Lab Manager | Run Your Lab Like a Business


While it might be the season for beach trips and family vacations, for most of us those getaways only
fill a few weeks at best. After that, it’s back to the workplace or, in your case, the lab.

by Pamela Ahlberg
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But imagine that your lab was as attractive and inviting as any holiday resort. Imagine that the social and collaborative atmosphere was equally resort-like. Need help imagining? Turn to page 10 to see what today’s cutting-edge research facilities look like. “We’ve designed spaces [that are] innovative in that they almost don’t feel like labs—[they are instead] really flexible, engaging environments that are meant to stimulate people’s thought processes, and if you walk into one you would say, ‘wow, this looks more like a living room or some kind of a café,’” says Chris Bockstael, a partner at Svigals+Partners architecture firm in New Haven, CT. Besides the obvious pleasing aesthetic, these labs are also designed to attract young scientific talent that expects their work environment to be as fun as it is functional. “We have one client who wants a rock climbing wall in her building, and it’s in part because there’s a recognition that offering alternative places to work—and also ways to relieve stress and so forth—is strong evidence that it actually makes people more productive and happier,” adds Bob Skolozdra, also a partner at Svigals+Partners.

If you’re considering applying for a research grant that will be applied to facility renovation, it would behoove you to check out this month’s Business Management article, “Funding Research Facilities” (page 16). Here the authors discuss the competitive advantage gained by partnering with an architecture firm when putting together a grant proposal. “An architectural firm can design the space and develop conceptual 3-D renderings that make space planning clear to reviewing agencies.” With competition for funding so fierce, every advantage is worth the effort.

Just as a new generation of researchers has changed the expectations of the workplace, those researchers have also changed the nature of communication, though sometimes at their peril. Take email etiquette, for example. Using slang or a quick and casual tone in emails sent among colleagues can have serious negative side effects. “Such slang can cause email recipients to question the sender’s drive, intelligence, and competence.” In addition, “their freewheeling approach can conflict with the more formalized etiquette of proper email that more senior researchers have grown accustomed to. Salutations like ‘Hey there’ and sign-offs like ‘Later’ risk disrespecting the recipient.” Turn to page 22 for a refresher course on email do’s and don’ts.

This month two women researchers share insights into their scientific as well as management challenges. Amrita Cheema, PhD, associate professor and codirector of the Proteomics and Metabolomics Shared Resource at Georgetown University Medical Center, talks about her use of mass spectrometry as a tool for detecting biomarkers for early prediction and diagnosis of disease, leading to personalized therapy (page 36). Celeste Reese, lab manager at the University of Pittsburgh Drug Discovery Institute, discusses the challenge of doing more with less and how multitasking and teamwork help her get the job done (page 52). There is valuable, real-world knowledge to be gained from each.

In addition to the INSIGHTS article on microplate readers and Product Focus articles on biological safety cabinets, centrifuges, water purification systems, pH meters, and HPLC columns, this month we devote four pages to the very latest in handheld analytical instruments and their expanding applications. Turn to page 32 to learn more.

However you spend your summer vacation, I hope it’s happy and inspiring and you return to the lab refreshed and ready to take on all sorts of new challenges. For that, we’re here to help.

Pamela Ahlberg