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GitHub Accounts

To use GitHub, you need a user account. This page will cover how to create such an account. is the online interface for GitHub, and it is where you will sign up for a personal user account. If you are a lab director, this is also where you will create and manage your lab's organization on GitHub. Our guide for setting up GitHub organizations is listed here.

Create your GitHub user account#

Join GitHub by creating a new user account. Go to the sign up page and

  1. Choose a username
  2. Provide an email address
  3. Create a password
  4. Select email preferences
  5. Verify your account

Recommended conventions for username and email address#

We suggest trying to adhere to the following conventions:


Choose a username that represents your actual name. On GitHub, usernames identify people in conversations, so the username is important and will be very visible (more so than your "display name", which is used less frequently). This makes clarity and simplicity important. Changing your username later can create problems, so pick a username you can live with for a long time. Examples of real usernames include aridyckovsky (for Ari Dyckovsky), psokolhessner (for Peter Sokol-Hessner), or ATchustz (for Austin Chustz).

Email address#

Use your personal email (e.g. your Gmail, Hotmail, or similar address) when signing up, not your school or employer email. This will allow you to continue to collaborate from the same account and maintain a history of your contributions, regardless of changes to your student or employment status.

If you already have an account, then the next step is to configure it.

Configure your account#

For broad guidance from GitHub's official documentation about profile configuration, see here. Briefly, we recommend that you configure your account's profile settings to:

  • Include a clear, professionally-appropriate photo of your face as the profile picture.
  • Use your real name for your display name. This appears on the top of your profile, but otherwise affects relatively little. You can easily change your display name (in contrast to the username).
  • Write a brief professional bio. Bios are limited to 160 characters. Think about what information will be relevant to people considering collaborating with you, including expertise, interests, title or career stage, etc.
    • If you are part of a lab that has a GitHub organization, you can tag the lab within your bio using the @ symbol followed by the lab's GitHub organization name, i.e., @sokolhessnerlab.

There are also opportunities in the profile to include your location (e.g., Denver or New York), school or place of employment (e.g., your university), your website, and your Twitter handle, as you feel comfortable.


GitHub profiles do not currently provide direct input fields to add additional personal information (including pronouns). If you would like to include such information, include it in the brief bio, or in your display name. You can also setup a long-form bio using this guide.

Join your lab's organization on GitHub#

If your lab has a GitHub organization, join it! You may need the lab director to invite you to join or approve your membership in the organization.

If your lab does not have a GitHub organization, talk to your lab's director about creating an organization.

Set your membership visibility#

Choose whether your membership in the organization is private or public. You can make this choice once you've joined your lab's organization on the "members" page. This doesn't affect your visibility within the organization - you are always visible to other organization members. If you choose private , outside people will not see you listed when viewing members of the GitHub organization. If you select public, anyone will be able to see that you are a member of this organization. Generally, we recommend selecting public membership, but if you are concerned about privacy or similar issues, private membership is completely fine.

Last updated on by Ari Dyckovsky