Starting Up a Chemistry Lab: Advice & Bargains

April 9th, 2013

ed_academic_bigBefore I go and do anything stupid, I wanted to ask everyone for advice about starting up a university chemistry lab from scratch. While it looks like I’ll be inheriting some glassware and chemicals in my assigned lab space, I’ll basically need just about everything you can think of. I know that places like Sigma-Aldrich salivate at the prospect of reeling in people like me, and I’ll definitely take my wish list to them and their obvious competitors for quotes, but I’d love to use this thread as a resource for crowdsourcing wisdom about how to get the most bang for your start-up buck. I see no sense in wasting money.

I’ll begin:

— I am routinely appalled at how much the safety glasses in chemistry catalogs cost (e.g., $11 for a run-of-the-mill pair from Aldrich). I love the style variation and price offered by Northern Safety (e.g., $4 or lower for a better pair). I know $7 is not a huge deal, but it adds up when you’re buying enough to outfit a bunch of people. Also, with decent safety glasses as low as $2, there is no excuse for not carpetbombing your lab with eye protection (for large groups of visitors, etc.) and tossing out nasty, old, scratched-up glasses.

— The cost of balances, especially in scientific catalogs, is unbelievably high. I like the deals offered at Affordable Scales. I think my plan will be to purchase one nice analytical balance to be used only when necessary, then a bunch of “precision” balances for routine lab work. For most things, it doesn’t matter if you make your buffer with 15.1 g of salt versus 15.005 g. In my experience, grad students and postdocs abuse balances. I’d rather have them abuse less-sensitive units than nice ones.

— Stirring hot plates also seem to cost way more than they should. That said, I am leaning towards splurging for IKA models, because I have had bad experiences with other brands. Anyone out there have a favorite hot plate or know where to get a good deal?

If you’d rather send me your advice by e-mail, feel free. I’ll protect your super-secret identity and post it to the thread myself. And if you’re a magnate of industry and have unwanted equipment you want to donate to charity (i.e., me/SLU), let me know. ;)

Thanks!


44 Responses to “Starting Up a Chemistry Lab: Advice & Bargains”

  1. Paul Says:

    Also, much better to buy tools and routine equipment (e.g., duct tape) at a hardware store than through science vendors.

    Behold: $16 for a can opener from Aldrich. And $64 for a hammer!

    Nicer hammers cost $6 down the street.

  2. opsomath Says:

    Setting up my first lab this summer as well. Posting to see followups on the thread.

    I believe I will be hittting up some serious eBay.

  3. Chemjobber Says:

    Regarding used equipment — does it make sense to spend a PI’s limited amount of lab time to learn and teach the art of GC/HPLC maintenance, rather than buying a reliable new instrument?

    As for scales, stir plates, yeah, sure, hit up eBay all you want.

    IKA models — I see what you did there.

  4. Colorblind Chemist Says:

    Having just done all this with my advisor, I advise:

    -order big ticket items NOW. We didn’t have gloveboxes or SPS until November because delays are simply inevitable.

    -Buy in bulk. Syringes, gloves, etc, just get crates while you’re new; it’s generally cheaper and the suppliers are more willing to cut costs on other items (balances, etc) if your ticket price is big. Also, come December you’re going to be tired of spending money, so do it now.

    -Don’t let Buchi/MBraun/etc push you around. They will be getting every new faculty’s order at once and will get a little too excited at their big surge in income.

    -KnF pumps, especially for rotavaps. Best investment we ever made; they’re cheaper, sturdier (made entirely from Teflon), and easy as HELL to fix. Not ashamed to plug them.

    -make sure any renovations that aren’t done when you arrive are put in writing as to what will be done. Once you’re in and working it’s easy for things to go overlooked.

    Will post more as I think about it

  5. Sean Says:

    I had a similar issue in grad school when I had to plan out experiments for the next 2 years due to expiring grant. I ended up making huge spreadsheets which lucky has been upgraded to software that compares prices across dozens of companies.

    I don’t want to get super promotional, but starting a start up gets one pretty passionate about a subject.

    Here is a link to a pdf that contains over 250k in purchases over the last year from labs all over the USA. I’ve always hated that the pricing on research chemicals and supplies isn’t transparent, hope it helps.

    dl.dropbox.com/u/7671582/P212121_Pricing.pdf?dl=1

    It’s more biological based so hit me up (sean @ p212121.com) if you have any specific items in mind.

  6. Phytoalchemist Says:

    Some used equipment can be a great bargain. Pharma is hemorrhaging stuff that works. Maybe avoid the used LC/MS, but I’ve gotten perfectly good rotovaps, vacuum ovens, centrifuges, fraction collectors, etc. Check out the surplus lab supply companies, and call them directly with your wishlist. They have warehouses full of atuff that may or may not be on their websites.

  7. prunesmith Says:

    I have a friend who is also starting up a lab this year, and he recently found out about Dove Bid (http://www.go-dove.com/en/). Apparently really awesome lots of glassware show up from time to time. Glassware is something that annoys me with how ridiculously expensive it can be, so it might be better to buy used!

  8. Joel Says:

    Great post idea!

    Ultrasonic cleaners are $1.5k from Fisher but only ~$400 when you buy them from a Jewelers’ Supplier: http://www.lacywest.com/28ultras.htm

  9. Chemjobber Says:

    Dovebid is pretty great, but for the love of all that is good, do not buy used analytical instruments from them. You will kill months trying to get them back up and running.

  10. anon Says:

    A similar conversation on reddit: (http://www.reddit.com/r/chemistry/comments/19aui0/tips_for_the_frugal_chemist/)

  11. j Says:

    “In my experience, grad students and postdocs abuse balances.”

    Having cleaned the Whitesides PDMS balance a few times, I can vouch for that.

  12. Ian Says:

    Paul,

    I’m happy to compare notes as orders go in. As a PI at a public school, a lot of our big purchases have to go out on public bid, which seems to be a decent enough way to get prices down. Most of the vendors I’ve talked to seem to slash their quotes really quickly when they hear the word ‘bid process…’

    ‘Medium sized equipment’–Rotovaps, Kugelrohrs, balances and the like seem the most egregiously overpriced at this stage. I’m going to do a middleground–one nice rotovap, one reclaimed/used rotovap, for example. That way, if things require fixing, it won’t screw us over entirely.

    That being said–in grad school and postdoc I’ve wasted WAY TOO MUCH TIME dealing with messed up solvent purification systems and bad gloveboxes. My strategy with these is to get top of the line equipment (not the lowest bidder, but negotiated down into my budget), and push for longer warranties.

  13. Handles Says:

    Down under, we have a thing called the “Australia tax”, where we pay much more than in the USA for everything, even though our two currencies have been at parity for years now. Therefore, when I click on your can-opener and hammer links above, the prices are USD 28.35 and USD 142.80 (plus tax and freight).

    I like IKA stirrers, but we also have Heidolph, which I think are just as good.

  14. Handles Says:

    Oh and I almost LOLed when I saw the button inviting me to “download MSDS” for the hammer. I am very disappointed to report that clicking on it gave a broken link.

  15. Tom Phillips Says:

    I haven’t set up a lab, but I _always_ ask for discount. Amazes me how many people don’t.

    1. Ask for education discount. Get 5-10%.
    2. Ask for more discount. Get told that’s it.
    3. Say it’s out of your budget, come up with a figure that’s a reasonable % discount, e.g. 30%.
    4. Get the discount!

    Never had it fail.

    We’ve had some good deals for IKA hot plates through VWR.

  16. See Arr Oh Says:

    Hey there, ChemBark…

    We just set up a (synthetic organic) lab from scratch in ~4 months. As others have pointed out, don’t scrimp on things you REALLY need; buy your solvent system, glovebox, and HPLC early, and use the best academic pricing you get that still gets them delivered in ~1 month. Always buy service contracts for big items.

    I’m with Chemjobber – don’t trust your first batch of analytical instruments to auction houses, unless you’re going to hire a support staff immediately. One hidden cost of operating with auction houses is a fee (usually 10-18%) and the pickup arrangements: They don’t ship themselves – YOU must arrange pickup or contract with a trusted shipper ($$$). If you haven’t picked up a used HPLC in a flat-bed truck at 7PM on a Friday night, you haven’t lived.

    Outside the HPLC-GC-glovebox regime, second-hand (Ebay, DoveBid) provides great deals on multiple stirplates, thermocouples, glassware pieces, columns, etc.

    EVERYTHING ELSE should be bought at grocery and hardware stores. Not only can openers and tape, but parafilm, weigh boats, hammer, wrench, star drivers, ratchet, screwdrivers, water, salts, bottles, etc.

  17. stewie griffin Says:

    I second Chemjobber’s advice about dove bid. We’ve had great luck with glassware/stirplates/rotovaps, but all the analytical equipment we’ve bought (TOC/HPLC/etc) has always been a giant pain to get up and running.

  18. John Spevacek Says:

    Start reading the St. Louis business newspaper. When a tech company goes under (and in this economy, that is an all too common occurrence, especially for startups that have only used/not-used the equipment for a year or two), the equipment has to be liquidated. You can get truly amazing deals this way – 80 or even 90% off. It’s all local too.

  19. aonomus Says:

    As much as the crowd appears to love Ika, I’ve seen the opposite experience. The lab where I currently work at has had 1 near miss and 1 accident associated with a failure of Ika hotplates. Granted there were other circumstances at play as well, but the root causes ended up being a dumb design decision being built into the Ika hotplates.

    1. Hotplate meltdown – solid state relay circuitry failed-deadly in a closed position, full power continually applied to heater, silumin hotplate surface melted, was eventually caught, power cut and allowed to cool – near miss as hotplate was being set up for a mag. stirred ambient temperature reaction, but the person walked away for lunch.
    – NB: Ika hotplates use digital only circuitry to control temperature, Heidolph hotplates (at least older ones) appear to use a temperature sensor, plus a good old gas-tube thermostat embedded into the hotplate surface making it more fail-safe.

    2. Hotplate fire – magnetically stirred reaction in dewar in dry ice/acetone bath caught fire. Heater on newer style Ika hotplate with a single power switch and digital encoder wheel style knobs (vs potentiometers) was accidentally turned on, but indicator was not clear. Fire extinguished in <20 seconds.

    Moving on from hotplates, another thought that comes to mind is adjustable pipettors. Either for analytical purposes, or just setting up small scale reactions, you'll want to get ones that are very abuse-tolerant. Tolerant of things like over-aspiration, people leaving them sideways with liquid in the pipette, corrosive liquids (you'd be surprised what DBU vapour will do to a pipette!). I've used Eppendorph reference series, and while they are fancy, they are more corrosion sensitive (not sure what plastic is used, plus the teflon piston has a steel screw exposed to the vapour space!). I've found the old Gilson Pipettman series (made out of PVDF for the entire front half and the piston) to be way more reliable. Don't forget to have at least 1 decent scale for calibrations.

    I'll also back up that KNF diaphragm pumps are bulletproof. We have air powered aspirators for rough vacuum (filtrations, quick and dirty distillations, etc) and a few diaphragm pumps floating around, but the diaphragm pumps are absolutely wonderful and bulletproof no matter what kind of vapours pass through.

    For PPE, don't forget a face shield or two and some more fireproof clothing. Perhaps some glassware cut resistant gloves would be prudent if people are doing glassblowing (or even just trying to free up a stuck joint!). Those gloves have saved me 2-3 times when trying to free stuck joints, only to have the thing shatter and without the glove cut my palm open. Slip-over shoe-covers with integral steel safety toe-caps for anyone doing gas cylinder changes as well.

  20. a Says:

    Ebay is really good for biochemical instrumentation (gel boxes being a particular favorite of mine).

    Nthing : buy critical or complex things new. Buy used things that SHOULD be simple but have the lab tax added (Add a zero to a price).

    For startup if you go through vwr or fisher you should get them to compete. Make a list, send it on one guy, and
    say this is “$15k through fisher, what can you offer”.They know its a good deal because people usually stay with the same suppliers for the same reagents.

    One hint: get the same printer for your lab as your office. That way if cartriges run out on a weekend you can swap.

    Never underestimate the time vs money equation. If your startup is good, buy new stuff and get discoverin’.

    A book for you to chew over on lab management

    http://www.amazon.com/At-Helm-Leading-Laboratory-Edition/dp/0879698667/

  21. Nicholas Tesla Says:

    I loved Northern Safety. All my my lab glasses have been tinted (I worked outside a lot). They hold up well and don’t scratch too terribly. Plus – in every shipment – they send you a bag of candy!

  22. Rhenium Says:

    Foolish, foolish Chembark…

    Yes, I know that it looks easy to see a $6 hammer instead of one for +$100, but if your university will only allow reimbursement from “approved vendors” then you are going to “get hosed” trying to get your receipts reimbursed. Our university for example only allows the purchase of either Dell or Mac computers as a minor example. Find a cheaper computer elsewhere? Oh too bad.

    The key thing will be to find out how the ordering system works, as with many things at universities they can range from wonderful to utter dysfunction, sadly tending towards the latter. Even if things are possible in practice (e.g. Ebay), they may be so encumbered with red tape it will quickly wear you down.

    As it is personnel costs are always the biggest costs after the first 6 months. I’ve been through this whole process myself and find myself now sadder and (possibly) wiser.

  23. Anonymous Says:

    I’ll also be setting up my lab too, although on a much smaller scale than you (I was hired at a Primarily Undergraduate Institution), and I will definitely keep an eye on this thread.

    Cheers!

  24. respisci Says:

    I concur with Rhenium in always check first with your university’s expense report system and make sure that you will get reimbursed for items purchased at Hardware stores.

    Really, the first thing is to learn your university’s purchasing process. And don’t believe the first individual to whom you speak. See if you can get them to write out their process step by step for you (and then get that verified–gee can you tell someone has been burned recently?) You don’t want to start negotiating with a vendor only to discover that the university has an exclusive agreement with the vendor’s competitor which will make your life miserable as you fight the system to purchase from your preferred vendor.

    While auction houses may not be your favorite thing, do check out the local biotech/pharma scene and see if anyone is closing their doors. I worked for a biotech that closed and the parent company gave us a few months to contact local researchers to see if anyone wanted to purchase equipment (HPLC, hoods, incubators, gene sequencers, specialized animal equipment etc). The buyer had to arrange for shipment but we supplied them the maintenance and repair logs for each piece of equipment so they knew that they were buying a reliable piece of equipment that was well maintained. It was a win-win scenario as they were able to get equipment at a cheap price and we received a higher price than if we went with one of the general auction houses. Don’t worry about feeling like a vulture–we were happy that the equipment was going to be used than sit around gathering dust. (and we sold off everything–stir bars, weigh boats, racks, etc)

  25. PMP Says:

    This is a fantastic thread. Having set up two synthetic labs in the past ten or so years I can also contribute to this discussion. We are based in Europe so some of the things may not apply to the US.

    1. I concur with aonomus. While IKA stirrer/hotplates are great value, they have a lot more issues (it appears the new ones, post 2009-2010 are worse than the old ones). Heidolphs are more expensive but they appear to last forever.

    2. In addition to the solvent drying systems, HPLCs and GCs, one of the most time-consuming things to set up were the vacuum lines. This is because you will need to construct them from a variety of parts – your glassblower (you are lucky if you have one at the university) will need the necessary glass parts etc. which you will need to order; you will need the vacuum pumps and all the connectors, etc. It might be useful to talk to someone in the department who has already set up theirs (but then you may not like what they have). If your university does not have a glassblower then you will also need to find one who is reliable – this will also take some time.

    3. For the solvent drying system – do (or have your first grad student help with this) the Karl Fischer titrations once the system is set up. Yes, the manufacturers claim all sorts of things (even MBraun) but it is _much_ better go by “trust, but verify”.

  26. bad wolf Says:

    I like that two people have advocated sticking the school/grant/startup funds/taxpayer/tuition for a $100 hammer instead of eating the $6 hammer out of pocket. Cleaning supplies and hardware are pretty affordable in this day and age, and i would just buy some even as a grad student if it was faster or the Sigma-Aldrich price was ridiculous.

  27. cookingwithsolvents Says:

    (brief break from writing so sorry if this is very stream-of-consciousness)

    Make SURE you get your teaching time off lined up with any renovations. i.e. if they are renovating teach in the fall so that you have spring to work with the students that join your group. Actually, teach in the fall anyways so that you can just dive into it in spring. Setting up the lab yourself with tons of time sounds like a good idea but you won’t have any students yet (likely). Make sure you get VERY clear on how purchasing/reimbursement/etc. works so you can work around any quirks of your U’s system.

    You can buy a hammer at home depot and get reimbursed. Even schools with “preferred vendors” usually let you do petty cash reimbursements. Or it might have just been an emergency that required a hammer so you couldn’t wait… Take your tax exempt form ’cause you are eligible. Plus some places don’t reimburse tax (and if you spend 1K or more on stuff like plumbing supplies, furniture, etc that number gets high….just sayin’). Be professional and friendly with the support staff. Most of them are awesome.

    online can be a good place to get equipment but paying for it can be hard if you can’t get a ccard linked to your startup (many places don’t do it). There are time-deadlines for online auctions, etc. so you may have to use your personal card or figure out how to next-day a certified check (good luck with some purchasing depts). Be really sure about things…I would advocate sticking to big vendors till you physically arrive at your school and can get real details. Get your first “big order” in a spreadsheet and have them bid against each other (assuming you don’t have an exclusive agreement with vendors). Also, of course, buyer beware online. Local places are better because you can show up and check the equipment out yourself. Your definition of local can be flexible…lab road trip!

    Don’t buy for expansion (we really need 12 widgets instead of 4 because….). It adds up fast and if you change directions the shiny widgets will gather dust. vwr has a hotplate that is better bang/$ than IKA, imo.

    Finally, keep reminding yourself that your new job (well, the research part) is to enable people to become awesome scientists, train them as such, and get out of their way as fast as possible. It’s amazing to watch them mature and take ownership of their projects.

  28. Shawn Burdette Says:

    Didn’t have time to read all the responses. One observation I’ve made in general with equipping a lab, your group members will choose not to adopt your techniques/use the equipment you think they should. I’ve invested in numerous items that are useful, but they gather dust in drawers and on benches.

  29. Amy K Says:

    I haven’t read the other comments, so these might already have been mentioned:

    When I was setting up my lab, VWR offered a “new lab discount”. Others might do the same.

    ChemGlass has a 45% academic discount on items they make in-house.

    It might be worth sending around an e-mail to faculty at your new institution in case there are items sitting around unused, e.g., a bag of 1000 pipette tips that were ordered in the wrong size but might be useful to you. (I am at a PUI so I am really scrimping and saving – you might have a reasonable start-up and don’t need to beg!) Someone has a cupboard of perfectly good vacuum desiccators and has no idea what they are – they were there when they moved into the space.

    Equipnet.com sells gently used and refurbished equipment. Or so they keep telling me in the e-mails they send every. single. day.

    Several instrument manufacturers will allow you to do “trade-ins” of similar but old instrument when you buy a new instrument. Shimadzu let us “trade in” a piece of garbage spectrophotometer that didn’t work and was taking up room in the lab and we got a $2k discount on a new double-beam UV-Vis spec.

  30. Simon Says:

    In my experience, balances abuse grad students and postdocs.

  31. Lars Duelund Says:

    Hi

    As staff scientist/purchasing agent at an european university for the last several year, I have a few things I would like to point out. But this is from a European perspective, so it might be different

    If you haven’t done it yet, first thing is to figure out what rules the new place has for purchasing. If you are really lucky some one has done some ground work and made a good deal with one the major vendors for at institutional discount (If you are unlucky the government makes an bad exclusive deal with some vendor you don’t like, tough luck )

    If the university has fixed vendors I should also have on for hardware, where the university workshop buys stuff. And of course get a good selection of tools asap. It saves so much time. We went as far as having our own drill so that we can make holes in the wall for hanging stuff or run tubing /wire through. of Course we can “just” call a tech guy which the comes in few days and does it, but his way we get things done NOW and can get back to work.

    For small equipment be aware of the OEM around. Eg VWR’s line of VWR branded item. I have several vortex mixer from the, which are in fact Heidophls. and they were around 75- 100 USD cheaper than heidoplh. This also goes for the pippoetors, friges etc.

    Also, at least over here, the most vendors have very frequently demo models or clearing sales, look out for them. A demo model is a very different thing, in my mind, than use from action. It still comes with guarantee etc.

  32. Paco_Bham Says:

    Hi

    Thanks for the post. I am also starting a new lab pretty soon and I find it very useful

  33. Mrs._Beakley Says:

    I started this year in an engineering department, but I stay close to my chemical roots. A few things I learned so far.

    SunnyCare nitrile gloves are extremely inexpensive compared to VWR and Fisher (80% less). Almost anything that could conceivably be purchased from a non-scientific supplier should be purchased on Amazon, or at Target, Wal-Mart, Home Depot, or a hardware store. Use your university credit card if you have one.

    I’ve had so-so luck with eBay on an item-by-item basis, but overall I’ve saved a ton of money, since the money I’ve saved on items that work perfectly outweighs the money I’ve wasted on items that are crappy. Only buy stuff on eBay that you can fix or obtain parts for easily. My eBay rotovap chiller was a great pickup; my eBay ultramicrotome was purchased at a 95% discount compared to the price of a new one, but the automatic function is broken. My eBay glassware is great, but 2 of 4 IKA hotplates broke shortly after arriving (they are digital and have an unknown problem). I wish I had purchased ALL of my glassware on eBay. I bought a new rotavap, plasma cleaner, UV/ozone cleaner, and vacuum oven, but probably should have bought them all on eBay. Major equipment I bought new: glovebox, solar simulator, HPLC, UV-vis (joint purchase). Vacuum pumps are also potentially good eBay items, but I bought new ones.

  34. j Says:

    I found IKA hotplates to not be as accurate as advertised. They are so bad I am not even sure they use a real PID controller. The instatherm products form Ace Glass are superior in my opinion.

    https://www.aceglass.com/featured/ace_instatherm/instatherm.pdf

    I don’t know anything about their temperature controllers. I use the Digisense advanced temp controller which is tunable but kinda expensive.

  35. wolfie Says:

    Building up a new chemistry lab ? I’ve done it several times, once in Maine and almost twice in Heidleb√∂rg.

    I am sure you don’t want to hear how I did it, and it is probably better so.

  36. Anna Says:

    For safety glasses, I recently bought a few dozen through VWR. Cheap, high quality, and large enough to fit over glasses comfortably. https://us.vwr.com/store/catalog/product.jsp?catalog_number=300059-526

    Don’t forget holders to mount on the wall as people come in the lab (probably cheaper from a hardware store, as others mentioned).

  37. River Song Says:

    I too will be setting up a lab this summer. I’m starting at a smaller school and have been given a modest startup, so I must pinch my pennies!

    It seems to me that it is the smaller items that really take a toll: stir plates, lab jacks, gas regulators, tubing, clamps, etc… the list goes on. It all starts to add up really fast.

    Sure, bidding sites might be the way to go but it is not ideal. First, you have to hope you stumble across something you actually want and then you have to hope it works. As others have mentioned, it’s easy for some people to get reimbursed for ebay purchases and nearly impossible for others.

    Perhaps, as someone recommended, I’ll just make a big list of what I want and have Fisher and VWR fight over who can give me the best price. I plan to do the same with glassware, pit Ace against Quark and Chemglass. Perhaps this will be the path with the fewest kinetic barriers.

  38. Recently Tenured Says:

    For a new academic group, the most important thing to figure out is your monthly consumable budget (“burn rate”). $1000/month/researcher is probably at the low end. If you have 5 people working in your lab, that’s at least 60,000/year just for solvents, chemicals, NMR time, etc. If you figure it will be 3 years before your first major grant, you need to keep about 200,000 in reserve just for operating costs for the first 3 years. This doesn’t count salaries, tuition, travel, publication costs, etc.

    Paying for NMR/MS to your department may seem like a waste of startup funds, but it is a real cost for the department and you want to invest in this infrastructure. Instead of complaining or negotiating “free” use of the services (which is really just a tax on your colleagues) ask for a cap per month. You can then budget for that and let you students run whatever NMR experiment they need.

    Keeping your recurring costs (solvents, test tubes, gloves, silica gel, etc) low is important. A 20% savings on a solvent and supply bill 4000/month add up to real money. Making a starting material that costs 100/gram and you only might need it once is probably not worth it. Get your recurring costs down low and use the savings to splurge on the one-time orders.

    By as little major equipment as possible at the beginning. IRs, UV, etc can all be borrowed. Nothing is worse than seeing some piece of fancy equipment you bought with 20% of your startup sit unused. Equipment purchases on NSF or NIH grants don’t charge overhead, so delay equipment purchases until you have funding. You can then you startup to pay salaries or supplies, which also won’t charge overhead. This way, you can maximise a federal grant by saving on overhead. Likewise, don’t use gift money or an award from a private agency (which usually do not charge overhead) to pay for equipment unless you have no other choice.

    Postdocs are a gamble in your first years. A great one can be great, but a not so great one can really hurt your training of PhD students. I had good luck, but I know many people who had postdocs who thought they knew it all and told all the students that their projects were unfeasible or set poor example of work ethics.

    And the best advice: The US funding systems values results over ideas. You should write as FEW proposals as possible until your first publications. Once you have publications, even only one or two, you will be in a much better position to apply for grants. Way to many assistant professors make the mistake of spending their first years write proposal after proposal without any preliminary results. Even if the applications say no preliminary results are needed, a major evaluation criteria is your track record. Stay in the lab until you have something out the door. Then start writing.

    Good luck!

  39. Rosie Redfield Says:

    Someone just stole $25,000 worth of objectives from our high-end microscope, and I suspect they’re now on eBay. So before you snap up that eBay deal you might want to check the bona-fides of the seller.

  40. While I Was Out… | Chemtips Says:

    [...] jokes aside, Chembark is outfitting his new lab.  He asked the community for advice on finding discounted lab supplies, and the resulting discussion has created a wonderful [...]

  41. hn Says:

    Only buy from ebay if they offer refunds. I’ve had enormous success that way. Be BFF with the staff who handle purchasing and equipment repair. Don’t waste too much time trying to save $50 here and there. PI and postdoc time is very expensive!

  42. Chem Gal Says:

    I am outfitting a new Analytical lab for a small pharmaceutical company. I know bargain searching is hard. For glassware I have found that you really can not beat Lab Depot. I know the glassware is slightly less in quality but when you can get 24 for the price of 6 at VWR you can afford to break a few and still save A LOT of money. Plus they are veteran owned and if you order a lot they are willing to give better discounts. They have a lot more than just glassware too and are usually cheaper in prices.

  43. Sean Says:

    Hi Chem Gal,

    Looks like we have Lab Depot covered:

    http://www.labdepotinc.com/Product_Details~id~23~pid~117.aspx
    http://www.labdepotinc.com/Product_Details~id~23~pid~61811.aspx

    http://store.p212121.com/beakers/

    100 ml, 48 Pack, $72 vs. $94, 24% savings
    1 L, 24 Pack, $122 vs. $185.76, 35% savings

  44. Dots Says:

    Hey I was wondering how many people here get their students to wash and reuse test tubes from columns? Is there a more efficient way of doing this? Any ideas? I was thinking of soaking them in a base- or acid-bath. Then a water bath to rinse and finally a acetone bath.

    Thanks


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