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Building Your Lab

Module by: Susan Cates. E-mail the author

Summary: 2006 presentation in the Rice University NSF Advance Conference entitled “Negotiating the Ideal Faculty Position”. This workshop addressed the issues faced by new faculty while building up a new research laboratory.

Workshop Authors: James McNew (BCB), Qilin Li (CEVE), Corey Wilson (CalTech), Shelly Harvey (Math)

Slide 1: Building Your Lab

  • Space
  • Equipment
  • Personnel

Slide 2: Physical Space

  • Moving into existing space
  • Lab remodels
  • New building space

Slide 3: Existing space

  • Is the space adequate for your needs?
    • Proximity to colleagues
    • Access to Dept/University equipment
    • Proper Air/Vacuum/Water for equipment
    • Hoods (chemical and tissue culture)
    • Air handling and vibration
  • Does it have desk space for students and postdocs?
  • Is office space separate?

Slide 4: Build or Remodel

  • Is the space adequate for your needs?
  • Start early
  • Do the research
  • Set a bottom line
  • Be actively involved in the process

Slide 5: Start Early

  • It usually takes 6-12 months to build or remodel a lab
  • Specify a desired date of completion during the negotiation
  • Contact equipment vendors (for specs)
  • Consider options for teaching or grant writing efforts until the space is complete
  • Identify temporary space for lab work

Slide 6: Do the Research

  • Visit state-of-the-art labs
  • Site visit
    • Meet your project manager
    • Location: avoid location-specific problems that affect your research, e.g., vibration, freight elevator availability, etc.
    • Infrastructure: air conditioning, ventilation, DI water system, gas lines, etc.
    • Ask people who know the lab
  • Collect information on equipment
    • power requirement
    • heat generation
    • waste generation
    • Other needs for equipment: gases, water, etc.
  • Leave space for future expansion
    • Predict future equipment needs

Slide 7: Set a Bottom Line

  • Make a list of “must” and “must not” and be firm
  • Do not expect future improvement
  • Take into consideration future research needs
  • Consider options for teaching or grant writing efforts until the space is complete
  • Identify temporary space for lab work

Slide 8: Be Actively Involved

  • Why
    • You know your needs the best.
    • Good communication avoids mistakes.
  • What
    • Project schedule and progress
    • Specific information on equipment
    • Special needs
  • How
    • Follow the progress
    • Communicate with the contractors

Slide 9: Equipment and Supplies

  • Equipment purchase
    • Be aware of available discount, e.g., “New lab set up” programs at large vendors like Fisher and VWR
    • Negotiate with many vendors
    • Usually 1-3 months of lead time for major equipment
  • Supplies
    • Package as much as you can with each major vendor
    • Negotiate with many vendors
    • Consider larger quantities of items you know you will need
      • This is the biggest discount you will ever get on things you buy
      • Consider storage of large quantities

Slide 10: Populating your lab

  • Technical Staff
  • Graduate students vs. postdocs
    • How available are students?
    • How difficult is it to recruit post-docs?
    • Are technicians the best use of limited resources?
    • What Dept/University funding mechanisms are available for students or post-docs?

Slide 11: Lab Personnel

  • Personnel Management
  • Establishing a “lab culture” is very important
  • Be proactive in addressing potential personnel conflicts
    • No one wants to work in a caustic or poisonous lab environment
  • Lead by example

References

  1. McNew, J; Li, Q; Wilson, C; and Harvey, S. (2006, October). Building Your Lab: NSF Advance Workshop at Rice University. [http://www.advance.rice.edu/negotiatingtheidealfacultyposition/agenda.html].

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