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Lab Design Conference Speaker Profile: Scott Hanton

Lab Manager speaks to Scott Hanton, laboratory products group editorial director and a speaker at this year's Lab Design Conference

by Vaishna Rajakumar
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Lab Manager talks to laboratory products group editorial director Scott Hanton on the upcoming conference, his and his wife's favorite place, and advice for young designers and professionals. Scott will speak on the collaborations and skills used for a thriving lab environment, as part of the Lab Design Conference's featured Lab Manager track.

Lab Manager Scott Hanton Lab Design Conference speaker

Q: In an elevator-style pitch, can you tell me a bit about your session at the conference?

A: I'm going to give a talk about the collaboration from the perspective of the lab manager. And the idea is to emphasize both the internal collaborations that are happening inside of the lab. And those will help us identify and prioritize the needs and also the external collaborations with the lab design experts. And that'll help us understand the options, the costs and the benefits, and to communicate, how a lab manager can go about making those different collaborations work the best. 

Q: What do you think is crucial for the success of lab design in the future?

A: I think there's something really to be learned about what was successful in the past about lab design. I think it's absolutely critical that we deliver the needed space for the lab, on time and on budget, and how do we go about doing that?

Q: What are you most looking forward to at this year's conference? 

A: This will be my first Lab Design Conference! So I'm excited about seeing the whole thing and experiencing all of the lab design conferences. But I'm most interested in learning a little bit more about lab design myself and meeting people who are involved in the different kinds of lab design processes.

Q: What can labs do to become more sustainable? 

A: I think there are a lot of things labs can do to be better about sustainability. For me, the most important thing is about energy usage. And so I think we need to think about things like, where's the light coming from? Do we have natural light? What are the light sources? What kind of light bulbs and light fixtures? How about lab temperature? There are some labs that I go into where I feel like I have to wear a sweatshirt because the lab is just so cold. And a big thing for labs that I've worked in is airflow. Are we using the right number of hoods and the right number of sample segregation chambers? Or are we just doing it because that's the way we've always done it? So I think we need to make better decisions about how we use energy. And none of that should stop us from delivering top-notch science. 

Q: What is the biggest work-related challenge you've faced? How did you overcome it? 

A: The biggest challenge that I've been through was when I worked at Air Products, our internal analytical department was sold, and it was sold to a contract research organization called Intertek. So on Friday, we're an internal services department. And on Monday, we're a standalone business. And so we had to learn fast. And the big challenge was how do you learn everything you need to know to run a business while you're actually running the business. And the key was to take advantage of everybody around us, some of our peers in the CRO, but all of the lab staff, and to take advantage of what everybody knew, no matter what their role was. 

Q: For someone entering this career field, what advice would you give them? 

A: I think there are a lot of things that lab managers and people in lab design can benefit from, but I would start with improving communication skills. And let's start with listening. I think you need to learn how to listen to learn rather than listen to reply. And then beyond that, we need to develop effective verbal and written communication skills. And that could be anything from conducting a meeting, giving a presentation, or writing an email, and I like to follow the seven C's of communication. So that's clear, concise, concrete, correct, coherent, complete, and courteous. And beyond that, if we can add some positive communication to our interactions, then that's all for the good. 

Q: What is your favorite building, lab-related or not? 

A: Well, I'm glad you asked that question. My favorite building is a family cottage that we inherited through my wife's side of the family in northern Michigan. And it's my favorite building because it's my wife's favorite place. Because it's a place that makes her the happiest, and it was constructed in a very clever way where every room inside the cottage has access to the lake. So it has a door with a window. So no matter where you are in the building, you can go out the door and head for the lake. And that's why we're there. 

Q: If you could tell your younger self something, what would it be?

A: As an experienced lab manager, I got some advice from one of my managers, which was 'do you want to be right or effective?' And I sure wish I'd gotten that advice as a much younger man. When I was young in my career, I was much too concerned about being right. And I wasn't wise enough to understand how important being effective is. And so I would, if I could do it over again, make different decisions and choose effectiveness over being right.

Q: What is your typical go-to takeout order? 

A: My go-to takeout order is fish and chips. I like fish. I'm a big fan of french fries and in fried foods in many different ways. And my wife doesn't like fish much, so we don't cook it at the house. And so it's my go-to when we go out. 

Q: Is there anything else that you would like to add or mention? 

A: Well, if you're a new lab manager, or you want to be a lab manager, or you have lab managers reporting to you, it might be worthwhile to check out our new Lab Manager Academy. In the Academy, we have a full program for a lab management certificate. It consists of 20 courses that cover a wide variety of skills and knowledge that lab managers would benefit from; each course is full e-learning. You can take it asynchronously; you take it when you want to. You just need a quiet space. Each course takes about an hour to complete. And each one includes a lecture, some interactive elements and formative slides, some activities to help you absorb the material, and a quiz so you can prove to your boss that you know the stuff. And right now, we're also building a new lab safety management curriculum. It'll also have 20 courses in it when it's done.