Saturday, October 3, 2015

DLF Retreat - Day 2

The first full day of the retreat (and last full day), day 2, and I'm thinking it won't be as difficult to convince people we did things after all :). 

The day started with pancakes...the best way to start any day. After breakfast, we got straight into it with some post-breakfast exercises. The first exercise was to think about the strengths and weaknesses of our lab. Now, this sounds easy enough...but the challenge is separating your strengths and weaknesses from that of the group. For example, one of my strengths is that I'm social so I make new connections easily. However, the same might not be true for everyone in the lab, therefore that wouldn't necessarily apply as a lab strength. This exercise was especially useful because although we were focusing on improving the lab, improving the lab means improving each of us individually. And being it's a small group (4 of us), it was easier to have ad-hoc discussions about each. It was also nice that those involved in this exercise are senior students in our lab, meaning they've been around for a bit and know the ins and outs of how the lab is currently run. 

The next exercise that followed almost directly from this one was looking at opportunities for our lab that we may be missing (based on location, resources, our skill sets, etc.) and threats that could prevent our lab from being world-renowned (and of course graduating students in a timely manner). This exercise was an interesting one; we found that the first go around it wasn't completely clear for all of us what exactly was expected. One of the weakness of our lab that a couple of us mentioned was the ability to speak up when you don't agree or understand something. We sat there for 5+ minutes as most of us wrote little to nothing. It wasn't until our advisor said "okay let's take a step back. there's not much writing going on here" for us to actually say "yeah I didn't get the question". Once that was out in the open, and clarification was made, the exercise went much more smoothly and we got some good discussions from it (and ideas for improvement). General advice for PhD students: Speak up! Especially when you don't agree or understand. Time is precious; no need to waste it being timid (or confused).

The last exercise for the day also followed directly from the others; we were told to think about the weaknesses we discussed earlier and brainstorm on ways to improve. Now, of course when you get a group of researchers together to come up with problems they're going to come up with a laundry list, so we had quite a few weaknesses (or shall I say "areas for improvement") that we came up with. Therefore, we each picked one weakness that we thought would be important to deal with and brainstormed on each. Of course, being the brilliant minds we are, we came up with some interesting ways to move forward in the lab and build both our lab brand and our individual brands. The test now is, will we carry all the things we discussed and decided on this weekend back and propagate them throughout the lab/group...only time will tell! And of course I will try to share some of the big changes we make as we make them.

This is B from the DLF, signing off. It's time to watch some COPS before hitting the sack.
In the mean time, enjoy some of the dope photos we took during our trip :)

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