Starting your own lab is a very exciting and rewarding opportunity. And, even if you are still early in your research career but are considering becoming a PI in the future, it wouldn’t hurt to learn a few things about starting your own lab. Before you sign on that dotted line of your offer letter, here are some considerations that can help you make the most out of your new space.
It is very important to know exactly what is being offered to you. Some useful questions to ask might be: What is the size and layout? Is the space shared? Will you get to move into the lab right away? Is there an office space included? This should all be spelled out in the offer letter. Starting out as a new PI will surely be a challenging task in itself, so save yourself from unexpected surprises.
Not all institutions have plenty of available laboratory space to spare, so you may not get your dream setup. Of course, it’s best not to be greedy, but if you know there are certain requirements your lab will absolutely need, it may be worth negotiating. In the event that you may not yet have a lab or office space — or if the space is extremely limited — try to negotiate for what you’ll eventually need in your startup package.
Sometimes it is unavoidable that part, if not all, of the lab space is shared alongside another PI or research group. With proper communication, this circumstance may actually be a blessing. Coordinating the sharing of common equipment within the space would not only make efficient use of space, but can also help save on purchasing costs. See if the other PI would be open to discussing what equipment you each could purchase as to not be redundant.
Your team will likely start small as a new PI. But as your resources and staff grow, your physical lab space may need to change and expand as well. Space is a limited asset, so also discuss the possibility of renovations and expansions when negotiating your startup package. Keep in mind that renovations can be expensive, so be sure to understand the costs before committing to this in the future.
Starting your own lab might feel daunting. But you are not alone. Fellow rookie investigators have also taken these first steps, with each one having their own unique experience. To hear what kind of advice other principal investigators have to say about their journey, check out the How to start your own lab eBook. In the making of the book, eight interviewed investigators have shared what they wish they knew, so you can anticipate the challenges.