Group Meetings

A standard element of the learning environment in most research groups at graduate research institutions is the so-called “group meeting.” Group meetings are usually meetings of the research group, i.e., the research advisor or advisors, in the case of interdisciplinary research teams, and all of the members of their research groups including post doctoral students, graduate students, undergraduate students and technicians. The purpose of these meetings is usually to discuss research progress, problems, and new ideas. Some advisors however use group meetings as an opportunity to critically discuss articles from the current peer-reviewed literature (same thing as a Journal Club).

Group meetings are typically fairly informal but this depends on the personality of the research advisor. Some advisors like their students to give formal research presentations (PowerPoint-style) using laptops and projectors. Others prefer that their students be able to discuss their recent results in the form of so-called “chalk talks.” These are informal presentations made on the fly without the aid of handouts, slides, transparencies or other pre-prepared visual aids. Group meetings are often held weekly. These meetings have no set length as a rule and may be as short as an hour or as long as a day depending on the research advisor.

If you lab doesn’t have group meetings, consider suggesting that the group start having regular meetings. If you offer to make the first group meeting presentation, your advisor is even more likely to take you up on your suggestion. So consider making the offer if you are serious about doing this.

Rules of Etiquette for Group Meetings

  • Attend all group meetings. If you are unable to attend, it is important to notify your research advisor well in advance of the meeting and to provide appropriate justification for your absence.
  • Show up on time, prepared and ready to participate. Bring a pen/pencil and a notebook in which to take notes.
  • Be sure that you turn your cell phone off before entering the meeting room. If you forget to turn it off and your cell phone rings, attend to it immediately (don’t let the ringer keep ringing) and take your conversation outside the meeting room.
  • If you are late, apologize and settle in as quietly as possible so you don’t disturb the flow of the meeting already in progress.
  • Participate actively in group meetings. Ask questions. Volunteer to help out if requests are made for assistance with group related activities.
  • Inquire in advance of the meeting concerning whether or not it is acceptable to eat and/or drink at group meetings. If food and drink are permitted, be sure to clean up after yourself when you are finished.