Skip to main content
Cornell University


Monday, August 28, 2017
Professional behavior discussed front and center

In the lab or office, unprofessional behavior can cause friction with co-workers and sometimes end careers. So, what are the general rules of professional behavior that will help you excel? In the approximately six years that Biological Sciences students spend obtaining their PhDs little or no training is given on professional behavior. This is in sharp contrast to master’s students in engineering, who have just two years before they hit the job market. In mid-August, I and three other BESTies, Jin LiangSarah Adeyemo, and Tiffany St. Bernard had the opportunity to join Pamela Strausser, Cornell’s Senior Consultant in Academic HR to talk about something that often goes unsaid in graduate school: professional behavior.

During engineering students’ orientation, professional behavior was front and center. We described what Pam calls “The Top 10 List of Professional Behaviors”. These tips are available in the slides and were used to guide the discussion. While some of these tips may seem straight forward to you, that might not be the case if you’re from a different culture or have never worked in a lab environment. Stating these expectations up front helps create a better work environment during graduate school and it sets the stage for success after graduation.

See the slide presentation and share the link widely with your colleagues new to the lab or office!

by, Megan N. Biango-DanielsPhD Candidate

School of Integrative Plant Science
Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology Section
Follow me @MNDaniels24

About the professional behavior session:

The School of Electrical and Computer Engineering has been doing work with graduate students to set and communicate professional behavior standards for the lab environment as a pilot.  This year, the Director (Professor Clifford Pollock) has decided to make working to such professional behavior standards a key element in how the members of the ECE community function. 

Peter Jessel, Professor of Practice, and Director of the MEng Program for ECE, decided to include the professional behavior piece as part of a 3 day orientation program the students go through. By addressing directly the unwritten rules, everyone enters on an equal playing field knowing what the expectations are. By talking about professional behavior at the start, many perceived frictions can be avoided due to a common understanding of what is common practice. In addition, students learn some tools and resources to address any future issues before they grow into resentments or blow up into conflicts.

About Pamela Strausser:

At Cornell she is a Senior Human Resource Consultant in Organizational Development. Her position includes responsibility for strategic planning, organizational change, restructuring/reengineering, and conflict resolution. She is also the President of Cosmos Hill Associates, an organization specializing in organization change, conflict management (in union and non-union environments) and work design issues.

Ms. Strausser has substantial experience as a line manager and human resources manager in private and academic sectors. She received her BA from Harvard University and an MS from the New York State School of Industrial and Labor Relations. Her current research interests include inter and intra-group dynamics as they affect conflict resolution, leadership, and compensation outcomes. She has consulted widely with a large variety of industries.

She loves working on very complex problems involving multiple and multiple levels of stakeholders, advising and preparing leaders to attend to them effectively. Of particular interest is positioning the academy for innovation in the face of economic and social pressures to maximize efficiency.