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Tools to Take Your Research to the Next Level

Andrea Zeek • 5/17/18

Tools to Take Your Research to the Next Level

Time. It’s one of the most precious resources an IU School of Medicine researcher has.

That’s why school leadership want to make faculty aware of some of the resources available to help them optimize their research processes and overall laboratory environments, so they can get the most out of their research projects.

“From grant writing to teaching to service commitments and more, we know our researchers have a lot on their plates in addition to their research,” said Anantha Shekhar, MD, PhD, executive associate dean for research affairs at IU School of Medicine. “We want to help faculty maximize their time and energy – in this case, when it comes to their research labs – so they can complete more experiments, publish more papers and achieve their research goals sooner.”

For a limited time, faculty researchers and their labs can – at no cost to them – work with an expert team of consultants who will work with them to customize a strategy for increased effectiveness and productivity based on that faculty member’s and/or lab’s needs and goals.

For example, maybe you have a piece of equipment in your lab that you don’t need anymore, but you don’t have anywhere else to put it – that is taking up valuable space that could be used for something else. Or perhaps a lab member’s work space could be further optimized by moving regularly needed equipment and supplies all within arm’s reach, saving them an hour of time per week – that time saved adds up and could be used to do more experiments each year.

The consultants, who are scientists and engineers themselves, are Tim McCarthy, David Greenen and Mark Marley. They have decades of combined experience working in industry labs and consulting on similar projects. And they won’t just make recommendations; they are ready and willing to help labs make those changes too.

Carmel Egan, PhD, associate dean of research affairs at IU School of Medicine, said working with the consultants is a valuable opportunity for researchers to get expert advice that’s personalized for their individual research programs.

“It makes sense,” Dr. Egan said. “We’re scientists and we know how to conduct experiments to answer our research questions, but there’s also a science to how we run our labs, and we should take advantage of that knowledge as well to run the best and most efficient research projects possible.”

Dr. Egan said this is also a great opportunity to influence school leadership about the kinds of resources and changes you’d like to see when it comes to lab management, as the team of consultants will be making their recommendations to leadership based on what they find from working with researchers here.

McCarthy, who is a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt, said his team has already started working with researchers and they are eager to meet with more labs to “help them achieve more of what they want.”

An organic chemist by training, McCarthy has done research and discovery for years in industry. But when he first started, he wasn’t working as efficiently as he could have been.

“I started off doing one or two chemistry experiments per week,” McCarthy said. “But by the time I was a well-oiled machine, I could generate data for four to eight experiments per day, and I had more time to think.”

Efficiency means setting up your lab in a way that helps you achieve that optimal output level, he said. And an unintended – but welcome – consequence is often that you are generating better quality data for which you know your reproducibility, repeatability and bias in and can therefore act on that knowledge. “I went from thinking my data was quality, to having data that told me it was,” he explained.

“That’s how efficiency can make your lab more productive,” McCarthy said. “It’s all a puzzle. No one thing is more important than another. They all fit together.”

If you are interested in engaging the expertise of the consulting team, email Tim McCarthy at timmccar@iu.edu to schedule an initial consultation.

The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.

Author

Andrea Zeek

Senior Content and Media Strategist, IU Studios

Andrea promotes health sciences news and research at Indiana University. Want to interview an IU expert? Contact Andrea at 317-278-1703 or anzeek@iu.edu.