A Guide to Better Lab Management

Lab management is a tough job. You have to corral multiple people from all different backgrounds with different ambitions in order to work together. It is also imperative to keep track of a lab’s materials and equipment. These must always be in stock and in working order to continue striving toward the lab’s goals.

You as a lab manager know this. The scientific achievements and prowess of the laboratory that you work for depend on your ability to manage a lab effectively. The lab will not make money or scientific contributions without this. And, how as a manager can you improve your management style to achieve these scientific goals? Below we will go through several ways to improve laboratory management.


How can you be an effective lab manager?

  • Organizational Skills
  • Management from the Front
  • Leadership in Decision-Making
  • Rules and Regulations
  • Budgeting for Success


Organizational Skills

Knowing how to best organize your team leads into the next part of being an effective lab manager. You must be successful at dividing up laboratory tasks based on who has the best skills to accomplish them. You wouldn’t give a masters student a complex procedure to complete all on her own with little knowledge. And, you wouldn’t make your most skilled PostDoc spend time cleaning beakers. Although these may seem obvious, there are many workers who do tasks when there are better-suited jobs for their skill set. If you have any subgroups in your lab, you can give them specific guidelines to follow to help in their work. You can also set up specific to-do lists for either yourself or different scientists which will assist in how much needs to be done on a certain day. Keeping the lab on track to its goals is paramount to being an effective lab manager.

In addition, your lab materials and equipment must be kept organized and in stock as well. Scientists cannot do work if their materials are either out of stock or missing from their usual storage spot. You must be able to keep track of this as a lab manager. This is also why at labfolder we added the Material Database feature to be able to keep track of all materials and their status. Which is useful for you as a lab manager to be able to have organizational skills and tools.


Managing from the Front

It can be quite stressful to run a laboratory. In the chaos of management, you may lose sight of who is on your team, and why they work in the lab. They could be a student looking to achieve her Ph.D. or a PostDoc who’s looking to run his own lab one day. You as a lab manager must be able to understand their goals, strengths, weaknesses, and ambitions. A  student might not even care about the work they’re doing in that lab. Their main priority is finishing their schooling, and the lab’s work is only a means to an end.

By understanding the scientists working alongside you, you can be able to better connect with them. The better you can work with your team members, the more dedication they will have toward reaching the lab goals.


Leadership in Decision-Making

As a lab manager, you will make decisions that affect the whole lab. You have to be able to balance long-term goals with short-term interests. Is it monetarily wise to buy an expensive piece of equipment that could increase work speed? That is one example of a decision that you as a lab manager will have to make.

Avoiding this is paramount to be a successful lab manager. You have to make decisions that incorporate the entire lab staff and appeases them. From the group leader, all the way down to student lab workers, you have to make decisions that fit all of them. This is key if you wish to be successful as a lab manager. There are many great books that deal with the so-called “Art of Decision-Making” that will help refine your ability to collect data and make decisions based on it.


Rules and Regulations

As a lab manager, you must make sure that all of the lab’s experimentation follows all laws and rules applicable. You cannot risk breaking these regulations, for it would harm the lab’s reputation. Your work must comply with Good Laboratory Practices, proper PPE, and research protocols. Not only must you understand these, but your scientists must have a grasp of them as well. These also include ISO and FDA CFR 21 part 11, which provide specific guidelines for scientific work. Your data authenticity is paramount to compliance with these rules, especially in the industry sector. Your scientists must understand it just as well as you do.

When a scientist is hired to be on your team, you must give them a proper onboarding so that the new hires understand the expectations of the laboratory. Without proper training for laboratory expectations, they are less likely to be productive in the lab, and may even break the regulations as stated above. If you give your team members proper onboarding and periodic training on regulations like GLP, ISO, and FDA CFR 21 part 11 and equipment usage, they will become successful members of your team.


Budgeting for Success

Being a successful lab manager also involves keeping careful track of lab finances. Whether the lab is a part of Academia or Industry, proper accounting of laboratory money is a key factor in the laboratory being a success. In Academia, if the lab continually has financial problems, your University will shut down the lab or refuse to give grant money. In Industry, your lab will go bankrupt due to poor monetary performance, and both you and your team will lose your employment

So, you as a laboratory manager must be able to make financial decisions that are beneficial to the lab. You must keep proper accounting to show where the lab’s money goes when you spend it or save it. And, it is key when asking for grants or additional funding which will help increase the lab’s monetary prowess.

You cannot have a successful lab if you do not have effective lab management. These tips will help you better your management and be able to increase the well-being of the laboratory you manage. We at labfolder also wish to make sure that you always have the best tools to manage a lab. Click on the link below if you would like to give our Electronic Lab Notebook a try to see if it is a good fit for the lab you are a part of.


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