Career Story: Chemistry Lab Administrator At A Large University

Chemistry Lab Administrator At A Large University

Job Title: Laboratory Administrator

Type of Company: I work at a large University.

Education: BS in English Literature, Northeastern University

Previous Experience: Right after college I worked as an administrative assistant at a small college, then moved to a large university as a program coordinator running CME courses. My most recent job before my current one was as the conference director for a small medical/legal society.

Job Tasks: I run the day to day operations of a 16-member chemistry laboratory at a large university. My laboratory is one of twenty in the department. The lab members, who are all post-doctoral fellows, conduct research in chemistry.

My job responsibilities are many. I complete the paperwork for hiring and termination of the post-doctoral fellows who work in the lab. I assist the international lab members in getting visas to work in the US. I develop and monitor the lab's operating budget. I assist in all aspects of our grants from the National Institutes of Health, a government agency. This includes preparing and submitting the proposals and budgets and making sure the money is being spent according to government regulations. I proofread and edit all manuscripts that are written by group members. I then submit these manuscripts for publication in industry journals.

I order supplies for the lab; everything from pencils and paper to hazardous chemicals. I oversee the purchasing and repair of laboratory equipment. I plan laboratory parties, usually one in the winter and one in the summer. I am the primary contact for the lab, which means I have much interaction with departmental personnel, university officials, and our sponsoring (government) agencies. I also answer the lab phone and create/type all lab correspondence.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of the job is meeting many new people from all over the world. Our lab consists mainly of post-docs who are not from the United States. It is wonderful to have such a diverse group of people to work with and learn about their cultures. Another great aspect of the job is planning (and attending) the parties or dinners for the group.

Probably one of the worst parts is having to meet the deadlines set by the regulations of our grant money. There is a deadline for getting the application in, a deadline for spending the money, and a deadline for giving a final report of the particular project.

Job Tips: Believe it or not, anyone pursuing this type of career needs a college education. All of the laboratory administrators in my department have at least a bachelors degree. Some are in the sciences and some are in the arts, it doesn't really matter what the degree is in, as long as you have one.

Also keep in mind that working for a large university usually means they will have continuing education opportunities available to you at little or no cost.

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