Favorite traditions for basking in the glory of a first-authored paper or awarded grant

Celebrating lab successes creates a culture of compassion, motivates lab members, and teaches the next generation of scientists to lead with kindness.


  • Passing qualifying exam
  • Thesis defense
  • Postdoc departure
  • New hires
  • First-author paper
  • Paper accepted
  • Grant awarded
  • Graduation


  • Personal note in a book that is relevant to the lab/team
  • Personalized memento (e.g., belt buckle, photo/frame)
  • Perpetual trophy that is passed from first-author to first-author
  • Champagne toast – bottle signed by honoree(s) and kept in office/lab
  • Champagne toast – honoree pops the cork and cork is glued wherever it hits the ceiling (cork is labeled with occasion and date)
  • Pizza party organized by honoree(s)
  • “Decorate to destruction” the desk of honoree(s) (e.g., glitter, silly string)
  • Food, lots of food – meals out, treats brought in
  • Slack #feelgood channel to post highlights and congrats
  • Local-themed care packages for new hires
  • Lab swag (e.g., stickers, masks, socks, mugs, hats, swords)
  • Arcade team challenge
  • Gift cards
  • Lab dresses up like the PI

End of Year Traditions

  • Boat trip
  • Arcade team challenge
  • Field day with traditional games (egg and spoon race, three legged race)
  • Escape room
  • Bowling
  • Paying it forward – extended lunch to shop for adopt-a-family programs
Do you have a favorite tradition to add to this list?  Share in the comments to help spread the good vibes.
More Resources

Celebrating “The Climb”
Small Wins for Sustained Success: The Progress Principle

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1 Comment

I strongly agree with you that we don’t celebrate our colleagues accomplishments enough. I try to celebrate the milestones in my junior faculty’s careers – particularly first major training grant and first R01-sized grant. I think those are massive. I also get brass nameplates for their doors, when they get doors with offices, even if they’re former janitorial closets.

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