After tackling start-up funding negotiations and carefully planning and budgeting for resources, it’s time to purchase equipment and supplies and organize your lab space. Whether you are in the process of designing a new lab space or moving into an existing one, some careful planning can ensure a functional, productive environment.
Designing a new laboratory space is an opportunity to create a highly customized layout specific to your research needs. It is important to carefully consider the layout to ensure it will be functional as your laboratory grows and changes. Moveable casework may be an excellent solution for long-term flexibility, and optimal positioning of electrical outlets, water, gas, etc. must also be considered. When moving into an existing space, it is important to consider these and other factors such as how available bench space and cold cabinets/rooms are optimized to fit the needed equipment, and whether this will contribute to crowding in certain spaces. If separate office spaces are not available for technicians and students, it may be necessary to incorporate desk space into the lab. Ideally, desks should be located away from noisy, high traffic areas and should not impede the flow of an experiment.
Once your space is ready, it is time to invest in chemicals, reagents, and consumables as well as equipment. Bulk ordering commonly used chemicals and reagents may be an economical option however it is important to consider available storage space and expiry dates for each item. Purchasing new equipment is essential, but costly. Sharing equipment when feasible can help to reduce immediate costs and can expand your capabilities as well as those of your colleagues. Prior to purchasing your own instruments, speak with colleagues and determine if there is some overlap in techniques between your laboratories. Sharing frequently used equipment like pH meters or vortexes may not be feasible, but microplate readers and microscopes may easily be shared between laboratories. When purchasing equipment or supplies, speak with numerous vendors and ask about start-up equipment packages. Consider different aspects of the offerings such as training and support for installing, use and service of equipment. In some cases, investing in used equipment may be a good option.
Safety precautions and training are non-negotiable in all laboratories. It is important to be aware of safety requirements such as eye-wash stations and showers, ventilation, containing compressed gas cylinders, etc. when setting up a lab space. Ensuring equipment is in good working order at all times is also an important safety consideration. You may wish to discuss an ongoing service and maintenance agreement with instrument vendors.
Organizing an efficient lab space requires a delicate balance between equipment, supplies, traffic and desk space, all without compromising safety and research outcomes. Planning in the early stages can save time and money and allow you to focus on your research.