There’s always a mix of weird and wonderful lab personalities. Some are unique, however, one thing I have noticed when moving between different institutes is that many belong to a recurring theme. Where ever you go, no matter the country or institution, I guarantee you will have met at least one of these personalities on your academic journey.


The BFF (best friend forever)

Everyone (hopefully) has that one friend in the lab that is always there for you. They’ve got your back. They make sure you haven’t done anything stupid. When you’ve sacked off work early and your supervisor is looking for you, the BFF tells the boss that you’re downstairs on a microscope. They are the absolute best and you cannot imagine how terrible your life in the lab would be without them. Thank you BFFs, the science world would be a much darker place without you.

The eternal postdoc

Many labs will be familiar with the eternal postdoc. That one guy that has been in your lab since the beginning of time and seems perfectly happy to continue hanging around. They stop resembling a functional scientist and start to get complacent, more resembling a piece of furniture or a houseplant. BEWARE! You too could find yourself in the post-doc blackhole if not careful!

Lab meeting time eater

Some people just love the sound of their own voice. They think that what they have done in the last month is amazeballs! And everyone in the lab meeting is lucky to hear all about the amazing, amazing work they have been doing. The lab meeting time eater is exceptionally good at ignoring when the people around him are yawning, rolling their eyes or outright telling them to hurry up. A quick fix for the lab meeting time eater is to insist on a strict time limit for their presentations, enforce this with the use of a loud timer.

The know it all

That guy who just knows everything, or at least thinks they know everything. They will always have a question at the end of a talk. Just when you think the lab meeting is over, there they are! Whipping out question after question. Making sure everyone in the room knows that they are awesome and they know stuff and you should be amazed at how much stuff they know. A true know it all ie someone who does indeed know it all, can be useful to you. If you happen to come across the more modest variant of the know it all, these are worth befriending and can be a great asset in your scientific quest for knowledge.

The super keen

This is a common phenotype for first year PhD students. Everyone starts with the best intentions – I’m gonna work every minute of every day just because I feel like I should because that’s what being a PhD student is all about! They talk of how their project could be a potential Nature paper. They talk about how they have to work weekends. Don’t worry if you have one of these in your lab. Eventually, their passion will die, they will realize they are not special, just in time for a new super keen to join your lab. And so, the cycle continues.

The misery guts

Don’t get me wrong, everyone loves a good whine. It is a fantastic way for co-workers to bond. However, some people just take it a step too far. These people are known as the misery guts. Life is always out to get the misery guts. Nothing is very good. Everything is a bit rubbish. The first thing they will do when they see you in the morning is to have a good complain about their project/a co-worker/how no one ever fills up communal stock of X. You must approach the misery guts with caution. If they are in an especially bad mood they may bring down your mood by proxy.

The person for whom everything just works

Also known as the bosses’ favorite. Luck is always on their side. Everything they do usually works first time or with minimal optimization. There is no good explanation for the person for whom everything just works. Maybe they were born lucky. It can be infuriating to watch these people sail through life without a care in the world. The best way to handle this type of lab personality is to use their luck for your own gains. Get them to do experiments for you and watch the data come rolling in.

Bringer of cakes

There is always cake in a lab. Birthday? Cake. Joining the lab? Cake. Leaving the lab? Cake. And so on and so on. However, most labs will have one person (or sometimes multiple people) who instigate the bringing of the cake. They will spend the weekend casually baking cakes. But never eating them! Instead, they bombard us with sweet, cream-filled delicacies that we are forced to consume. Thank you. But stop it. Please. (But not this week.)

Stealer of food

Why is there always somebody stealing food from communal fridges!? Can these people not find their own food? Are they not familiar with the concept of supermarkets? This common lab personality is the one I will always find the most baffling. I want to know what goes on inside the head of the stealer of food. What makes a person think,”Oh yeah that looks like a pretty delicious lunch, I think I’ll just take it.” It is an incredibly strange behavior and I demand an explanation for it. Stealers of food, you know who you are.

So how many of these sound familiar?

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