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This module offers guidelines for leading an effective research team and is authored by Susan Margulies (University of Pennsylvania).

Are lab directors leaders or managers?

Leader Manager

  • influences opinions and attitudes of other to accomplish a shared goal
  • makes sure people and processes are in place to achieve goals. Develops plans, oversees budgets and resources, organizes, solves problems
Lab Directors must be Leaders AND Managers

If I had one piece of advice to give it’s that although you’ve been hired for your scientific skills and research potential, your eventual success will depend heavily on your ability to guide, lead, and empower others to do their best work.
--Thomas Cech, HHMI

Lab Director Role = Vision + Relationships + Tasks

Developing a vision or mission statement

  • A summary of goals and inspirations
  • A clearly stated vision inspires, and sets a course for the lab
  • Create a distinct future that distinguishes your lab from your competitors
    • Describe the kind of research you want to do
    • Motivation for your research
    • Atmosphere, Values: scientific excellence, teamwork?
    • Historical and current challenges
    • Short- and long-term goals
    • Tie into departmental or institutional culture

Directing and motivating people

  1. Behavior
    • tell people what to do and how to do it, when to do it, and then monitor closely
    • listen, provide encouragement and assistance, facilitate their involvement in problem-solving and decision-making
    • Lab Directors must provide BOTH - behavior type depends on lab member’s level of competence and commitment.
    Delegate those activities that someone else could provide both direction and support
  2. Communication

      Be accessible

    • Daily time in the lab
    • Open office door
    • Weekly lab meetings (presentations, progress reports)
    • Small group meetings (technical issues, alt. approaches)
    • One-on-one meetings
    • Journal club (teach good/bad exp design, analysis, reporting)
    • Strategy sessions (new directions)
    • Group lab activities in non-work setting to build team spirit
    Make sure you reserve time to be alone to think, read, and write!
  3. Give and receive feedback
    • Timely
    • Specific
    • Objective
    • Reinforces expectations
    • Constructive
  4. Make decisions
    • in isolation
    • after consultation
    • as a group
    • allow others to make the decision (only if can you live with the outcome!)
  5. Set rules of behavior for lab members
    • Work hours (focus on productivity) (your hours set the pace!)
    • Vacations and maternity leaves
    • Authorship guidelines
    • Scientific ethics
    • Project ownership
    • Projects leaving the lab (fund 6 mo independent research?)
    They’re watching…always watching! State rules, be a role model, and be consistent and fair.
  6. Motivate the lab
    • Importance of vision statement
    • Recognize and appreciate each person’s contributions
    • Make sure lab members understand their role
    • Provide training, recognize progress
  7. Manage conflict
    • Assess the problem, each person’s interests, acknowledge constraints, encourage parties to participate in resolution

Managing projects

  • Allocating, using and tracking resources to to achieve a goal in a desired timeframe
    • publishing a paper, getting a grant, tenure
  • Reduce wasted effort, track progress, respond quickly to hurdles
    • Define distinct steps to goal&expected time to complete
    • Who does what, when? (1-2 wk blocks) (sequential or parallel?)
    • Identify constraints, necessary collaborations, supplies, equipment, resources
    • Anticipate bottlenecks (pair post-doc with UG, have technician work out and revise new methods)
    • Track work closely (lab meetings, use clear indicators (“blots are done”))
    • Implement contingency plans
    • Maintain team focus and motivation (communicate project vision)

When do i learn to do all of that?

What relevant Lab Director skills do you have already?

  • use it to analyze situations in the lab
  • use it to organize your time, resources, and manage projects
  • you will make mistakes
  • will guide you in directing your lab


At The Helm: A Laboratory Navigator by K. Barker

Making the Right Moves: A Practical Guide to Scientific Management for Post-docs and New Faculty by L. Bonnetta (HHMI)

Questions & Answers

How we are making nano material?
what is a peer
What is meant by 'nano scale'?
What is STMs full form?
scanning tunneling microscope
what is Nano technology ?
Bob Reply
write examples of Nano molecule?
The nanotechnology is as new science, to scale nanometric
nanotechnology is the study, desing, synthesis, manipulation and application of materials and functional systems through control of matter at nanoscale
Is there any normative that regulates the use of silver nanoparticles?
Damian Reply
what king of growth are you checking .?
What fields keep nano created devices from performing or assimulating ? Magnetic fields ? Are do they assimilate ?
Stoney Reply
why we need to study biomolecules, molecular biology in nanotechnology?
Adin Reply
yes I'm doing my masters in nanotechnology, we are being studying all these domains as well..
what school?
biomolecules are e building blocks of every organics and inorganic materials.
anyone know any internet site where one can find nanotechnology papers?
Damian Reply
sciencedirect big data base
Introduction about quantum dots in nanotechnology
Praveena Reply
what does nano mean?
Anassong Reply
nano basically means 10^(-9). nanometer is a unit to measure length.
do you think it's worthwhile in the long term to study the effects and possibilities of nanotechnology on viral treatment?
Damian Reply
absolutely yes
how to know photocatalytic properties of tio2 nanoparticles...what to do now
Akash Reply
it is a goid question and i want to know the answer as well
characteristics of micro business
for teaching engĺish at school how nano technology help us
How can I make nanorobot?
Do somebody tell me a best nano engineering book for beginners?
s. Reply
there is no specific books for beginners but there is book called principle of nanotechnology
how can I make nanorobot?
what is fullerene does it is used to make bukky balls
Devang Reply
are you nano engineer ?
fullerene is a bucky ball aka Carbon 60 molecule. It was name by the architect Fuller. He design the geodesic dome. it resembles a soccer ball.
what is the actual application of fullerenes nowadays?
That is a great question Damian. best way to answer that question is to Google it. there are hundreds of applications for buck minister fullerenes, from medical to aerospace. you can also find plenty of research papers that will give you great detail on the potential applications of fullerenes.
what is the Synthesis, properties,and applications of carbon nano chemistry
Abhijith Reply
Mostly, they use nano carbon for electronics and for materials to be strengthened.
is Bucky paper clear?
carbon nanotubes has various application in fuel cells membrane, current research on cancer drug,and in electronics MEMS and NEMS etc
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Source:  OpenStax, 2009 nsf advance workshop: negotiating the ideal faculty position. OpenStax CNX. Feb 24, 2010 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11185/1.1
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