Getting a lab set up properly is harder than it looks, especially when it needs unusual features to support special experiments. It’s even harder when you are working on a limited budget, which is often the case for researchers. Fortunately, there are a few techniques that can make it easier.
1- Detailed Planning
Nothing wastes more time, effort, or money than making a mistake. The resources that you spend fixing the mistake are much more useful when they are applied to improving some other part of the lab, so getting things right the first time is vital. You should plan out all of your design in detail before you get started on the project, and think carefully before you make changes once it gets underway. If possible, have another person look at the plans in case they can see a mistake that you missed.
Some laboratory items, such as stools, whiteboards, and other basic supplies are often available for free. It’s often worth taking the time to look for people who want to get rid of old furniture or other items to see if they have anything that you can recycle for your lab. Digital searches are a good way to get started, but you should also considering asking around to see if any other researchers have supplies that they have stopped using. Most of them will understand the difficulties of setting up a new lab, and many will be willing to help a colleague.
3- Order Online
Digital stores have many advantages for new researchers. In many cases, they are the only option for specialized lab equipment, but they can also be a good choice for products that are available elsewhere. Shopping online gives you the opportunity to compare prices from a larger number of stores than shopping in the flesh, and it’s often easier to find discounts or sales. More importantly, they also give you more chances to read reviews, which will allow you to make informed decisions. That is valuable enough that you should check digital stores for reviews even if you are planning on making your purchases in person.
4- Work in Stages
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither are the best labs. Start your project by prioritizing the objects that you will need to use immediately. If you aren’t going to need something right away, there is no need to purchase it immediately. Instead, you should focus your funding on the things that are vital, and buy the rest as you need them. Be sure to plan ahead when you prioritize your purchases, since a mistake at this stage can mean a serious delay for your experiments while you wait for vital equipment to arrive. When in doubt, it’s usually best to err on the side of an early purchase so that you can avoid that problem.
5- Avoid Unitaskers
Every tools that you bring into your lab represents an investment in terms of both money and storage space. You should never skimp on vital supplies, but you should also try to avoid including items that are only useful for a single task whenever doing so is possible. There are times when there are no alternatives, but unitask tools are inefficient investments, so it’s best to avoid using them. If the tools are portable, consider renting unitaskers that only see occasional use when you need them rather than investing in them for your lab.
6- Share Space and Tools
Collaboration is the foundation of science. If you can borrow a tool from your peers, there’s no need to waste your resources purchasing one. That’s often the case for large tools, such as centrifuges or PCR machines, which see enough use to warrant inclusion but not enough to warrant buying one for each researcher. Be sure to plan the sharing out in advance so that you don’t run into unexpected periods of unavailability.
7- Get Help
LOC Scientific said, “You should never hesitate to ask for help when planning a lab.” It’s almost impossible to consider every factor, but a second opinion will almost always alert you to anything that you overlooked. Your colleagues can also help you find the gear that you need, and even lend a hand with bringing it into the lab and getting it all into place.