Lab Manager | Run Your Lab Like a Business

What's in Your Future?

Traditional laboratories—small, separate rooms with not much light and few amenities—began their  transformation more than a decade ago. The consensus was that researchers working in isolation or within a single, narrow discipline fostered neither creativity nor innovation.

by Pamela Ahlberg
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So it’s not surprising that this month’s cover story showcases the continued trend toward open and more attractive research spaces, with more natural light and areas that invite social and collaborative encounters. Another consistent theme is the need for design flexibility, allowing the equipment and casework to be reconfigured as research goals demand. Another trend speaks to the need for greater improvements in lab safety. Mitch Goldman, principal architect, Goldman Reindorf Architects, says, “Labs in the 1980s were horrendous. The management of chemicals and hazardous materials, including explosive gases, was really sloppy, constituting a huge safety hazard.” But the latest trend has to do with greater concern for security—from potential espionage to worse. “Design can help address the physical location of people who have access to results, and block the visibility of computer screens and whiteboards in conference rooms to visitors and potential competitors in hallways and waiting areas,” says Gary Shaw, principal, Perkins+Will.

But the lab of the future will be determined by more than just interior design. There are other changes afoot, including the significant role that social media will continue to play in lab operations. Turn to “Social Science" (page 26), in which author Gene Tetreault says that “the lab of the future promises to be both physical and virtual. Adjacent technologies such as augmented display, motion control, and automatic identification are sparking new strategies for scientific collaboration across disciplines, geographies, and organizations.” In addition, “The success of Google and the gene sequencing project in gathering information and knowledge, simply through correlations using massive amounts of unfiltered data, might point to the way that science is done in the future.”

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Lastly, to find out what the future role of the lab manager might be, “Changing Lab Operations” (page 18), might provide some answers. “The management role in the future organization may not be part of the lab and may have only cursory ties to it but it will still be its voice and director. The role will likely be almost entirely a business function that supports integration of technology to generate profits and administer the ancillary functions necessary to accomplish this,” predicts author Shanya Kane.

Add to this ever-smaller and smarter instruments and greater automation, labs of the future will certainly change again— sooner versus later.


Pamela Ahlberg