CAV Lab Manual

Dr. Emily Wall

The purpose of this document is to give existing (and potential future) students in the CAV Lab an understanding of expectations. Effective communication is of utmost importance for fruitful collaborations and research. Of course, mutual expectations are important, so I expect that you will share your expectations of me as your (potential) advisor as well so we can assess whether we are a good match.

A potentially helpful blog post you may also look at: A Survival Guide to a PhD.


In most cases, if you are a grad student interested in working with me, a good first step is to take my visualization course. That will help you assess whether you are truly interested in conducting research in this space, and it will help us both determine whether we are a good match with respect to mutual interests and expectations.

If you are an undergrad student interested in working with me, please reach out and let me know what your goals are (e.g., research experience, learn a new skill, course credit, publication, recommendation letter for grad school, etc) and what your skillsets are so that we can figure out a project that will be mutually beneficial.

If you are a prospective Emory student, please feel free to reach out to me and let me know what your research interests are. A good start would be to share with me a few papers you find particularly interesting. I am unlikely to respond to copy/paste emails.

Work Time

Your schedule is up to you (for the most part), but I do have some suggestions. You should work hard (a Ph.D. is hard work), but it's not necessary to work insanely long hours. Protect your sleep and your mental health first and foremost. Please do not sleep in the lab. You can and should take vacations at least for a few weeks per year. There's no point in pushing through your Ph.D. only to reach the end and feel burned out. If you're asking for too much time off, I will let you know. Just be sure to inform me when you'll be gone (being mindful of deadlines), and I'll let you know when I'm gone. If that timing lines up, even better :) Taking time before or after a conference is often a great opportunity to travel or have a staycation.

It's helpful to be around the lab to foster a collaborative, social, and serendipitous lab culture. Unplanned hallway conversations often spin into great research conversations and brainstorming sessions. In my experience, some of the best research ideas come out of these conversations, which can't happen if you aren't present in the lab. That being said, there is a global pandemic. Please only do so if you are comfortable!

My own work time will be pretty variable -- that flexibility is, in fact, a huge selling feature of academia for me! I occasionally relax during the day to enjoy the sunshine and hit a productive burst in the evening. That means that you may get Slack messages or emails from me at odd hours. I do not expect you to reply immediately, ever! If something is urgent, I will let you know; although, chances are it's leading up to a deadline, and you are already well-aware.


I have one-on-one meetings each week with graduate student advisees. For undergraduate students, we may meet as a small group depending on your project. Our meetings will usually last anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour depending on what we have to discuss. I will likely ask you to prepare an agenda (even just a brief bullet list) a day or two before meeting so I (and others) can prepare accordingly and make the meeting as productive as possible. The agenda might include 1. what you have worked on since we last met, 2. what you are struggling with, 3. what you need help with, and 4. what your goals are for next time.

I will also occasionally (semesterly) have meta-meetings with Ph.D. students. In these meetings, we will explicitly not be talking about research, but rather about your general experience in the Ph.D. program, well-being, and so on.

Our meetings can be virtual or in-person. I'll leave that up to you. If I am traveling, I will likely cancel meetings and ask that we catch up asynchronously (you share what you have been working on for the past week, let me know if you need explicit feedback on something, etc). It's really helpful if you create a shared Google Doc for us to maintain shared meeting notes.

Don't be shy to cancel a meeting or keep it brief if there is no or minimal update on occasion.

Paper Writing & Presentations

Write early and often. The act of writing helps to crytsallize thoughts and critically think through the intended contribution of your project. I will ask you to write an abstract of your paper idea (using placeholders for results) pretty early on in a project to make sure we have clear questions in mind so we can plan next steps. It's also helpful as you're conducting your literature review to go ahead and write as you read papers. It can be a good way to keep notes about the things you're reading and can save a lot of re-reading later on if you synthesize as you go.

You will write initial drafts of sections in the paper. I will provide feedback and help you write sections, especially early on for your first paper. We will pass it back and forth to iterate on the draft.

Lab meetings are a great time to get feedback from me and from labmates about paper drafts or presentations for upcoming talks. Keep an eye out for other opportunities to present your work as well. Early feedback is helpful -- this goes for early project ideas as well!

Publication Submissions

It's important that we only submit good work that we are proud of. As a result, we won't be submitting last-minute rushed papers. If you haven't shared and gotten feedback on a full draft of the paper at least a week before the deadline, then we will plan to submit to the next conference deadline or directly to a journal. It's important that all authors are proud of and sign off on the submission, including you. It's better to halt a submission and re-assess than submit rushed work. Manage your time well enough to get feedback well in advance of the deadline.

A good general target is to aim for one publication per year. Of course, there is a lot of variability in academia, but if you find that you are concerned about your progress, let's discuss it.

Research Management Tools

Keep track of the papers that you read, including your impressions. You'll want this especially when you're writing related work sections. Some people find Mendeley or Zotero helpful for managing papers and notes. Use Google Drive or One Note to manage meeting notes and other shareable project files, and make sure to use version control for your code, such as GitHub.

Use Slack to communicate with me when you need a response more quickly and email for things that are less time-sensitive.

Roles in the Lab

To keep the lab running smoothly, each semester we have volunteers amongst the lab members to fill the following roles.

Web Manager: keep CAV lab website up-to-date when papers are published, new students join the lab, etc.
Contact: Yanan Da

Lab Manager: manage lab meeting schedule (find volunteers to present or papers to read, coordinate food when we meet over lunch), maintain reading lists, poll students for lab snacks, etc.
Contact: Shiyao Li

Social Chair: coordinate social outings e.g., game nights, events, or drinks to kickstart the semester, celebrate a paper acceptance, decompress after the VIS submission deadline, etc.
Contact: Ziwei Dong