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Outside the Lab Profession

Dare to Change

I recently moved house. Sitting in a room surrounded by cardboard boxes, I was struck by a familiar feeling. Previous house moves? A legacy of my international youth? Not at all; in fact, what I was remembering was packing up my laboratory in graduate school for a move to a larger facility.

Like many changes, lab expansion is often a good thing. More space for research! More space for staff! More space for piles of test results, journal preprints, grants to review, and folded posters from long-forgotten presentations! But all change, even good change, requires an adjustment – and that isn’t always easy.

When my laboratory expanded, all of us – from the most senior postdoctoral fellow to the summer student who had been with us for a few weeks – assumed our benchtop space would stay just as it was. “Don’t fix what ain’t broke” seemed to make sense – so it came as a surprise when the plans to gut and redesign the space included not only the new areas, but also our existing laboratory.

Several months later, we were installed in a bright, airy room with three times as much space as our old lab. The benches were new, the windows were big, the sinks worked properly… It was an adjustment for us all, but a good one. The stress of packing and moving – and changing – was worth it.

Since then, I’ve noticed that the most forward-thinking among us – the scientists, the doctors, the laboratory professionals – are just as subject to change resistance as anyone else. Old habits die hard, and this can make progress difficult. How can you convince someone to make the move to new technologies, new diagnostics, or new treatments when they have been using the old ones (successfully or otherwise) for years? Often, results are not enough to overcome resistance, and the perceived benefit may be outweighed by challenges: staffing, training, cost, space requirements… the list goes on. And, sometimes, this presents a disadvantage for patients. After all, a rare disease patient may go undiagnosed without newer, more complex technologies – or may go without treatment if the supporting tests are unavailable.

Have you encountered a resistance to change in the laboratory? Tell us about it ([email protected]) – and share your tips for overcoming this unique obstacle!

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About the Author

Michael Schubert

While obtaining degrees in biology from the University of Alberta and biochemistry from Penn State College of Medicine, I worked as a freelance science and medical writer. I was able to hone my skills in research, presentation and scientific writing by assembling grants and journal articles, speaking at international conferences, and consulting on topics ranging from medical education to comic book science. As much as I’ve enjoyed designing new bacteria and plausible superheroes, though, I’m more pleased than ever to be at Texere, using my writing and editing skills to create great content for a professional audience.

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