Step 1. Spend all of your start-up money. Or not.

Step 2. Who needs lots of lab renovations? Just use a space last used by another department. Cabinets are cabinets after all. But be sure to call Health and Safety to dispose of any left-behind chemicals you find.

Step 3. Buy one large piece of lab equipment and some field equipment. Field equipment doesn’t need anything more than storage space in your lab, so that simplifies set up substantially. The large piece of lab equipment will either come with a technician to get it set up or with very good instructions and support to get it working.

Step 4. Organize your lab around the large piece of equipment.

i-a2abe14b7aebc81ca6973f99ac4f5623-lab-small.jpg My lab during the unpacking process.

Step 5. Bring in a microwave to sterilize your pump parts in convenience and privacy. It’s not food you are cooking in your lab, so you don’t have to worry about Health and Safety.

Step 6. Get offered a graduate student to help you test out your large piece of equipment in the form of an independent study course. This will allow you to put them to some of the menial tasks, but more importantly will keep you making consistent progress on getting things up and running. If I hadn’t had a student who needed something to do, I seriously think the large piece of equipment would be in its box still.

Step 7. Ask the internets for help collecting test samples. Don’t forget to reward the volunteers.

Step 8. Confirm results of test samples with equipment manufacturer and other labs. (This is still in progress.)

Step 9. Get some funding. (I’ve now got a bit.)

Step 10. Recruit some students. (To be done.)

Yay! You are in business. See that wasn’t so hard.

It’s been really fun to have my own space and set it up the way I want. I think that my lab set-up has been substantially easier than that of many researchers, simply because so much of my work is field- and computer-based. I need to leave lots of open counter space for processing samples, and I don’t have lots of specialized equipment that needs to be dealt with. I’m also not planning on having a lab group of 28-35 people, so that simplifies things too.


  1. #1 Dave Munger
    December 14, 2007


    I love that lime green cabinetry.

    Now you just need to paint the walls neon orange!

  2. #2 Ric Weibl
    December 14, 2007

    The folks at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Burroughs Wellcome created a great series of publications on setting up your own lab. They are free here:


  3. #3 ecogeofemme
    December 14, 2007

    That looks like a great space!

New comments have been disabled.