Preprint Article Version 1 Preserved in Portico This version is not peer-reviewed

Building a Laboratory at a Primarily Undergraduate Institution (PUI)

Version 1 : Received: 7 December 2020 / Approved: 9 December 2020 / Online: 9 December 2020 (11:16:48 CET)

How to cite: Dahlberg, C.; King-Smith, C.; Riggs, B. Building a Laboratory at a Primarily Undergraduate Institution (PUI). Preprints 2020, 2020120221. Dahlberg, C.; King-Smith, C.; Riggs, B. Building a Laboratory at a Primarily Undergraduate Institution (PUI). Preprints 2020, 2020120221.


Scientists who are interested in building research programs at primarily-undergraduate institutions (PUIs) have unique considerations compared to colleagues at research-intensive (R1) institutions. Maintaining a research program at a PUI holds unique challenges that should be considered before prospective faculty go on the job market, as they negotiate a job offer, and after they begin a new position. In this article we describe some of the considerations that aspiring and newly hired faculty should keep in mind as they plan out how they will set up a laboratory as a new Principle Investigator (PI) at a PUI. Anyone hoping to start a research program at a PUI should understand both the timeframe of interviews, job offers, and negotiations and the challenges and rewards of working with undergraduate researchers. Once a job is offered, candidates should be aware of the range of negotiable terms that can be part of a start-up package. Space and equipment considerations are also important, and making the most of shared spaces, existing infrastructure, and deals can extend the purchasing power of start-up funds as a new PIs builds their lab. PUIs’ focus on undergraduate education and mentorship leads to important opportunities for collaboration, funding, and bringing research projects directly into undergraduate teaching laboratories. A major focus of any new laboratory leader must be on building a productive, equitable, and supportive laboratory community. Equitable onboarding, mentorship plans, and formalized expectations, can all help build a productive and sustainable laboratory research program. However, important considerations about safety, inclusion, student schedules, and a PI’s own professional commitments are also extremely important concerns when working with undergraduates in research. A successful research program at a PUI will bring students into meaningful scientific inquiry and requires insights and skills that are often not the focus of scientific training. This article aims to describe the scope of setting up a new laboratory as a way to alleviate some of the burden that new and prospective faculty often feel.


PUI (primarily undergraduate institution); laboratory; start-up; negotiation; undergraduate; support; funding; equipment; mentorship; community


Social Sciences, Education

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