According to National Day Calendar, it’s National Employee Appreciation Day! Many organizations have an annual Staff Appreciation Day or Week, and rightly so. Research staff in academia, as well as general staff, are often quietly under appreciated. Research staff can be costly, especially because many universities insist that research positions have salary and benefits fully-funded by grants. Many labs thus rely on undergraduate student researchers, who work for minimum wage or might even pay for university “research credits”, to help provide labor.
While many undergraduates find themselves performing unglamorous routine lab maintenance (anything from washing dishes, to pre-weighing commonly used supplies, to dusting, to inventory), as a researcher I can attest to how vital these tasks are. Working in a molecular biology lab, dust and other contaminants had to be minimized and it was extremely helpful to have undergraduates who were able to dust multiple times a day. When culturing bacterial isolates, I would go through hundreds of culturing tubes every week, which all needed to be autoclave sterilized, emptied, washed, and re-sterilized. This was a massive amount of effort unto itself, and I would not have been able to accomplish my culture work without. Perhaps the best example was my study of probiotics in newborn lambs. I had 24 lambs which were only 4 days old, which needed to be fed every 4-5 hours, sometimes by hand, as well as weighed, sampled, and cleaned on a regular basis. Without numerous undergraduate volunteers, I would have found myself sleeping at the barn for two months.
Not only is it polite to appreciate the staff who keep your work moving, but proper gratitude can go a long way towards improving work relationships, job satisfaction, and performance. So get out there and start thanking!