I am one of the lucky ones. Last year I got a great position, and I am now in the process of setting up a lab. I applied for a number of startup grants, and it looks like I will have more than enough money to build the lab of my dreams. What I am quickly realizing is that this process is managerial. While I am trained as a scientist, I am not trained in management, and I am finding the process of setting up the lab to be far outside my area of expertise. Any advice from people who have been through this? Are there any resources online to help with this process?
Date: 04 Nov 2015 14:59
Number of posts: 8
RSS: New posts
Set aside time to write! Set aside time every day to work on the lab set-up but don't let it suck you in as the most important task. No matter what your writing (of papers and grants) is going to be what keeps your career going. I always do my writing first thing in the day so that I know it's done. Then if the rest of the day goes to crap, I know that I've still made progress on my goals.
I'm right here with you, Anon. I think a lot of these first few years will be spent reconfiguring/recalibrating our time management skills. I'm realizing I can't oversee all the students doing research with me all the time, I have to let go and manage from afar.
Also agree with socialite about writing. I'm lucky enough this semester to have a full day to write, but I'm adding back in some morning hours as well. Ive also set up some writing times with other members of my faculty so we hold each other accountable. You could even do this online. Tenure doesn't get itself.
Also, I've talked SO MUCH with others about ways to teach that don't suck up all your time. I've made some great gains with that this year. Use rubrics, have students evaluate their own work before you do, utilize self-grading online quizzes, hold study sessions online instead of in person so you don't answer the same questions 4,000 times in a row. There are lots of tricks out there for 'teaching smart'.
Hope this helps and I look forward to hearing other tips as well :)
Ah, also, I have relied SO MUCH on other colleagues who have recently gone through this process! Everyone has been in this position at one time or another. Ask about how they manage their lab budget, how they organize their lab workers, how they decide what emails to respond to and which ones to ignore. There is a lot of info out there from people that want to share their knowledge and want to see you succeed.
Setting up the lab can be very time consuming and I would strongly recommend talking to your mentors regarding preferred vendors.
I'm not sure what you are struggling with though? It's like furnishing a house. Figure out what you need to buy, get quotes, and then buy it. Coordinate with their university on preferred vendors, reimbursement, getting preapprovals, etc.
This is part of being a scientist and getting everything set up and running efficiently is the key to the rest of your program working out well. If you have a lab manager already then you can delegate large amounts of this. But honestly, until you get grad students in and trained (which takes about a year to get them to be working more independently and not overwhelmed with their courses), this is on you.
If you share what your particular struggles are then we can give better advice.
Socialite: Wise words obi wan. I agree that setting aside chunks of time for lab setup and writing is very important. The first year is actually the lightest and easiest year you will have. No service responsibilities, lighter teaching load, and you can continue cranking out postdoc stuff. Get a grant in this year….while you still have some time :)
I find the most important thing is to set aside time to actually think about how you are managing workflow, to investigate new systems and procedures, to read books on managing small businesses, etc. If you want to do something well, there's really no substitute for spending time on it. Which includes spending time thinking about how your organize yourself and your lab.
Beyond that, talking with others is very helpful. They don't necessarily have to be senior to you, though. I find that talking through issues with others who think deeply about workflow management to be much more useful than talking with those who muddle through based on some combination of luck and innate skill. Personally, I don't have faith in my innate skill or my luck, so I work at it!
NewProj, do you have any books that you've found particularly helpful/relevant?
"Getting Things Done" is *the* classic on managing workflow. The examples are geared towards business executives, but the ideas really apply to anyone. It really is a life-changer.
I personally use git to manage all collaborations with students. I don't know one particularly good source on that; I tend to read a lot of blogs and forums for ideas.
I haven't found any particularly good books on mentorship or team management so far, though I haven't looked that hard (I've been planning to). That I mostly pick up by talking with people who seem to have well-ordered labs, so far anyway.