Starting and Maintaining Your First Laboratory (Part 2) - Settling In

Grants, Start-up Money, and Fund Managing

As you start out working on budgeting and money management - arguably the most crucial aspects of keeping any lab afloat - use the major checkpoints outlined below:

  • Assess total start-up costs and formulate a rough budget for your first few years of operation, leaving room for either new staff or unexpected project related costs. Item to consider include:
  • Recurring staff costs (i.e. monthly salaries).
  • Basic equipment and all lab technology – you can keep adding on later, but start with what the essentials of setting up the lab will cost.Savage Chickens - Used with permission
  • Monthly budget for reagents and other variable expenses.
  • Lab subscriptions to essential journals and software.
Other grant related items:
  • What grants will you be applying for during your postdoc and as a new professor?  Start organizing sections that can easily be rewritten for different guidelines, keep due dates and deadlines on one sheet for easy tracking, and gather reference materials for a smart introduction well ahead of time.
  • Stuck on ideas about which grants are right for you?  Start by talking to your advisor and other professors in your field and survey what grants they applied for. Make a list of relevant grants and consider asking colleagues if they’ll share theirs.  More often than not, your peers will not only be willing to help you, but will also be a source of tremendous inspiration and ideas.

Campus and Department Contacts

Appointment to any major academic position often involves a stream of paperwork and other official bureaucratic processes.  Having a list of contacts both across your future campus and within your department at your fingertips can save time when you need to help setting up your lab.

  • Who are the major contacts on campus that you will need access to?  As you go through each of the major sections in this checklist, add names to your spreadsheet that correspond to a campus contact.  Start with your main department office, then major academic and business contacts, and finally lab-related maintenance contacts.
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Classes and Syllabuses

Chances are great that you will know what class you will be teaching with plenty of time to prepare ahead of schedule.  Ideally, you can organize a good portion of your class before you ever get to campus.

  • Choose a textbook that you’d like to use for your class and make sure the campus bookstore approves it.  Likewise, if your university will be using a standard-issue textbook (i.e. for a year-long biology course), familiarize yourself with it to help build lesson plans.
  • Outline your syllabus for the quarter or semester and start preparing at least a few weeks worth of presentations for each class. Create a couple of exams.  The pressure of having to do additional lesson planning in the middle of grant writing and research launching can greatly affect the quality of your lectures and teaching.
  • Decide what you will delegate to your teaching assistant, if there is a laboratory component to your class.

In the next post, we’ll discuss how to bring the best students and staff to your new lab.