There is a young lab assistant on our team who has taken it upon herself to report to my boss about anything she disagrees with in the lab or thinks we could do better on and has even sort of reported on specific people. I don't even know how to start with this.

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It sounds like perhaps she is trying to get into a leadership/management role by taking it upon herself to “lead”. Perhaps it may be worth having a conversation with your manager about this and understanding if the things she is pointing out are legitimate concerns

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If we assume best intent and that she’s legitimately trying to make things better, then she may need coaching on how to go about providing suggestions. Are you in a position to approach with empathy and give her some guidance?

Framing up in SBI (situation, behavior, impact) can also be helpful - like “hey, I noticed that you brought up x to our lead. They are very busy - can you help me understand your intent? Maybe there’s something we can work together on to improve?”

Is there a need for improvement or is she just stirring up stuff to look important?

Give her another way to get that energy out. It could be productive or at least make things feel less like she’s trying to be a hall monitor.

As a manager, I try not to let these employees get to anyone. Sometimes a fresh set of eyes resolves issues seasoned employees have come accustomed to, myself included. In these situations we have a real chat and see if things need changed. If it seems like the new person is stirring the pot or just generally does not want to follow sop because they think they know better but we have a reason to do it the way we do, I tell them to follow the sop, or defer to their trainer, or explain why we do it how we do it- and I don’t let their comments effect my thoughts on the person they seem to be tattling on. If they are intent, sometimes I let them try it their way and see if it causes failures or issues, or slowness. Sometimes people have to learn for themselves that a process has been streamlined.

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