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New program to improve lab management

By Andy Fell on September 2, 2005 in University

Improving laboratory practices, and training young researchers to effectively manage people, money and resources, are the aims of two new campus programs.

The Laboratory Management Program, the first of its kind in the country, has been established in cooperation with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Burroughs Wellcome Foundation to develop leadership and management skills for young scientists.

The campus has also appointed its first Good Laboratory Practice Officer, Professor Alice Tarantal in the Department of Pediatrics, School of Medicine. Tarantal will advise campus researchers on meeting federal standards for research that could lead to clinical applications.

"We're doing a really great job of training students in their disciplines, but they get little or no training in management skills," said John Galland, director of the Laboratory Management Ins-titute that will administer the training program.

Twenty postdoctoral fellows from UC Davis will have the opportunity to enroll in the lab management program this year. The course will begin with a two-day workshop, Oct. 25-26, followed by monthly meetings for participants to discuss their work and progress throughout the following year.

New faculty and postdocs need management skills appropriate to a laboratory setting, Galland said. Those skills include leadership and interpersonal skills; goal setting, time- and project management, and managing lab finances; compliance with appropriate laws, regulations and policies; and maintaining professional and ethical standards.

Several factors are driving the need for better lab management training. Large-scale, collaborative and interdisciplinary research projects are becoming more common, requiring lab directors to manage larger and more diverse teams. Research costs and budgets have also grown. Regulations on everything from the protection of human subjects in studies to the handling of infectious agents or hazardous chemicals have become tougher and more complex.

UC Davis has more than 2,200 laboratories and 1,400 animal care facilities, Galland said. Poor lab management can be costly: nationally, some 20 laboratories have had to suspend work in recent years because of non-compliance with regulations, at a cost of more than $100 million.

As the campus's newly appointed Good Laboratory Practice Officer, Tarantal will assist researchers in understanding and implementing laboratory standards set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The FDA requires the standards for pre-clinical research studies that will later be used to support applications to the agency, for example, pharmaceutical approvals.

"It's about standards and how a study conduct is documented in order to assure quality and integrity," Tarantal said.

Scientific management

The need for meeting Good Laboratory Practice standards at UC Davis is driven especially by the recent and growing interest in research with stem cells, including embryonic stem cells, and related areas. Tarantal, who conducts research on using stem cells to treat heart, lung and blood diseases, has experience in conducting studies to Good Laboratory Practice standards.

Earlier this year, Galland was selected to represent UC Davis at a course on scientific management organized by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Burroughs Wellcome Foundation. Participating institutions agreed to establish training programs on their campuses. UC Davis' new program fulfills that requirement and goes some way beyond it, Galland said.

"We hope that the participants will receive something that they will use to be more efficient, more productive and to better enjoy their work," Galland said.

Galland will give an introduction to the new program, noon-1 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 6 in the AGR room at the Buehler Alumni and Visitors Center.

For more information, contact John Galland, Applications for the program for postdocs are due in the Office of Research by Friday, Sept. 30. For details on GLP standards, see

Media contact(s)

Andy Fell, Research news (emphasis: biological and physical sciences, and engineering), 530-752-4533,