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Building Your Lab -Transitioning to Independence

Module by: Rice ADVANCE. E-mail the author

Summary: The handout accompanying the panel discussion presented by Bonnie Bartel and Rob Griffin at the 2010 NSF ADVANCE Workshop: Negotiating the Ideal Faculty Position, A Workshop for Underrepresented PhDs and Postdocs in Science, Engineering and Psychology September 19-21, 2010

Cultivate mentors and colleagues both inside and outside your institutional/departmental

  • stay in touch with previous mentors
  • seek out official department mentors – help with promotion/tenure etc.
  • seek out informal mentors – more senior scientists
  • build relationships with potential letter writers for tenure
  • establish a set of confidants

Gain recognition and an independent identity

  • talks, meetings (important for you and your students)
  • service at institution (choose wisely)
  • professional societies
  • grant panels
  • collaborations - understand your institution’s culture/expectations on interdisciplinary research (joint publications, grants, etc.)
  • publications!
  • strong plan to separate your research program from previous advisor’s program

Develop your leadership and management style

  • create a vision for your lab
  • create a mission statement
  • develop a written five year plan
    • obtain feedback from senior faculty
    • assess progress and update often
  • establish a lab culture
  • build an effective team

Staff your lab

  • determine staffing needs
    • technical staff
    • graduate students vs. postdocs vs. undergrads (dept/university funding available?)
    • be picky about who is your group – productivity does not scale linearly with numbers
  • sell yourself as a junior PI
  • learn what size group is right for you

Consider equipment needs

  • balance of new vs. established techniques
  • account for inflation when preparing budget
  • funds for equipment maintenance?

Constantly improve leadership skills

  • find role models
  • take courses, read books
  • get to know your strengths and weaknesses – exploit one, compensate for the other

Protect your time

  • it is OK to say no (repeat daily)
  • learn what does not require your best effort – save it for what really matters
  • can be as important to learn what not to do as it is to learn what you need to do

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