Image 2. LeAnn’s work buddy!
As for LeAnn, her workload is distributed between managerial and technician duties. Certain days are more lab intensive; such as conducting worm husbandry, media preparation, and standard assays for InVivo’s C. elegans lifespan analysis package, whereas other days are heavier in meetings and computer work. When she is at the lab bench, LeAnn begins with checking in on the C. elegans. She says it’s essential to “look at the worms and [see] what stages they’re at to evaluate at what point you can do certain assays” that day or week. Each assay differs based on the project requested by the client. For example, two different projects can require a toxicity assay, but they can vary based on the strain of nematode and compound being tested. As lab manager, she also takes time in the morning to ensure the lab technicians have the correct physical supplies and resources to complete their tasks.
“Living organisms have their own schedules.”
When she’s not at the bench, LeAnn also completes managerial duties throughout the day. She coordinates with other scientists working on custom services projects and provides guidance and/ or training to the technicians. She also works on ensuring projects are ready for the next steps which involves meeting with upper management and working with different vendors to manage supplies.
On top of these duties, LeAnn makes time for her own assays. To make sure this functions smoothly LeAnn “starts and ends her day with organizing” to give herself multiple checkpoints along the way.
An important part of staying organized as lab manager is meeting with the techs she manages which span the phenotypic, transgenic, and molecular biology teams. LeAnn meets with her techs each morning to coordinate that specific day. She also has another team meeting once a week which goes more in depth into training opportunities, planning projects, and optimizing processes. Each project also has a kickoff meeting which is essential to arranging a schedule and deadlines. Finally, LeAnn also has frequent check-ins with scientists and one-on-ones with her lab techs.
“Staying organized allows for flexibility to deal with challenges as they come up”
LeAnn emphasizes that interpersonal skills are imperative as they allow you to understand how individuals work as a team and what each individual needs to perform to the best of their ability — as a lab manager you not only manage members but the team as a whole. LeAnn also names staying organized as an essential part of her job, as such, she relies on several softwares to keep track of necessary information regarding project implementation and progress. For instance, she uses Google Calendar and Asana to give an overview of important dates and to assign tasks. She also uses Excel to organize project data such as percent completion and results.
Each day is variable, depending on factors ranging from length of project to results of procedures. LeAnn often has to deal with the unpredictable, as “living organisms have their own schedules [and] sometimes there are other factors that can change that.” This can cause difficulties as sometimes the C. elegans are not ready for you to conduct experiments. However, LeAnn emphasizes that “staying organized allows for flexibility to deal with challenges as they come up.” This means keeping track of everyone’s schedule and spreading apart the technician’s time in the lab to deal with time interruptions outside of one’s control.