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Roles and responsibilities#

Who does what, and what to expect of them – and yourself.


You can expect me to do the following:

  • Have a vision of where the lab is going.
  • Be aware of where the field(s) are going.

  • Care about your happiness.

  • Create and submit funding applications to support the science in the lab.

  • Support you in your career development, including:

    • helping you prepare for a successful career both in and out of academia
    • writing letters of recommendation
    • introductions to other scientists
    • funding trips to relevant conferences
    • funding training at advanced schools
    • promoting your work in talks
    • inviting you to jointly peer review papers
    • make available to you example grant applications, both successful and unsuccessful. Comparing the two will show the fine margins involved.
  • Support you in your personal growth by giving you flexibility in working hours and environment, and encouraging you to do things other than science.

  • Be available to meet with you, to talk about your science, about your future plans, and any other issues you want to raise.

  • Provide feedback in a timely manner on abstracts, posters, job and fellowship applications

  • Work with you on your papers. Sometimes this will be comments on a manuscript; sometimes this will be redrafting; sometimes this will be working on code.

What does a PI do?

For better or for worse, the best way to understand how a modern biomedical lab works is to picture it as a small tech start-up. It pitches projects to raise funds from investors, hires people to work on projects, and produces outputs from those projects (scientific ones: papers, techniques, and code). And just like a start-up, it has to deal with all the admin of a business: HR, accounting, marketing etc. A PI does all the things that a start-up CEO does: pitches; fund-raises; interviews and hires people; leads projects; advertising and marketing; accounting; quality control of products. Also, as they are employed by a University, they teach and sit on administrative committees. This is why succeeding in academia is about more than just being good at science.


Postdocs are research positions typically funded from research grants. As a postdoc in the lab you are expected to:

  • Develop your own independent line of research. If funded from a specific project grant, the aims and ideas of that grant are your starting point, not the end-goals.

  • Become the lab expert in your line of research, including reading the literature

  • Regularly update Mark on your progress: from short messages on what problem you’re tackling now, to in-person meetings on key results and decision points

  • Challenge me (Mark) when I’m wrong or when your opinion is different

  • Help train and mentor students in the lab (whether undergraduate, MSc, or PhD) when they need it – either because they ask, or because I ask you to

  • Present your work: at local events; at other labs; and at conferences

  • Plan your future, as appropriate:

    • Apply for jobs (academic, industry or third sector) when you’re ready, but no later than 6 months before the end of your current postdoc contract. There are more, and in many ways better, jobs outside academia, for which you are well-qualified.

    • Apply for fellowships, well in advance of the end of your postdoc. For external funders (UKRI etc), the typical lag between submission deadlines and being able to start a Fellowship is a minimum of 10 months. Submission deadlines are at most three times a year; many schemes are once a year. Plan well in advance.

  • Take responsibility for your career development: produce work in a timely fashion necessary to support your own career; where practicable, take advantage of the opportunities that arise from working in the lab

PhD student#

  • Develop a line of research for your thesis. Developed with Mark’s help.

  • Read the literature in your research area

  • Regularly update Mark on your progress: from short messages on what problem you’re tackling now, to in-person meetings on key results and decision points

  • Present your work at local events and conferences

  • Do some soul‑searching as to what type of career you want to pursue, e.g., academic jobs that are research-focused or teaching-focused, non‑academic jobs like data science or science writing.

  • Assist in training and supervising undergraduate students

  • Stay up-to-date, and keep Mark up-to-date, on any deadlines that you need to meet to fulfil the training programme, School or Faculty requirements for your PhD.

MSc/undergraduate project student#

The primary goal of a project student is to produce a quality piece of written work, that reflects a solid piece of research work.

  • Work on your assigned research project

  • Plan your research time according to the course’s project deadlines

  • Plan your writing time too.

  • Stay up-to-date on your project deadlines, and inform Mark of them.

  • Attend lab meetings if they fit into your course schedules.


The purpose of an internship is to find out how a lab works, and if their line of research is something you’d be interested in pursuing in future. Thus the expectations for an internship are:

  • Find out what the other lab members are working on

  • Work on your assigned research project

  • Attend lab meetings