Establishing a New Clinical-Translational Research Laboratory

Tony Wilson The first Early-Career Research Faculty Forum topic is, “Establishing a New Clinical-Translational Research Laboratory.” In other words, how do you build a new research program from the ground up? What do you prioritize? It can be complicated and daunting to establish a new laboratory. Please feel free to ask any questions you may have related to building a new laboratory and research program. Such topics may include, but are not limited to, organizing your research space, hiring employees, finding collaborators, and obtaining research funding. Additionally, you may also answer others’ questions, and/or enable further discussion related to these topics.

This forum will coincide with a speaker presentation from Dr. Tony Wilson on May 23rd, 2019 at 12pm in the MBHL Conference Room at UNMC. The presentation will also be live-streamed and recorded. Dr. Wilson is a tenured Associate Professor in the Department of Neurological Sciences at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC). He has served as the Director of the Center for Magnetoencephalography (MEG) since its inception, and was recently appointed as the Director of the newly-established Core for Advanced Magnetic Resonance Imaging (CAMRI). Since arriving at UNMC as a new investigator 10 years ago, Dr. Wilson has obtained R01-level funding from the National Institute of Mental Health, National Institute of Drug Abuse, the National Science Foundation, the American Heart Association, and other national organizations. In addition, his graduate students have obtained mentored fellowship funding under his direction from the NIH. He currently maintains a laboratory with multiple research assistants, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and other staff members. During his presentation, Dr. Wilson will provide insight into his experience building an internationally-recognized human clinical-translational neuroimaging laboratory, and will also take questions from CTR members and the audience regarding establishing a new laboratory and research program.

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Looking forward to this talk. I was wondering if you could touch on what you found to be most helpful when trying to balance and prioritize manuscripts, grant submissions, teaching, and administrative duties. Thanks!

    1. Dr. Wilson discussed the challenges with balancing all these priorities as an early career research faculty member and indicated that there are many long hours associated with starting an academic research career. He emphasized the importance of offloading teaching responsibilities and delaying administrative duties during the first few years of developing a new research program. Additionally, Dr. Wilson equally prioritized manuscripts and grant submissions with one caveat; unfunded grant proposals are not reflected in a CV or as a part of promotion and tenure application. Therefore, funding proposals should be submitted; however, this is not at the cost of significantly reducing manuscript production. Funding agencies take into consideration research output and do not look highly upon gaps where manuscripts were not published.

  2. Could Dr. Wilson and others provide insight on how you have recruited graduate students and postdocs. What has worked and what has not?

    1. Dr. Wilson cautioned individuals from hiring postdocs too early, as sometimes there isn’t much of a difference in experience or age, and in some cases a postdoc might have more experience than you do as a new investigator, which might create an awkward dynamic. He had success in recruiting a tech to work with the MEG which offloaded a significant amount of his work. He then successfully recruited undergraduate and graduate students through associated programs while growing his lab to draw from a larger national pool of students. It was especially helpful when undergraduate students decided to return as a graduate research assistant.

  3. What influence did establishing collaborators have when starting your lab? As an early career faculty, how do you start those conversations and establish meaningful collaborations?

    1. Collaboration has been essential to Dr. Wilson’s successful research program. He noted that it took time to find engaged collaborators and that finding those collaborators at times required him to “pivot” his research. By taking his research methodologies and applying them to a slightly different clinical question, he was able to transition his research to work with identified collaborators and pursue funding opportunities with higher success rates.

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