Li Lab

Quantitative Ecology in a Changing World



Code of conduct

This is a working document created to establish best practices for lab interactions and culture. The goal is to clearly lay out my expectations for behavior within the lab in an effort to encourage an inclusive lab culture. All lab members should contribute to its continuing development.

Science is tough, and it’s easy to get down about the barrage of rejections or challenges. However, it’s also pretty great, and the list below is designed to make sure it has the potential to be great for everyone.

Please note that this document is not a substitute for university rules and regulations, and that those policies and any legal requirements supersede anything in this document. If you have suggestions for this document – whether you are inside the lab or not – feel free to suggest them by filing an issue or by issuing a pull request at this repository.

You are welcome in this lab

The lab is dedicated to creating a safe environment where harassment and other forms of intimidation are not allowed. A safe environment also means that there is zero tolerance for any form of discrimination, including age, disability, appearance, sexual orientation, race, nationality, or religion (or lack thereof). Each person’s identity, culture, background, experience, status, abilities, and opinions will be respected. Discussions are encouraged, so long as they adhere to considerate language. We also are committed to diversity, equity and inclusion and strive to achieve these in the lab. Not only is everyone welcome to work in the lab if they follow basic guidelines, we actively seek to build a group that is diverse among multiple dimensions.

General rules of conduct

  • Be kind to yourself. Be mindful of your limits, and do not exhaust yourself.

  • Be kind to others. Do not insult or put down other contributors.

  • Behave professionally. Remember that harassment and sexist, racist, or exclusionary jokes are not appropriate.

  • Please make an effort to make an inclusive environment for everyone. Give everyone a chance to talk and an opportunity to contribute.

  • All communication - online and in person - should be appropriate for a professional audience including people of many different backgrounds. Sexual or discriminatory language and imagery is not appropriate at any time.

What you can expect from me

  • My primary goal is to help you make the transition from a student to a colleague and to foster your career. There is a balancing act between being hands off and helping that I may not always get it right. Therefore, you have to let me know if you need something you aren’t getting, or if there is something you are getting that you don’t want.
  • I will set the broad scientific direction for the lab but you have the freedom to pursue your own research projects. I will help you to find/refine your research topic and to help you write grants to fund your research. I will encourage you to attend scientific meetings to promote you and your work. You should try to apply for grants to fund your research and conferences first. If failed, I may be able to support with my own funding.
  • I am committed to mentoring you now and in the future. I will advise and guide your research, training, and career development while in my lab. I am happy to give any advices after your graduation if needed.
  • I will be available for regular meetings and provide timely review of research. I expect to meet with everyone in the lab weekly (see the Meetings section below). You should try to get the most out of these meetings.
  • I will provide a work environment environment that is intellectually stimulating, supportive, safe, and free from harassment. I will strive to understand your unique situation and am open to your suggestions on how to improve your experience in the lab.

What I expect from you

Overall, I expect that you will take ownership of your educational experience. This is your education and you should be the driver. I expect that you will work hard and willing to accept criticism and consider other points of view.

  • Be respectful, tolerant of, and work collegially with laboratory colleagues: respect individual differences in values, personalities, and work styles.
  • You need to make many decisions during your graduate school or postdoc training (and through your whole career). I expect that your decisions will be well-thought-out and well justified. It is ok that we may have different thoughts as long as you have good and well-informed reasons. I will generally let you know how strongly I feel about a particular issue.
  • You will keep me updated on your research progress and challenges by taking advantage of the regular meetings (see the Meetings section below).
  • You should always seek out professional development opportunities. To be successfully, you must develop strong communication skills (presentations, papers, proposals, etc.), time management skills, mentoring, and most importantly, research progress toward your thesis.
    • You should read the scientific literature frequently. Spend time each week to follow the most recent literature by browsing RSS feeds and read those that are relevant to your own research in details.
    • You should learn how to plan your research project by reading the literature and discussing with me and others in the lab.
    • You should develop your writing and presentation skills. You should try to have a daily writing habit as publications are your only true form of currency. Your degree alone, or even your research experiences, won’t get you a job and neither will your grades during graduate school. It is to your advantage to publish early and often.
    • Although the availability of travel funds will vary, I encourage you to submit your work for presentation at one conference per year. Attend relevant seminars such as the weekly department seminars to learn both science and how to give a good talk.
    • You should try to develop your mentoring and management skills. Mentoring undergraduate researchers can be a great opportunity to further your professional development as a supervisor and can help your own research progress.
    • You should apply for fellowships, small research grants, and travel grants as much as you can. Not only will an award help your career and the overall lab funding situation, the experience of writing the proposal will help you think about what you are doing more deeply.
    • You should keep a detailed lab notebook to record all details of your experiments and research. Data belongs to the lab, not to any one individual. As a result, you will be expected to leave your original notebooks and files when you leave the lab.


As postdocs and graduate students get funding from different sources, it is impossible to make funding 100% equal for everyone. Despite that lab finances are one area that is not totally transparent to all lab members, please trust that Daijiang is trying to make things as equitable as possible.

Graduate students

It is your responsibility to know the rules and requirements for your graduate program and are responsible to ensure that you are in compliance. You should be aware of any and all deadlines.

  • Academic year funding: The department guarantees PhD students five years of funding during the academic years (fall and spring terms). Funding past these time frames is not guaranteed. Many students in the program take a year or two longer and do receive teaching assistantships after the guaranteed period has ended. However, you can’t depend on this. I normally expect students being teaching assistants before finishing their course work. Experience teaching will be valuable to you (and your CV!) whatever your career path, even if you decide to leave academia. On the same token, I don’t want you to teach every semester that you are a student, as this can impede your progress on your research and dissertation. As such, I will work with you to obtain research-related funding if you don’t have it. In fact, in general, I expect graduate students to apply to larger fellowship awards, including NSF GRFP, DOE CSGF, etc. and to apply for smaller awards, such as travel awards or dissertation support awards. In some cases, you may need to take the lead on proposals. I am always available to talk with you about this and I encourage you to bring up any funding issues in our meetings if you have concerns.
  • Summer funding: Ideally, you will be funded over the summers while you are a graduate student. You should make a concerted effort to obtain summer funding on your own every summer. This provides you with practice writing proposals (another one of those invaluable experiences). Obtaining your own funding looks excellent on your CV. It is my intention to provide you with as much summer funding as I can if you are unable to secure your own. But this, of course, is dependent on what money I have available. While there is no guarantee of summer funding, I will try my hardest to help you obtain partial or full funding over the summers while you are a graduate student.
  • Committee meetings: I recommend you take full advantage of your committee meetings, which in most cases, should occur yearly. You won’t have all of your committee members in one room too often during your training so make sure you are extremely well-prepared. You should send the committee an agenda and any documents you want them to read at least one week before the meeting. During the meeting, you will generally give an oral presentation, letting people know the very specific goals of the meeting first and then proceeding systematically through the areas you need to address. If you aren’t prepared for your meeting, it will be clear to the committee.
  • Your dissertation and publishing: I expect your PhD dissertation will comprise at least three high-quality manuscripts, in which you are the first author. You will likely also have to write a short introduction tying together your chapters and possibly a (very short) conclusion section, depending on what your committee requests. At least one of the manuscripts should be accepted for publication before you defend your dissertation and the other manuscripts should be submitted. The publication process can be long and arduous. Therefore you need to plan carefully. I encourage you to start on your research from the very first day you join the lab. I expect that you will submit your first paper around the end of your second year, before you take your qualifying/general exam. Graduate students are also encouraged to mentor undergraduate researchers and to collaborate with others outside of the lab (you should notify me so we can make sure that priorities are balanced).


Postdoc time is the best time to learn new research skills and publish high-quality studies to secure permanent research positions in academia or industry. Postdocs in the lab are generally expected to lead the design and execution of research projects, coordinate project logistics with collaborators, and publish results in peer-reviewed journals. Postdocs that are hired through grants are expected to complete specific research projects by some deadlines to meet the grant objectives. Besides that, postdocs are encouraged to pursue additional research projects with others inside or outside the lab as long as the main project goals do not suffer. When possible, postdocs should also apply for grants and fellowships such as NSF PRFB or the Smith Conservation fellowship. As funding is a zero sum game, such opportunities would help both the individual postdoc and the entire lab grow. Postdocs are also expected to help mentor graduate students, such as overcoming day-to-day research obstacles, setting short- and long-term goals, programming, writing, etc.

Lab attendance and working hours

Researchers in our lab are expected to be present in the lab from 9am - 5pm. However, the lab is product oriented: your success will be determined by what you accomplish, not by how many hours you work. The reason to have this time expectation is that in order to foster communication and interaction among lab members, having people together in the lab during the workday is useful and will likely help you and those around you stay engaged. Further, it allows a slightly more clear separation between work time and personal time. I am not the master of work-life balance by any means, but treating research like a job with clear hours has helped me draw boundaries in the allocation of my time. That being said, if lab members feel that they cannot abide by the 9-5 schedule, they are encouraged to come talk to me. I am not going to track hours for lab members and you are ultimately responsible for your time management. However, if I sense that this is being taken advantage of, the situation will be addressed.


It is important to keep up with the literature. Lab members should be proactive in sharing relevant papers with others in the lab (we can use the #literature channel in the lab Discord space). Graduate students especially should take the opportunity to read several papers in detail per week. Use this protected time to immerse yourself in the literature, think carefully about confusing topics, develop future research questions, and study what qualities make for a compelling manuscript.


Lab members should attend relevant seminars throughout the semester. All members should try to attend at least one seminar per week. Seminars expose you to new research ideas and techniques, teach you new presentation techniques, and provide networking opportunities. Those who are considering pursuing careers in academia should attend job talks whenever possible.


I expect you will drive the agenda of our one-on-one meetings, providing a list of things we need to discuss — this is part of your taking charge of your education and development. I will try my best to meet with everyone in the lab weekly if needed. These meetings are normally used to discuss research ideas, go through new results, overcome research obstacles, review writing for papers or applications, and develop strategies to attain career goals. You should come prepared to present and discuss your recent research and next steps. I expect everyone in the lab to create a weekly planning Google Doc and share it with me. Within this document, each of us should list what we have done this week and what we plan to do (dodable actions) next week. This file will also serve as an agenda for our one-to-one weekly meetings. So basically, come with an agenda of items to discuss and to leave with a list of “to-do” tasks to work on before our next meeting.

Communication preferences

We generally use email and Discord to communicate within the group. Email should be preferred for professional correspondences, particularly concerning issues that need involvement from outsiders who do not have access to the Discord space. Discord may be preferred for informal discussions that require rapid back-and-forth correspondence to resolve. Understand that lab members will have different preferences for which medium they use.

Response times

I will try to respond to urgent emails within 6 hours, but it may take up to 24 hours. Complicated requests may take longer. I can often provide general feedback for short things such as abstracts or 1-2 page summaries or fellowship applications within 7 days. Detailed reading and feedback will normally requires 2-3 weeks. If you want a well thought letter of recommendation from me, at least give me 4 weeks. So plan accordingly if you want to get my feedback before deadlines and it is always better to provide an explicit date for when you need feedback rather than “as soon as possible”. In the event of a lab emergency, I may be contacted on my cell phone.

Annual Evaluations

Each year we will have an evaluation meeting. During this meeting, we will go through your cv to determine things that are going well and areas for improvement. I will tell you if I am satisfied with your progress and help you to identify steps to take next. This is also an opportunity for you to let me know what I can do to help you succeed (e.g., more guidance? more independence? meet more/less often?)

Lab space

The lab space belongs to everyone. I expect that lab members will respect the space and other members using this space. As a member of the lab, I will ensure that you have access to the resources you need to do your best science. This means that you will be issued a:

  • desk space
  • lab notebook
  • access to computers

This list is not exhaustive.

Collaboration, data, and open science

We support collaboration as a better model than competition within the lab and with colleagues at LSU and elsewhere. We are advocates of Open Science and reproducibility. Whenever possible, the data and software we generate is released under open licenses, a contribution we view as more important than simply churning out more papers (there may be cases for not sharing data openly immediately).

For each published article, I expect that you will upload all materials related to the project (i.e., data and code) to our lab’s Github site. Please see the Project completion checklist for a detailed list of tasks associated with closing out a project.

When leaving the lab, it is a good idea for both you and others in the lab to archive and leave a copy of all of your data. Nobody in the lab will use your individual data without your consent. But if you archive them, we will all know where they are.

How to handle an issue

This is a tricky one, but it doesn’t have to be. My door will always be open, as well as my email inbox. Lab members are encouraged to talk to me about any issues. All communication will be treated as confidential.

However, if lab members do not feel comfortable discussing issues with me or people within the lab, LSU offers conflict resolution through the Office of the Ombudsperson.

Latest version of this file can be found here.