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Running a Research Laboratory

Many of science’s great discoveries are birthed in a laboratory. Of course, a laboratory isn’t a haven for madcap scientific experiments like you might see on film and television. Running one actually requires great care: if you’ve just gotten your own lab, consider these tips to get it running right.

Plan Out Your Funding

Take time to carefully calculate how much money you’ll need from your financial backers. Think about the cost of supplies, chemicals and anything else you’ll need and anything else you’ll need to accomplish your primary research goals. It’s not uncommon for researchers to underestimate how much money they’ll need, so also try applying early for as many grants as possible.

Treat and Organize Your Inventory With Care

It’s natural that equipment breaks or gets misplaced over time. Take regular inventory of your supplies (spreadsheets help) and make sure everything is labeled and not mixed together. Treat your apparatuses with care, as replacing them can be expensive. Although if, say, a large capacity syringe gets lost or breaks, replacements for that and most other items are easy to find online.

Create a Nurturing Environment

Chances are you won’t be conducting your research alone. Your team should see you as an approachable leader open to ideas and easy to confide in. It doesn’t hurt to reach out to pharmaceutical companies for support, either.

Safety and Cleanliness First

If a test tube or beaker breaks, don’t just throw it out: clean up all of the glass and whatever contents were inside. You’ll likely be working with several kinds of substances that may need to be cleaned up in a special way, so make sure you know how. Similarly, always have gloves, goggles and other protective gear on hand for when dealing with potentially hazardous materials.

Running a lab doesn’t have to be rocket science (or ANY kind of science for that matter— that’s your job), but proper planning, precautions and attitudes are crucial. Try these tips and you just might hit your research goals a little bit quicker.

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Running a Research Laboratory

by Ervin Lázár
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