Wednesday, November 19, 2008

What’s it like to be a….Lab Coordinator?

My job title is: Laboratory Coordinator
My actual position: Glorified Lab Assistant/Facilities Manager

What does a normal day look like?  Is it consistent throughout the year?  If you’ve had this position for a while, how have things changed? 
On a normal day I start about a half hour before the rest of the lab gets in and my day doesn’t end until about a half hour after everyone else leaves.  During much of it, I am at the desk answering emails, scheduling and maintaining calendars, and calling vendors to either fix equipment or handle delivery problems. But a good portion also includes assisting the department with personnel problems.
It is consistent throughout the year for the most part.  When my laboratory started, we didn’t have any divisions like Human Resources or Finance Administration, or even IT.  I was the person people talked to for problems in these areas.  As we’ve grown, we’ve hired more and more experts in these fields.

What other, if any, positions have you held prior to your current job? How did you get to where you are now?
I began as a communications intern in the organization.  I stayed on as a permanent member and then was asked to move to the laboratory when we started building this addition to the company.

What kind of training/education did you have? What would you suggest? What qualifications/skills/attributes make someone successful in this position?
I earned a BA and was a theatre major/business administration minor.  I started out temping so that I could continue auditioning and fell into the communications position.
Patience, resilience, and effective problem solving are all skills that I would suggest for this type of position.  One must be able to work well with others and possess a can-do and positive attitude.  Taking initiative on projects in this fast-paced environment is definitely an attribute one must cultivate.

What are the rewards in your position? Challenges? What makes a good day for you?

Working with different personalities and attitudes can make for a frustrating work day, that’s for sure.  However, to be able to say at the end of the day that you’ve made the right decisions, that you solved all the problems realistically and to the best of your ability, and that you kept calm while people around you might not have – that’s rewarding!

What trends or changes do you foresee in the next 5-10 years? 
Well, with the economic problems we’re having right now, we’re forseeing a lack of donor support.  This means that many science programs aren’t willing to use funding on experimental ideas and avenues that aren’t government funded.  Laboratories may struggle to keep full-time employees or even stay open.

How could a person find out more about your field?
As one can tell from my experience, a person doesn’t have to be a scientist to work in laboratory administration.  Keeping up with technology advancement can help, however.  Figuring out what research you’d like to pursue is the first step, then Google companies in your field and read their web sites.  Follow the PR for those companies and read up on what they’ve been doing.

Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 11/19 at 04:21 PM

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