Starting Fresh: Three Aspects to Consider for an Efficient Lab Setup

new lab setup
Efficient management of your new lab can be achieved through digital management systems. 
Image source: P5693852 via Wikimedia commons

When an investigator sets out in the initial stages of a new lab setup, it can be very overwhelming to plan, organize and decide on its critical components. Often times, equipment and supplies are at the forefront of the PI’s mind as these components are obviously critical to performing research. Personnel are also a priority, as good researchers are what keep your lab and data flowing. However, it is also very important to have a system in place to manage both your supplies and data. Digital solutions like a digital chemical inventory management system and an electronic laboratory notebook (ELN) can be the foundation for an efficient framework for your new lab setup. Consider these three questions as you embark on the new lab setup process:

How will you manage your inventory?

In addition to meeting regulatory requirements for maintaining current chemical inventory records, an up-to-date inventory can help your lab avoid wasteful purchase of reagents, save users time in locating inventory and keep workers safe by maintaining a real-time database of hazardous chemical locations and expiration. Implementing a digital chemical inventory management system at the beginning of a new lab setup is very simple, as you can just enter new supplies as you receive them and get your practices established before bad habits derail anything. Though a digital chemical inventory management system can be implemented in an existing lab, setting up a new lab with a digital chemical inventory management system allows your lab to avoid some of the common adoption hurdles that may be present in existing labs.

How will you ensure use of standard protocols?

I remember when I was interviewing labs for my graduate training position. I sat down with one PI to talk about her lab and research interests. We also covered her expectations for graduate students. She told me that she would personally train all new personnel on how to perform a western blot. Even though most molecular biologists know how to do a western blot, she wanted to make sure that her staff followed her standard protocol to help avoid errors and make troubleshooting easier. At the time, I thought she was a little controlling, but as I have progressed through my own research and have trained scientists myself, I have come to realize that standard protocols cut back on waste, ensure high quality and reproducibility and are just good science. In setting up a new lab, it’s important to generate a repertoire of standard protocols that are easily accessible to lab members. An ELN can help you manage protocols and provide easy access for users. Frequently used protocols can be selected and easily included in a notebook entry. Most importantly, users will never have to search for protocols or guess at steps because of poor record-keeping.

How will you maintain and exchange data?

Because paper lab notebooks were what most scientists were raised with, they might overlook the fact that a digital option exists that can streamline and automate the notebook process. But your startup is a perfect time to setup a digital method to deposit, maintain and exchange data. You won’t have to worry about transferring information or where to store old lab notebooks. You’ll have a clean slate on which you can enter standard protocols and experiment and results templates, in addition to notebook entries. Users can upload image files and many other file formats so you don’t have to worry about losing precious data on a personal computer or flash drive. Once information is stored on the digital notebook it can be shared and accessed anywhere in the world from an Internet browser. Users can be granted granular rights by the administrator so collaborators can even have access to projects in order to exchange information.

If you’re planning a new lab setup, now is a great time to consider implementing a digital chemical inventory management system or electronic lab notebook, or both. These digital solutions can prepare your lab for maximum functionality and help maintain efficient workflows. Visit the Accelrys website to learn more about how Accelrys CISPro and Accelrys Notebook can help get your lab up and running.

2 thoughts on “Starting Fresh: Three Aspects to Consider for an Efficient Lab Setup

  1. I absolutely love the idea of a digital lab notebook for if nothing else, my own past experience with it. When I was doing labs at my university, the added clutter of having bound notebooks strewn around the are was a safety hazard in itself so for that reason it will reduce the mess at the very least.

  2. I completely agree! My poor track record with paper notebooks is definitely a motivator for my interest in ELNs.

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