A research lab consists of many individuals, many components. There is the Primary Investigator, who is usually a professor, with a PhD or similar degree. In my lab, this is Dr. Volling– I have been very lucky to have a lot of contact with Dr. Volling, as many research assistants don’t usually have these opportunities. In addition to the primary investigator, there are also other professors and researchers who join in on the research and lend their own intellect to the project. Also, post-doctoral individuals are sometimes included in research labs. This includes individuals who have recently completed their PhD, but are looking to gain more experience. Next are graduate students, most often these are students who are pursuing PhDs. Sometimes there are also lab managers. These are like assistants to the PI, as they serve to manage the ongoing projects (as there are usually many). Finally, there are research assistants, and in Dr. Volling’s lab, I serve as one. Research assistants are undergraduate students who work on many different tasks from data collection, analysis, literature review, and participant recruitment.
When the entire lab meets, usually research assistants are not included in the meeting; however, I was recently able to join in on one of these meetings. I learned something very new about these meetings– IT GETS CRAZY! Each graduate student has their own individual project, and the PI is responsible for overseeing these projects. During this meeting, there was a lot of discussion and even arguments that resulted in a somewhat hostile environment. Though the research assistants weren’t incredibly involved in the meeting, we still had the opportunity to observe and learn, which I found to be quite wonderful.