Importance of inter-personal relations amongst members of the research group

This Sunday I had the chance to go karting with several of my research group members. Despite averaging second to last place for the races, I had a blast! Besides realizing that I quite like attempting to drift around corners at high speed, I found inspiration for this week’s blog- the importance of inter-personal relations amongst members of the research group.

Okay, that last sentence does sound like a mouthful, but simply put, I like bonding with my colleagues. This way, the lab environment becomes a more friendly place because conversation becomes more easy-going and not just spurred on a duty to please the supervisor that we’ve exchanged scientific ideas.

Personally, it is essential that my work environment is pleasant and preferably not lonely. Of course, there are times when a task demands quiet and concentration. But if my day at work mainly consisted of sitting at a table reading papers and doing experiments in the lab without any real interaction with others present in my vicinity, I would probably be rather sad. I know this because some days the quiet of the office is frustrating.

Thankfully, our lab group is split into two offices (the dichotomy now occurs to me as extroverts vs introverts haha). So at lunch time, the other office joins us and my mood always brightens when I see them, because I know there’ll be jokes and laughter around the table.

My point here is not to say that a sprinkling of extroverted personality types is a requirement to make the research group wholesome. I just mean that the anticipation of positive human interaction in the immediate circle of my research group forms part of the motivation that wakes me up in the morning. So it’s not just the passion for scientific research, it’s both social satisfaction and scientific curiosity. One can argue that you definitely don’t follow a research path to make friends, so the ‘seeing your friends at the lab’ factor probably only accounts for 20% of morning energy ( making up numbers here ). In any case, this small contribution gives me even more reason to get to the lab, which is where the science happens.

I’m mostly certain that this is not restricted to just academic research but is relevant to all shared working environments, but I wanted to highlight it here to show that scientists are no different.

When I enter the office some mornings and someone says good morning to me with a smile, I’m instantly happier, which makes me mentally stronger to carry on a productive day and more likely to focus on the positive emotions associated with my research.

Maybe for some people all they need to achieve this state of mind is a cup of coffee? But I prefer having office friends… and I’m a scientist, if I may say so myself. 🙂

It just occurred to me now as I write this that in many thesis acknowledgements that I’ve read, and even in the ones that I’ve written before, there tends to be a written appreciation of people in the lab group not just for their scientific contribution but for their friendliness. There are not many spaces that highlight this human interaction that goes on behind the scenes of science, but its nice to know that some allowances for this expression do exist. More I say! More!

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