Important Lab Information and Expectations

General Lab Information:

  1. I tend to get excited and talk fast and my brain jumps between things quite quickly – please ask for clarification, and ask as many times as needed. I may say something to you like “repeat back to me what you are going to do in this protocol/what the purpose of this assay is/etc” – it’s not a test, it’s just a good way for me to gauge if we’re on the same page. If you realize you *thought* you knew what was going on and then later realized you have confusion, ask.
  2. I will provide my cell number. If there is a true emergency (fire, injury), call 911 then call me if possible. If there is a lab emergency – eg, the ceiling caved in – call me. If it is not an emergency, I prefer email.
  3. Safety: You must read through the CHEMICAL HYGIENE PLAN that is printed in the lab. Ask me where to find the  Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) for all the chemicals in the lab. If you are ever unsure about whether something is safe or have concerns about safety, please ask!
  • Use safety goggles, gloves, and lab coat when dealing with hazardous chemicals and long pants, close-toed shoes, and hair tied back are mandatory. If you want to keep lab clothes/shoes here, we can find a place to store them.
  • Lab should be kept clean and tidy to prevent trips, spills, etc. Put away tools/samples at the end of every day, even if you think the next person to use it is coming in 5 minutes later. It’s easier to find things and keep organized. We all need to work on that – feel free to nag me about it as well.

4. Lab notebooks: Lab notebooks should never leave the building, but do travel between the upstairs and downstairs labs with care.

  • Please scan data or take a photo of the relevant pages daily – there is no such thing as too many back-ups.
  • Write lots of details for WHY you decide to do something – especially in the field (This is something that I need to work on also!).
  • Write down if you observe anything you find interesting or unusual – never know when that could be KEY to understanding something.
  • Copy all information from bag labels into an id column in the lab notebook – do not leave anything off.
  • Staple attachments in to the lab notebook OR put into the three-ring binder of data sheets/protocols.
  • We make mistakes. I have dropped more samples than I care to think about and have had to do it all again… or lost the samples forever! Please write it down when you realize it and talk with me.
      • Data should be entered into Excel and checked independently. The date the data is entered and the person entering the data should be written on each page.
      • All computer files should be backed up regularly – Backups to dropbox are acceptable but be sure that they are not placed anywhere that people could confuse your drafts for final versions. You can also email them to yourself or to me.
      • I suggest a metadata file with (minimum) the file name what kind of data is in there. More detail is better.
      • If in doubt of which folder to put something in, how to label a file, whether to delete, etc. ask Eva or Anthony
      • Raw data files (eg. output from mass spec, output from plate reader) need to have columns added to match the master template so that we have complete information about each datum attached to it. After the columns are added, raw data files must remain UNTOUCHED and in “raw” file folders. You must copy data to a new, separate file for any analysis. You must keep a record of any changes you make (eg. “I deleted the data point of delta 13c = -400 because it was a clear outlier and likely an analytical error”)– better yet, write a script so that the changes are automated and saved in the annotated script.
      • File names: All files added should have _initials_YYMMDD after their brief, informative title.
      •  All raw data should be entered with identical set-up as the data sheet for easy QAQC. Once checked, this data sheet is never touched.
      •  Data should always be entered in “long form”
  • Only one type of information should be in each column (text, numbers, dates, etc.) –

Eg. Do NOT put .1g in a single column; label one column “mass” and have 0.1 and one column “units” and have g.

    • – We can copy data into a new tab and then make calculations, and my preference is that all calculations go to the right of the raw data columns, not mixed in (you can even write “calc_” before each column name).
    •  VERY important – there can be NO empty columns between raw and calculated data – the first time someone sorts the data, the columns will no longer be associated and this can cause major problems.
    •  If done in excel, you must have a written document so that anyone else could exactly reproduce the steps you took to sort, calculate, etc. In R, you only have to annotate and save your script and it will be reproducible forever (save and back up often).
    • Lots of tools in R (aggregate, tapply, melt, etc.) or pivot tables in excel (google “pivot table tutorial excel” and click around until you get a feel for them) can help you summarize either the raw or manipulated data. Either way, these should be separated from the raw data which again, should be untouched 🙂
  1. Field work:
    • If at all possible, go with at least one other person. Much of the SEV gets cell coverage but reception can be spotty.
    • If you’re willing to get first aid CPR certified, it’s useful information.
    • Share your health information at your own discretion and PLEASE make safe and healthy choices; If you are not able to go to the field and don’t wish to tell me why that is totally fine.

Each individual MUST bring/wear

  • At LEAST 2 gallons of water PER PERSON, more if the forecast is particularly hot or if you anticipate a long day. You can never have too much water in the desert.
  • Sturdy shoes (there are sharp plants/poisonous snakes/spiders in the field and uneven walking surfaces).I recommend gaiters
  • Sunscreen (reapply at lunch)
  • Wide brim hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Sack lunch and salty snacks
  • Small first aid kit with any personal medications that you might need.

I suggest:

  • Long pants to keep sun/insects/etc. off.
  • Long sleeve, lightweight, light colored shirt to keep sun/insects/etc. off.

Know the risks and warning signs, and most importantly communicate with your team    members and supervisor if you are feeling unwell!

7. Sample collection/storage

  • We have printer labels and a date stamp to make labelling bags quicker and easier – it is essential to have COMPLETE information on each sample.
  • Every time you handle or sample from a bag, please put your initials and what you used it for.
  • Samples should be stored dry or frozen, not in soggy gross bags 🙂
  • Samples should be stored until the relevant publication is in print. The outside of boxes/bags should have the project name, person’s name, current date, brief description of what is in the box, and a “throw away by” date.
  • *** Very important *** because we use labeled stable isotopes, we must be diligent about preventing contamination within our own lab and to other labs. Cleaning all tools and surfaces with 70% ethanol before and after each use is a minimum; much more important is paying attention to where you are opening and closing bags with labelled material, grinding, weighing, etc.

8. Other information:

  1. Everyone is encouraged to attend lab/seminars/meetings. Critical thinking in a specific project is improved when we can share ideas and hear from other people even if it’s about other projects.
  2. Everyone is encouraged to find some project to take ownership of within broader scopes – whether you want to eventually publish or not.
  3. Undergrads (and others) are welcome to call me “Eva” but if you prefer more formal, then Dr. Stricker is fine.
  4. I prefer emails to set-up meetings – One or two sentences with a topic you’re interested in addressing means that I can be better prepared. But of course, knock on my door if you have a quick or urgent question – it’s just for bigger chats that I like to set time aside so I don’t run off to a meeting in the middle.
  5. I prefer informative email subject lines – it’s easier to go back and find things if it’s not just “Recent data” or “Lab stuff” (I’m also working on that one!).
  6. Please post hours that you plan to be in the lab on the relevant google calendar – it helps me keep organized.
  7. Everyone should write me a weekly summary email with a few sentences on what you accomplished, what is still in progress, what you’ve been thinking about, and any issues that have come up.
  8. If you take any tools/consumables out of any lab, you must LABEL the item with the lab ID (Either PI name or room number) so it can be promptly returned.

9. Lessons learned the hard way:

– Plastic can melt on the bottom of a drying oven and it can be a major fire risk. Use paper bags or a very low temperature with a oven tray to keep plastic/soil/plant material from dropping down into the heating elements.

– The metal flashing that we use for “raceways” is incredibly sharp – you must ALWAYS handle this with leather/tough gloves.

– Spend the time to write down why you decided to do something. You won’t remember in 6 months when you’re writing up the paper.


10. Title IX Reporting Obligations

In an effort to meet obligations under Title IX, UNM faculty, Teaching Assistants, and Graduate Assistants are considered “responsible employees” by the Department of Education (see pg 15 – This designation requires that any report of gender discrimination which includes sexual harassment, sexual misconduct and sexual violence made to a faculty member, TA, or GA must be reported to the Title IX Coordinator at the Office of Equal Opportunity ( For more information on the campus policy regarding sexual misconduct, see:

(Inspired/based off of Duffy lab information)