The Brook Lab is an equal-opportunity group, committed to enacting anti-racist and anti-sexist policies to promote inclusivity in our lab, the biological sciences, and the academy. We believe that black lives matter, women’s rights are human rights, and no life is illegal. Laboratory members hail from a variety of backgrounds, including underrepresented ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, and lifestyles. We value and applaud our differences, which we view as our strengths, and we do not tolerate intolerance expressed in any form both within and outside our lab group.
We believe that open policies and expectations promote a more equitable and inclusive laboratory environment. This “Lab Values and Policies” is a living document designed to provide guidelines for conduct for the PI, postdocs, PhD students, lab managers, and collaborators who make up the Brook Lab.
In Chicago, the land on which we gather, inhabit, work, and live represents the original homeland and traditional territory of the Kiikaapoi (Kickapoo), Peoria, Bodéwadmiakiwen (Potawatomi), Kaskaskia, and Myaamia people. We recognize the Indigenous peoples as original stewards of this land and all the relatives within it. These lands continue to be embedded with the rich histories and struggles for the survival of each nation. Chicago’s founding came at a dire cost to Native Nations and peoples whose land this University was built upon. This acknowledgment is the education and inclusion we must practice in recognizing our institutional history, responsibility, and commitment.
In Madagascar, where we conduct the bulk of our field work, the land represents the original homeland of the Malagasy people, who arrived to the island around 2000 BCE, traveling from modern-day Indonesian and shortly after from Africa. Today, Madagascar is home to 18 distinct ethnic subgroups, who speak varying dialects of Malagasy and inhabit different regions of the country. The Brook lab members from the Global North, in particular, humbly recognize that field work in Madagascar would not be possible without the support, contributions, and sacrifice of both historical and modern-day Malagasy. We affirm our commitment to scientific capacity building, development, and equitable attribution of scientific credit to the original stewards of the land in which we work.
A weekly hour-long lab meeting forms the core of our laboratory culture. We hold these meetings as video conferences to facilitate equal partnership with our colleagues who are not based in Chicago, most particularly those who are based in Madagascar. We set the calendar for lab meeting on a quarterly basis, with different lab members taking turns leading each session. We open each quarter with a lab meeting dedicated to discussions and readings surrounding issues related to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI).
After our inaugural DEI meeting, we alternate between weeks focused on “Research Updates” and “Science Lessons.”. Prior to the central topic of the day, all lab meetings open with individual updates where each lab member shares one positive result from the week, one frustration, and one topic of anticipation for future weeks.
“Research Updates” are informal presentations designed to solicit feedback from the rest of the lab about work-in-progress (data analysis, project design, grant/proposal/paper writing).
“Science Lessons” are more flexible: we ask only that you teach us all something new. This can take the form of a journal club, a review of a particular area of the literature, a tutorial on a useful tool, or a facilitated discussion of relevant science or science-related news.
You should expect, on average, to lead ~two lab meetings per quarter, one “Research Update” and one “Science Lesson”. We are also always available for impromptu meetings if a lab member needs to practice a talk or receive quick feedback on a piece of work.
Twice a year, in August and January, the Brook Lab hosts a meeting in which each member briefly summarizes the work they carried out over the last six months as well as the work they aim to accomplish in the next six months. During these meetings, members may also highlight any shortcomings related to their research and discuss potential solutions to increase future success.
Students, postdocs, and lab managers who make up the University of Chicago contingent of the lab are expected to attend weekly, half-hour meetings with Cara. These can take place in person or digitally, as you choose, and the timing for these meetings will be set at the beginning of every quarter. The agenda is yours during this time–we can discuss ongoing work, future plans, or anything else you may need. It is also fine to check in to say that there is nothing you need to talk about on a given week. I am also available to meet in impromptu settings at other times during the week for both University of Chicago and University of Antananarivo members of the lab–please don’t be shy to ask!
Funding is rarely discussed openly in academic settings but is generally a critical component of scientific research. I am trying to make this a more open dialogue in the Brook Lab. Explicit funding policies are as follows:
If you are a University of Chicago postdoc or technician or a University of Antananarivo PhD student, your salary is covered by the lab for the duration of your contract and subject to renewal on an annual basis. If you are a University of Chicago PhD student, you are funded through a combination of departmental funds, training grants, personal fellowships, and grant money from the lab. I expect and encourage all PhD students and postdocs to pursue fellowship opportunities, as grant writing is good practice, and fellowships are prestigious additions to a CV.
Per university policy, University of Chicago salaries include medical and retirement benefits.
It is the duty of the PI to support student and postdoc research interests financially. I will work to raise money for projects you have proposed, and I will fund publication fees on your work, though I ask that you seek fee reductions or waivers when possible. I also encourage students and postdocs to apply for small grants, as these are great opportunities to fine-tune your research questions, while also boosting your résumé. A list of small grants with links to websites can be found here – please add as you find other opportunities.
University of Chicago and University of Antananarivo PhD students working in the Brook Lab will have the opportunity to purchase one computer for personal research use during their tenure in the lab–this can be acquired immediately upon entering the lab or at a later date, as each person sees fit. The exact specifications of the machine will be worked out on a case-by-case basis between the student and the PI.
Postdocs and lab technicians or managers will also have the opportunity to acquire a computer for use, though I ask that these will remain with the lab after the postdoc or technician departs. Please reach out if you are in need of a machine for your work. If you prefer to use your own device, that is perfectly acceptable and can be subsidized with your personal development funds.
Each lab member, both from the University of Chicago and the University of Antananarivo, will have access to $200 annually for personal development (monitors, headphones, books, workshops, etc.), corresponding to the start date of your employment. These funds can roll over from year-to-year, and you will be able to access them in advance for a larger, composite purchase if desired, pending discussion with me regarding available funds.
University of Chicago PhD students, postdocs, and technicians will be funded to attend one domestic conference annually per person (conference fees, travel, lodging). I encourage attendance at the annual Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases (EEID) meeting, which I almost always attend, though I recognize this may not be the best academic fit for everyone. Lab members interested in attending more than one conference annually are encouraged to apply for travel grants or use personal development funds. On rare occasions, I will consider funding multiple meetings in the same year with justification.
University of Antananarivo PhD students will be funded to attend one international conference per person during the duration of their PhD tenure (conference fees, travel, lodging). If opportunities for domestic conferences that are scientifically relevant arise within Madagascar, the lab will fund attendance to these, as well.
Outside of the Brook lab, University of Chicago graduate students have access to $500 of “student funds” per year which can compile from year-to-year and can be applied to conferences, travel, electronics, or a variety of other items. Check with Audrey Aronowksy for details.
Additionally, U-Chicago grad students are eligible to apply for a $500 travel grant once every calendar year through the Biological Sciences Division (BSD). There is both a fall and a spring deadline for applications, which are solicited via email. Scroll down on this link for details about how to apply.
University of Chicago postdoctoral scholars are eligible to apply for either a $500 travel grant for conferences or a $1000 travel grant for career development workshops through the BSD Office for Postdoctoral Affairs. Applications are solicited annually via email. See details from last year here.
Lifestyle freedom is one of the great perks of being an academic, and I do not police strict hours in the lab. I often work odd hours or from various locations (home, cafés, library, etc.) myself, and I trust you to do the same. We recognize that our team is composed of self-motivated and ambitious scientists that may choose to deviate from a traditional 9 to 5 workday in order to meet our collective goals. Research is project-based work, and some weeks are long and intense while others less so. I expect you to work hard and take advantage of the opportunities afforded to you, but I also value work-life balance and maintaining health and sanity, so please be kind to yourselfdo not burn yourself out.
You are entitled to 4 weeks of vacation, 8 designated holidays, and 12 sick days per year per university policy. You can allocate these as you see fit, and I trust you to keep your own calendar–if you work on a Sunday so you can take a Friday off when family is in town, that is perfectly reasonable. For longer vacations, I simply ask that you keep me informed of your plans a month or two in advance. For my own part, I often take vacation as: ~1.5 weeks off around the holidays, ~2 weeks off in the summer, and a smattering of long weekends interspersed throughout the year.
Due to our cross-continental extent, the Brook Lab has many policies in place that support remote work. That said, University of Chicago PhD students will need to live in Chicago to attend courses and participate in departmental and lab activities. University of Chicago postdocs are also expected to be on site, unless a remote residence is negotiated with the PI Cara. In the event of the latter, I will fund travel (flight only) to Chicago once per quarter for those based domestically; and once per year for those based internationally.
University of Antananarivo PhD students will be funded to train at the University of Chicago for a minimum of one four week session during the course of their PhD research. These trainings will require significant advance planning and flexibility with timing on the part of the student.
We are a family-friendly lab with several parents on staff. Parental leave during employment follows the policies of the University of Chicago, as outlined here. That said, I am more than happy to negotiate flexible working arrangements for new parents; please let me know if this becomes an issue under consideration for you, and I am happy to discuss arrangements that will work for both you and the lab.
Code and data for all projects carried out in the lab must be uploaded to a project folder on our Brook Lab GitHub team platform, where we also store composite datasets available for any lab member to use following clearance from the PI (Cara). Use of lab data resources should be accompanied by a data-sharing discussion with the PI, and it is likely that any members of the lab involved in data collection (in particular those based in Madagascar) will need to be included as co-authors on the associated work.
We keep track of helpful computing resources and tips (including use of the U-Chicago computing cluster, Midway) in our team’s resources on GitHub.
Additionally, we also communicate regularly and share progress on Slack.
We are committed to making our data, methods, and research findings freely accessible and available whenever possible to support future use in meta-analyses, reviews, and revisitations of our work. We reserve the right to restrict access in limited cases (e.g., human subjects data, exact animal locations) to respect privacy and confidentiality and/or reduce harm to threatened animal populations. In addition to sharing data and code for published manuscripts via our Github platform, we are also committed to publishing final manuscripts and intermediate research products in the most accessible formats available to us. Finally, we encourage all members of the lab to engage in public outreach (e.g., blog posts, popular press articles, public talks) in addition to professional outreach (e.g., scientific conferences).