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Lab/Group Policies

How NOT to read lab manuals:

How NOT to run experiments:


New students and postdocs must attend the laboratory safety training before working with chemicals and other safety hazards in the lab. REHS performs these new employee laboratory safety training sessions every month. Please see the following link for the 2011 schedule: http://rehs.rutgers.edu/rehs_train.html#labsafety

They should also attend the safety colloquium conducted annually for the Physics department as their refresher course each year and if they miss that session, they can either attend one of our monthly sessions or take the online refresher course. The safety colloquium is not for new employees or students; it must be attended annually by everyone working in the lab.

"Protect" your Professor at all times

Please understand that your Professor is a delicate organism almost constantly overworked and overloaded with various responsibilities. These include (please finish reading this list): conducting research, thinking (as a part of conducting research), working with students and postdocs, reading grants and papers, writing grants and papers, reviewing grants and papers, teaching – preparing for lectures and labs, teaching lectures and labs, thinking up quizzes and exams, administering quizzes and exams, grading lab reports, quizzes and exams, working on various departmental committees, communicating with collaborators, organizing conferences and workshops, preparing for conferences and workshops, attending conferences and workshops, giving speaches and talks at conferences and workshops, performing a series of administrative tasks, committees and chores, such as reporting on grants and writing recommendation letters, etc. Therefore, please do the following:

  1. Approach your Professor after a thought.
  2. Do not dump your immediate frustration on your Professor.
  3. Always use common sense.
  4. Before asking your Professor a question, do a homework on the Internet to investigate into the issue.
  5. Do not stuff raw, unprocessed data into your Professor's face, without spending good amount of time thinking.
  6. Stay mentally alert and awake at the group meeting and in the lab.
  7. When your Professor asks you to do something, it is expected that you actually do it. The Professor must not need to repetedly remind you. This relates to the common lab maintainance activities (chores), as well as research tasks. At group meetings, you are supposed to take notes of things to be done and report on the progress by yourself.
  8. If your experiment doesn't work, ask yourself a question what might be wrong, before slamming on the Professor's door and reporting a problem. Do troubleshoot your experiment. If it does not help, try to modify something in your experiment and see what happens. If you still can not figure it out, perform some basic tests of the equipment involved (such as the base pressure in a vacuum chamber or integrity of your electric circuit). If still no luck, sit down and think about what control experiments you might perform to figure out what's going on. If after all of this, it still doesn't work, ask more experienced student or postdoc to take a look. If both of you can not figure it out, put you observations together in an organized manner (with numbers, estimates, printouts, results of your tests) and then go to your Professor.
  9. CC your Professor on all your e-mail communications related to work (including communicating to other group members and collaborators).
  10. Write good e-mails (one can write a book about it, but a few simple tips help). (a) Write only short (concise) e-mails; (b) Never write pages of complaining e-mails with extensive details of your problems; (c) Always spell-check your e-mails; (d) Make sure to use good English; (e) Check your e-mail at least twice daily; (f) Reply to or acknowledge your Professor's e-mails.
  11. When you communicate with your Professor or collaborators via e-mail, it always helps to include a simple power point file with a schematic explanation of your idea, setup, device structure or data.
  12. When you talk about your results, please do not start your conversation with stating your data. Start with one or two introductory sentences reminding your Professor the project you are about to discuss and what samples you are working on and why (the motivation behind your work).
  13. We do not use TEX, LATEX or similar word-processing software. Please use MS Word (doc, docx) and Adobe (pdf) for writing texts.
  14. All submissions to conferences, journals, proceedings, etc must be approved by your Professor. Never submit anything w/o your Professor checking. By default, the corresponding author on your submissions is your Professor with his contact information, unless a special case has been discussed with the Professor. This relates to both journal and conference submissions.

Your attitude toward research

You should be excited about the research you are doing. If you are not excited, interested or curious about your projects, you'll lack the necessary self-motivation and creativity, and you will ultimately fail as a scientist. Lack of interest is usually associated with one of these reasons:

  1. You are here just because it so happened;
  2. Your spouse or relative is here, so you are here;
  3. You consider doing research as a quick and easy way of getting a Ph.D. that will presumably land you a dream job at a bank, stock market or a consulting firm, making you instantly rich.
If this is the case - forget it. It is not going to work. Think very carefully about this, because in the end, the cat will come out of the bag, and it will come out scratching. You are going to fail and lose a lot of time - perhaps years - before you stop cheating on yourself. The bottom line – if you are not genuinely interested in science and research – you must leave science.

If you feel uncomfortable, frustrated or terrified by the unknown, unexpected or unconventional, you must also leave science.

If you are not diligent by nature – you must leave science.

If you are sloppy by nature – you must not do experimental research.

You should read at least 3 papers a week. Sounds like not a big deal? Let’s see for how long you'll last.

Train your memory. You should be able to remember the basic, most important facts, results and conclusions that came out of your everyday activities, even if you deal with hundreds of samples. I suggest the following regular exercise: every evening after work, sit down in a quiet room and spend 10-15 minutes thinking about what happened during the day and what you’ve learned. Sort through the experiments, data and events of the day in your memory. This will help you to single out essential results and solidify these in your memory.

Learn to multitask. If you can not multitask, you will not be successful in the modern world. Normal graduate students and postdocs carry 2-3 lead projects at a time, plus maintain 2-3 collaborations. In addition, you are expected to carry regular lab chores, contribute to education and outreach by working on our technical notes and teach/supervise a junior group member assigned to you. Therefore, when Professor tells you to do a chore or an extra project, it should not cause an expression of pain, frustration or excessive swetting on your face.

Maintain a personal lab book. Use a page-numbered lab book. Pages are never to be ripped out of your lab book. Each new experiment or measurement must start with a date and a brief title giving a clear purpose of the experiment. Next goes the sample description, technical details, such as sample’s number, device fabrication conditions, measurements conditions, LabView programs used, etc. After that, include your data, analysis (estimates, calculations, etc) and finally bulleted conclusions. Samples of lab book pages are provided here: 1, 2, 3, crystal growth, 5, thermal evaporation/parylene deposition, 7. Here is an example of how the crystal growth batches must be labeled: box with crystals.

Plan every experiment very carefully. Good planning usually saves a lot of time and efforts. First, you should clearly understand the goal of each experiment, what you want to show, prove or check. Once the goal is set, you should design your experiment paying special attention to control tests that would rule out possible artifacts. Second, perform a “virtual experiment” using your imagination – close your eyes and just picture yourself doing the experiment step by step. During this process, you’ll figure out what extra preparation steps need to be taken and what problems you might expect during the experiment. Next, write down a detailed plan of the experiment and discuss it with your Professor.

Doing research should be like playing ping-pong with your Professor. He pitches you an idea, you come back with results quick, and this continues back-and-forth until you have a story or decide to move on to another project. The Professor should not be looking for you to get your feedback and repeatedly ask questions like “Did you do that?”, “Did it work?”, “What did you see?”

In the academic research, you work for yourself, not for your Professor. Although not required, it is strongly recommended that students and postdocs work on weekends. This especially concerns individuals whose personal progress has been insufficient. The number and quality of your publications are directly related to the amount of focused effort you invest in your work. When I write a recommendation letter on your behalf, the quality of my recommendation will be directly related to the quality and amount of effort of your research.

You must be meticulously clean while working in the lab. Mess and sloppiness will not be tolerated. We reinforce a cleaning schedule that outlines responsibilities of each group member in cleaning and maintaining the labs. The condition of the labs will be checked by the Professor weekly before the group meeting.

Creativity training

In order to stimulate creativity, we will have the following exercise once a week during our regular group meeting. Every group member will be asked to propose a new idea. Try to come up with something creative, new and interesting that you think is worth pursuing. It does not necessarily have to be something grand or complicated. You have a freedom to think up something as small as a technical improvement of your experiment, or as big as a new revolutionary concept. It is expected that these proposals will be followed by brainstorming. Keep in mind a few things. First, for most people, it is hard to generate new ideas or propose clever experiments (unless you are a very talented and bright individual). Second, your ideas should be the result of your focused thinking during your daily work and literature reading. Third, avoid pronouncing your idea immediately after it jumped into your head. Digest your idea first by spending some time thinking about it, deciding how good it is and formulating it in proper English. At the same time, do not be afraid proposing something crazy or stupid - sometimes things like that lead to breakthroughs. Also, do not be afraid or ashamed, if you initially have a hard time coming up with ideas - it is hard to do this, and you are learning, so let’s exercise regularly.


  1. When you need to purchase anything for your work, first make a list based on your internet search. Some standard items, such as certain chemicals, vacuum parts, etc, we purchase from standard suppliers. Ask a senior group member about those. Discuss your purchases with the Professor. After that, you are allowed to use your credit card, if the total amount of the order does not exceed $500 (and get reimbursed later through our business office). For reimbursement, you have to retain store or internet receipts and fill out a reimbursement form (visit our business office for details). Larger purchases have to be done using a purchase order (PO).
  2. When completing a purchase order (PO), please use a doc form (a sample can be found here). Make sure to get an updated quote from the company, include correct addresses, ask your Professor which grant account to use. If the item's cost is greater than $5000, you are supposed to obtain three quotes for similar equipment from three different companies, showing that you will be using the cheapest option. After completing the PO form, ask your Professor to sign it and make 2 copies: one copy goes to the business office, and the other one you have to put in the special folder named "Orders" that we keep in the lab. Ask Valerie Cardinale from our business office (vcardinale@physics.rutgers.edu) to submit the PO to the company. If you have not received your shipment in a few days, stop by the business office and follow up on your order. It is your responsibility to keep track of each order you place. Sometimes companies forget to ship, use wrong addresses, or lose the orders – all these can cause a delay or loss of your order. Every time you create a new doc file with a PO, please name it "PO_company name_date.doc" and save in a designated folder on your computer; next time you order from the same supplier, you can modify this file.
  3. When you receive an order, make sure that the items are correct and there are no duplicated orders; please collect the paperwork included with the shipment – packing slips or invoices - staple them together to the copy of the corresponding PO and put it in the folder "Orders"; if there are MSDS materials included (usually when you receive chemicals), put them in a separate special folder labeled "MSDS".

Shipping samples to collaborators

First, prepare your samples. Characterize them (whatever needs to be characterized). For example, if you are shipping FETs, measure their standard transfer and output characteristics, extract the mobility, threshold voltage, etc. Take photographs of all your samples. Samples must be labeled with a number and a date written either on the substrate or on the containers. For fragile samples (such as organic crystals or OFET devices) use small round tin boxes; these boxes are very robust and convenient, but they have to be thoroughly cleaned with acetone and tissue before using to remove machine oil residue off their interior. Create a doc or power point file briefly describing the set of samples with their fabrication conditions, characterization data, extracted parameters and photographs. A sample file is available here. Pack the samples, making sure they will not break during the shipping. We ship samples by FedEx or UPS (preferable for US shipping). Ask your collaborator for the correct shipping address and the actual phone number (required), where the recipient person can be reached in case the delivery has a problem finding the destination. Also ask your Professor what account to charge for the shipment. Go to my.physics.rutgers.edu -> login with your NetID -> Shipping Form. Complete the form. In the “administrative assistant/shipping coordinator” you can choose Erica DiPaola (administrative assistant, Serin 2nd floor, E269, edipaola AT physics.rutgers.edu) or Jerrell Spotwood (stock room administrator, 1st floor, W134, stock room, js1399 AT physics.rutgers.edu). After you submitted the form, the shipping coordinator you choose will send you a printable version of the shipping label. Print the label and the supporting doc file you have created. Talk to the shipping coordinator, who will give you an appropriate shipping envelope. Put your samples (wrapped in a bubble wrap or placed in a padded inner envelope) and the supporting documentation in the envelope, attach the shipping label to it and seal the envelope. You are responsible for making sure that all the information (address, tel. number, etc) on the shipping label is correct; always take down and save the package’s tracking number (important). Then bring the package downstairs by the stock room in Serin Physics building. FedEx or UPS pick up packages from the Serin Physics each weekday before 3 pm, so if you want the package to go out today, make sure you finish everything before 3 pm and put the ready-to-go package on the small metal table right outside the stock room. If you are sending a UPS package, ask Jerrell to call them (they are not checking every day like FedEx). Make sure the pink sheet of paper (an indicator to the FedEx/UPS truck driver) is put on the nearby glass entrance door of the building near the stock room. Send an e-mail to your collaborator (always CC their group’s Professor, manager, etc) advising them about the shipment and include in your email the tracking number of your package and the file with the supporting documentation for your samples.

Receiving products or samples

Our shipping/delivery addresses (you have to also provide you actual phone number, where you can be reached by the delivery guy):

Delivery address for Serin Physics:

Prof. V. Podzorov
Rutgers University
Physics Department
136 Frelinghuyisen Rd.,
Piscataway, NJ 08854


You are responsible for making sure that there is antivirus and antimalware software installed on all the computer(s) assigned to you (typically, these are the PCs that you use in your work). You are responsible for keeping these programs updated. You are supposed to run this software (both antivirus and anti-spy software) at least once a week (recommended: every night). Rutgers accessible antivirus software can be downloaded here: https://software.rutgers.edu/ (required a login with RU net-ID and password). The suggested free anti-spyware and anti-malware can be downloaded here: Adaware (http://www.lavasoft.com/) and Spybot Search&Destroy (http://www.safer-networking.org/en/spybotsd/index.html). You are responsible for backing up your data, LabView programs, power point presentations and everything else related to your work on a DVD, a flash drive, an external HDD (use of a cloud is OK, but not recommended) at least once a month. Data loss could be a really frustrating experience – better be safe than sorry.

Lab rules

Computer or phone chatting/texting is seriously discouraged when you are working in the lab. This practice apparently represents a serious distraction in your work, where you have to be extremily focused. In the past experience of some of our students, it has caused a huge number of broken samples, wasted time and experimental mistakes.

No listening to music in earphones is allowed at work at all times. This practice is against the safety rules, it is a serious distracting factor and can apparently cause a hearing problem later in life.

No wearing flip-flops in the lab. It's a safety violation.

No eating in the lab. It's a safety violation.

Wash hands thoroughly before and after working with samples, even when you plan using gloves.

Chemical waste containers for used solvents must be maintained under each hood. The container must be labeled "Used solvents (include a list of solvents dumped there)". The container can be either a used amber glass bottle of appropriate size or REHS-issued special container (white plastic for acids and other harsh chemicals). The container MUST NOT be tightly closed. A dedicated funnel must be sitting in the mouth of the container or nearby. The funnel must also be labeled "For dirty solvents only", it must not be used for other purposes.

Used tissues, paper towels, gloves, etc used for cleaning parts with solvents have to be collected from the grey bin under the hood and placed in designated plastic bags on a regular basis (at least once a week). The bags have to be placed away in a trash bin or other designated bin. No chemicals, other that materials exposed to simple solvents (acetone, propanol, ethanol, etc) can be placed in these trash bins.

If you need to work with more dangerous chemicals (acids, etc), first discuss it with the Professor, even if you had a prior experience working with these chemicals; second, make sure to dispose such used chemicals only in REHS issued white plastic bottle with appropriate label (sitting under the hood in 286); third, watch for the amount of the waste in the bottle and arrange REHS pickup timely.

The last person leaving for the day is responsible for (a) checking around the labs for basic safety, and (b) locking all the lab doors. Checking for safety includes EGW: electricity, gas and water. "Electricity" includes power devices like furnaces or hotplates that have to be turned off, unless an overnight experiment is performed, ceiling lights, desk lamps, microscope lights, etc. "Gas" – includes compressed gas cylinders (make sure the valves are closed, unless it needs to be open overnight). "Water" – includes cooling water for furnaces, electromagnet and close cycle cryostats. All these should be shut off unless an overnight experiment is performed.

When you need to order gas cylinder(s) or liquid cryogens (liquid N2 or He), please first discuss it with the Professor, unless you already know what you are doing. Use the Instructions for ordering gases.

If you need a machine shop to make a special part or equipment that is not commercially available, please use these instructions for using our machine shop service.

Chemistry stock room. Basic solvents and usual reagents of moderate purity can be purchased from the Chemistry stockroom (Dept. of Chemistry). To get liquid supplies from there use a special orange plastic carry bucket (usually located in NPL1). High purity solvents have to be ordered from an outside supplier.

Gloves. We only use powder-free gloves in our lab. Gloves can be obtained from the Physics stockroom. Note: Nitrile gloves are expensive, so careful and thoughtful usage is necessary. Wear gloves while performing any work with chemicals (SAM or crystal growth related work), all cleaning work (FTS cleaning, crystal growth cleaning, oil change in vacuum pumps, general lab cleaning), work with vacuum parts (chambers, gauges, flanges etc) and especially any work related to the crystal growth (involving handling of quartz tubes, spatulas, silicone stoppers, ets). While wearing gloves, do not touch anything else unrelated to the parts you are working with, such as door knobs, your face and hair, clothes, pens, keyboards, etc. Do not exchange gloves between different tasks. For example, if you just cleaned up the FTS chamber, do not use the same gloves to touch any other unrelated parts. If you were changing pump oil, do not use the same gloves for handling the quartz tubes, etc. Also, change gloves when you go from one level of purity to the next during the process of preparing your setup. For instance, while cleaning the crystal growth set-up, first thoroughly clean the bench and the surrounding area (this might make your gloves pretty dirty), then change to fresh gloves and do a thorough cleaning of the quartz tubes and tools you will be using (spatulas, stoppers, etc). This might dirty your gloves less and with different contaminants. Still change to a new pair of gloves before the final clean up of the inner quartz tube and loading the high-purity material into the furnace. The same applies to the parylene growth: do a thorough cleaning of the setup first, then change the gloves before loading parylene and samples into the system. In many cases gloves can and should be re-used. This can be done when you are performing not-so-dirty work, such as handling relatively clean vacuum parts, final cleaning of the quartz tubes, after which the used gloves can be re-used again for the initial dirty clean-up or an oil change. Please, make effort to save gloves, yet without jeopardizing safety, chemical hygene and purity of your experiment.

Manuals for instruments/devices/machines or components are never to be discarded. For each piece of equipment that comes with a manual or description of some sort, we make a folder and store the manual and other related documents in that folder labeled with the name of the equipment. Before using the equipment, each student/postdoc must be directed to read the manual at least briefly, and only after that work with a person assigned to this machine/equipment. If there is no person assigned to the equipment, the user should familiarize himself/herself very carefully with the manual, including safety and maintenance protocols.

Dry turbo pump stations are NOT to be used in a combination with any parts (chamber, valve or a hose) that have been used with an oil pump. These dry pumps are especially designed to operate without oil to eliminate any oil back-streaming typically produced in most of the oil-based pumps or pumping stations. Such dry pumps must be used in experiments, where a potential contamination of the surface of the sample with oil is a concern. Currently we have two dry pumping stations – red Pfeiffer turbo stations with ISO63 turbo and a diaphragm backing pump – one in Serin 285 and one in the HIM space (NPL).

We have regular group meetings each Monday afternoon, followed up with an additional progress-report/journal-club meeting on Friday at 4:30pm. Each group member should make an effort to come to the group meetings prepared. Bring your notebook, data and other relevant materials to the group meeting. Your attitude towards the meeting should reflect the fact that this is your chance to show your data and results, as well as discuss possible concerns/questions with your Professor and other team members. Try to "digest" your information, before presenting it at the group meeting.

Data keeping format

When you put together your data in a file, please follow the following simple rules for data storage/presentation. The Origin file must contain: a very brief title giving the main idea of the measurement, description of your sample including the date of the growth batch, type of device, type of contacts, thickness of the dielectric, etc, correct axes labeling with right units, brief description of the measurement conditions, a file path to these data on your hard drive, a brief list of conclusions you made from this experiment, some extracted numbers (such as, e. g., mobility, photoconductivity, threshold voltage, etc), in some cases, it is useful to include photos of the samples, or SEM/AFM images next to the curves. Please see an example of the data keeping format here. In addition to storing your data on a hard drive and a DVD, please print them out and attach to a special folder, where all your data should be kept. It is also highly recommended to print out small (reduced size) copies of the main plots and results and attach them with comments to your lab book describing the corresponding experiments.

Regular research updates

1. A research update is to be sent to your Professor via e-mail every Sunday not later than 6 pm. Your Professor works on Sunday evenings. Your update sent on time will give him a chance to think about your data and provide his input on Monday, so that you can proceed with your project more efficiently. Keeping regular updates helps you to maintain a periodic record of what you've been doing and maintaining a catalogue of your results/thoughts/conclusions in a systematic manner. It is thus very useful for your own successful career, not only for your Professor's personal satisfaction.

2. Your update should be in the form of a power point (or doc) file, in which you should incorporate origin plots with your measurements, modeling and other details, as described in the "Data keeping format" section. Materials making, sample growth, device fabrication and assembling experimental setups must also be included. The graphs in your ppt file must be clickable (this can be achieved via hyperlink function). This is necessary, so that your Professor can open the corresponding Origin files that contain your original data, graphs and other information by double-clicking on the figures in your update.

3. Do not send graphs with unlabeled axes or missing units - this is unprofessional! Always include a concise statement of purpose before each piece of data/measurement/experiment: this statement should tell what the idea or goal of this task was. Always add a short statement of conclusion after each piece of data/measurement/experiment. Always include important experimental details, such as, for instance, the sample fabrication conditions, film thicknesses, capacitances, type of substrates, date of the crystal growth, measurement conditions (temperature, air/vacuum, light sources and intensities, electrical parameters of your measurements, etc). Include a schematics of the electrical measurement circuitry, if you used something unconventional. Always include photographs of your devices and samples (and a sketch or photo of your setup whenever necessary). See "Data keeping format" for more details/examples.

4. Your update should only contain the results obtained during the preceding week (or weeks, if you skipped some updates). Do not include the materials that have been already reported in the prior updates, unless the old data are needed to show a new finding/idea/modeling or other new insights based on the old data. Do not include materials belonging to another group member, unless your work is based on using such materials. For instance, if you work with samples made by someone else, it is ok (and even necessary) to briefly mention what those samples are, how they were made and their parameters, indicating who made/provided the samples.

5. Always number pages in your update.

6. Filename of your update must contain your last name, nick name of the project and the date of the update (for instance, podzorov_rubrene FETs_072014.ppt).