detailed rationale for wanting to join our group, including a proposed timeline for research, potential projects they envision conducting within the laboratory, and a description of how this work would fit into their long-range career goals. Post-doctoral fellows will be expected to contribute significantly to laboratory mentoring and organization, as well as perform high-level research.