Category Archives: Research

What Lab Glassware Taught Me About Community

As a graduate student working in a research lab, I quickly came to appreciate the person who washed and prepared the glassware. If we ran out of clean graduated cylinders, beakers, and flasks, all the experiments for the day would need to be put on hold. Furthermore, we had to place our trust in the person who prepared the glassware. Any soap residue left behind could ruin an experiment. If the flasks were not sterilized properly, our results would be skewed. The lady who prepared our glassware was a member of our research team, and her work was no less significant than ours.

In the laboratory or in the church, there are no unimportant people. Everyone is a vital member of the team. The key to appreciating the unique contributions made by each person is a little dose of humility. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves (Philippians 2:3). Humility purifies my motives, helping me look beyond myself to the needs of others. Humility teaches me to share credit with others on the team and acknowledge their perspective. Humility produces a realistic view of life, showing me my role within a given organization is vital but time-limited. Knowing I will someday yield my role to another motivates me to teach and train those who will take my place.

When I am able to honor people for their contributions within a workplace or church community (Romans 12:10), I gain the freedom to learn from them, and I feel less pressure to pretend to be someone I am not. Celebrating another person’s success does not diminish the value of my own work on the team. Instead, acknowledging the achievements of others motivates me to do my part with greater excellence.

Anyone who has worked in both a competitive and a collaborative research environment will tell you they were not only happier in the collaborative lab, they were also more productive. When we planned our annual lab parties, the lady who prepared the glassware received an invitation along with the post-docs and graduate students. Of course, since her sense of humor equaled her attention to detail preparing glassware, we benefitted from her presence at our parties as much as we did at our lab benches. The smile on her face at the end of the event persuaded me that she appreciated us, too.

Key Concepts to Tweet

  • In the workplace or in the church, there are no unimportant people.  Buffer
  • When I am able to honor people for their contributions, I gain the freedom to learn from them.  Buffer
  • Celebrating another person’s success does not diminish the value of my own work on the team.  Buffer