I just got back from being out of town for about a week, and was kind of worried about the lack of frantic and/or data-containing emails while I was gone. But yesterday, they all pleasantly surprised me with various updates on cool data they'd obtained while I was gone. One group of rotation students has been working collaboratively on a new mini-project, and they had performed a reaction and gotten strange results. Rather than giving up and waiting until I got back to help them solve the problem, they put their heads together and figured out the possible chemistry issues and identified the side products, all by themselves. Not only that, but the chemistry they seem to have observed is really kind of cool, and something we might be able to get at least a new strategy out of if not even some intellectual property.
Also, yesterday was the due date for graduate student reports in my lab. Every six months, they are going to write up committee-style reports, tying together all their last few months of results, making figures out of their data, and just generally keeping up with where they are going with things. We'll be combining these with some goal-setting meetings where they will self-evaluate their progress and we will discuss and document their short and long-term goals. I had told them about the deadline a few weeks ago, and written it on the lab whiteboard calendar, but hadn't reminded them about it before I left town. When I got back, they'd all been working on it for the past week, helping each other out with editing and proofreading, and taken it very seriously. I gave them an official deadline of midnight last night, and this morning I had three emails containing reports in my inbox, all sent just before 12 am! So, they made their deadlines with no excuses, and all worked really hard to get these done while also producing all this cool data they had to show me.
It's a good sign for all of them, that they will rise to these challenges and goals that we make together. I'm really, really pleased with them all.