Starting your own lab is an overwhelming and significant project that will require you to successfully juggle many elements to get things moving in the right direction. From securing the funding, finding the scientists, technicians and researchers you want on your team, and identifying and sourcing the right equipment for the work, this is clearly a mammoth task. This beginners guide aims to point you in the right direction with some of the important first steps:
Why Are You Opening Your Own Lab?
Everything must start with a plan, no less starting a laboratory of your own. Much of your deci-sion-making will be informed by a well thought out plan that outlines what kind of work is going to be done, by whom, and with what equipment. This will dictate everything from the amount of space needed to the qualifications and technical skills of the people you hire. For example, if you are opening an analytical lab, then you might need to factor in a suitable air conditioning system so that you can accurately control the temperature and moisture levels inside the working environment. If you intend to work in research, then you might need chemical storage, incubators, fume hoods and freezers. Having a clear plan will help you plan the space as well as your budget.
What Equipment Are You Going to Need?
Buying new equipment is going to be one of the more costly exercises in your new lab setup. It’s critical that you have initially identified the machines and equipment you need and that you have perhaps looked at shared equipment use at your university, in case there is existing access to some equipment that you could gain access to. There is also a big market for second-hand laboratory equipment, although whilst used gear could save you a lot of money, make sure you get it checked or repaired by a specialist; a lot of technically advanced, delicate and expertly calibrated equipment, such as a tangential flow filtration system, for example, must be properly maintained.
Other equipment considerations include exploring leasing or rental options on certain machines and keeping an eye out for special discounts on equipment targeted at people setting up new laboratories.
Laboratory Design and Safety
If the space you are using for your new lab hasn’t been used as a laboratory before, then the likelihood is that it will not yet be a suitable layout for your needs. A laboratory should have clearly designed layouts that are structured to accommodate technical working areas, often using extremely hazardous materials not that far away from personal working spaces, meeting areas, and even places to eat and relax. Your new lab design must factor in not only how you are going to use your lab today, but how you might use it in the future if your work evolves and your staff numbers grow. Make sure you stay flexible in your design and plan for the future. Laboratory safety protocols are critical, so you need to include them in your design and layout (in terms of emergency exits, safety equipment, emergency showers, fire blankets and so on) and then make sure that you have a coherent set of safety rules that all your employees are aware of and will stick to.
With a little careful planning, future-proof lead design and a solid set of safety rules, your new lab setup can be a successful project.