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Break it Down

"Let's talk numbers," says Princeton University's Ethan Perlstein in a post at his blog. "How much does it actually cost to run a small academic lab?"

To answer that, for himself and others, Perlstein has posted a budget for his $200,000 per year, two-employee lab. On average, his lab spends around $17,138 per month, though he notes that some months are considerably more expensive than others. For example, those in which major equipment purchases are made.

"The single most expensive line item is  — you guessed it  — personnel, which [consumes] well over half of my budget," Perstein says. "Experienced technicians are more expensive than trainees (graduate students and postdocs). Based on these numbers, one can begin to understand why the pitched cries over protracted apprenticeships as a form of indentured servitude have a basis in reality."

Second to that, he says, is the combined cost of consumables, reagents, and services.

In a comment, Perlstein breaks down his group's shopping habits, calling Fisher Scientific "the Wal-Mart of laboratory supplies/reagents," and dubbing research service marketplaces Science Exchange — where he has commissioned an ongoing project — and Assay Depot "Craigslists for experiments."

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