Dhillon lab at MU

Lab Mission and Philosophy

Dhillon Lab Mission

We want to produce high quality research in an uncompromising and highly transparent manner. We strive to work on unique problems using rigorous methods and like to disseminate our work as it occurs and have a strong focus on publishing preprints in addition to the traditional peer review process. We continuously amend our policies to make our data and methods more accessible to the community. We strive to be anti-secrecy in all things. Nutrition Science is an interdisciplinary field and our scientific mission is to integrate biological, genetic, environmental, and psychosocial factors to investigate the variability in responses to diets and foods.


The most important thing I can do is give people the resources to accomplish what they want to accomplish in the lab, and make sure what they’re doing is setting them up to grow for the position they want next. The kinetics of this is more determined by their personal desires for what they want to do in their career.

Specifically I aim to:

Career Development

As people’s career preferences evolve over time, I expect people to be engaged in a constant conversation with me. I think about “what’s next” as being such an important part of mentorship because how they think their work in the lab feeds into their longer term career goals allows me to tailor training, networking, conferences, and even aspects of their project around what I think would be most beneficial for their goals. In addition, when you begin in the lab, we develop an Individual Development Plan (IDP), and we will review this plan yearly through surveys, activities, and a focused meeting. People who have been very focused on this have been well motivated, and it becomes easy to recognize when to cut losses on a project or when to wrap things up and publish. It provides me with clarity of how to direct their work, and I really like having a very constant back and forth about it.


We’re all growing, we’re all trying to live up to our core values, and essential to this is an emphasis on feedback. I am always open to feedback on how the lab and I can function better as long as it is respectful. We have planned surveys a couple times a year to give lab members an opportunity to voice how they think things are going. Outside of these surveys, you can always come to me privately or otherwise.

Health and Personal Emergencies

I trust people, and it’s expected that people will have emergencies. Take care of yourself and your loved ones. If somebody says, “I need some time” that’s all I need to hear, but I’m here to listen, to help, and to provide whatever resources and support I can both personally and professionally. I don’t need to hear any more details unless people are comfortable and they should not mistake my lack of asking with lack of caring or empathy, but rather just that I want to be respectful of people’s space. If you do have to leave the lab, if possible, please let me know what’s going on even if it’s as vague as “personal emergency” or “I need some time” so that we’re in communication about time away and that I know you are ok. In addition, try to pass off, reschedule, or communicate any time sensitive items like deadlines or participant data collection. We are a community, and we are here for one another.

Work-Life Fulfillment

We are all here to grow as scientists, leaders, and people by pursuing ambitious research goals. However, that should never come at the cost of your well-being. Your mental and physical health are by far the most important consideration in all that you do while in our lab. Moreover, success should not come at the cost of maintaining your interests/hobbies or healthy relationships in your life. In fact, you are more likely to be successful if you take care of yourself and give time to the things outside of work that matter to you. Managing your motivation and work habits while integrating interests and commitments outside of work is a key self-leadership skill that will serve you well throughout your career, and now is a great time to build that skill.

General Lab Expectations

As a researcher you are expected to develop your knowledge and skills, make incremental progress on your projects, and contribute to the running of the lab. This presupposes a lot of self-initiative and personal responsibility. The biggest driver of your academic career is you. Speak up when you need help or you find yourself going down an undesired path. Outside of this, you are also expected to document all of your work including methods, troubleshooting, and development. This information should be readily available to the rest of the lab. You are also expected to present your research both internally at group meetings a few times a year and to represent the lab at conferences and other national and international meetings. The lab values science communication, and we rely on feedback from group meetings and practice talks to hone our ability to make our science accessible to a variety of communities.

As a member of the lab community you are expected to be a team player. You are expected to follow lab policies, adapt as they evolve, and treat fellow members with respect. This includes respect for peoples’ lab areas and personal space and having consent for actions that will affect them. Respect also means that when communicating to each other we empower rather than belittle people for their mistakes; we are all learning and growing. We are a collaborative, supportive lab so we ask for guidance from our fellow lab members with the understanding that academic careers get busier with time as people learn to take on more. As self-reliance is important to develop, we try to solve problems on our own first before seeking assistance.


Every week, each lab member has a one-on-one meeting with me to talk about current progress, issues, etc. To make the most of these meetings I request that you make an agenda and send it to me in advance of our meeting. In addition, the lab and myself are available through a very active Slack channel. Slack is a great tool that centralizes all of our communication. In our lab, we have a slack channel for almost everything. The @channel and @person prompts summon the channel or person at any time of the day so people have to be mindful of how people arrange their time especially during nights and weekends. It is a given that people can ignore slack messages outside of normal working hours to preserve their personal time and space. For urgent matters, you should contact people by phone/ text.

Grant Writing/Funding

For all science career paths, being able to explain yourself and the value of your work is an invaluable skill. Funding our research is vital to keeping the lab running and grant/proposal writing is the responsibility of the entire lab. My lab members and I collaborate together to write grants and proposals to fund themselves, to fund lab research and equipment, and to request use of scientific facilities.

Conferences and Travel

Talk about your work openly. Share early. A key component to information transparency is getting it out there. People should present their work at conferences as they are great ways to communicate our results and get other people excited about our work. Conferences are important to build your network as well as your science communication skills. I think everyone should attend 1-2 conferences a year. I encourage people to charge lab-related travel expenses to the lab. Your time is valuable; consider this when booking flights and ground transportation.

This development of this compact was heavily guided by similar compacts and philosophies of several labs, see links.
Matreyek Lab, Case Western Reserve University
Syed Lab, University of Minnesota
Heemstra Lab, Emory University
Mentoring resources, University of Wisconsin-Madison ICTR
Moghe Lab, Cornell
Fraser Lab, University of California San Francisco