Laboratories on the Move: What to Consider When Relocating an Analytical Laboratory


American researchers are moving their laboratories more frequently than ever before. Here’s how that process works, according to scientists who have done it.

More Americans are moving than ever before.

A whopping 8.2 million Americans moved in 2022, up from 7.9 million in 2021, according to the U.S. Census Bureau estimates (1).

For faculty members at American university laboratories, moving is sometimes an essential component to one’s career growth. A recent paper by He and colleagues examined the geographic mobility of American researchers and faculty members (2). Assistant professors, according to the researchers, move around the most often, while full professors are more likely to stay put (2).

American researchers, and their laboratory members, often face difficult decisions when determining whether to move. Professional opportunities, family considerations, and personal preferences regarding the relocation destination all play a role in the decision-making process. There are also important considerations that laboratory managers must consider. For example, they must work with their laboratory transition partner on organizing the transport of their laboratory equipment, which is a cumbersome process (3). Then, they must consider how to transport their samples. Cold-storage samples are of particular concern, because improper refrigeration during transport could render them unworkable once they reach the new laboratory location (3). What makes this challenge even harder is that some samples require an exact refrigeration temperature (3).

The laboratory manager also must consider how the makeup of their laboratory personnel will change, if at all. Will the laboratory workers move with the laboratory or stay put? Figuring out how the team will look following the change is often difficult to predict, depending on the makeup of the laboratory (whether it is filled with graduate or undergraduate-level students). Katelynn Perrault Uptmor, an assistant professor of chemistry at the College of William and Mary, explained that having an undergraduate student-driven laboratory alleviates some of these mobility concerns.

Katelynn Perrault Uptmor is an assistant professor of chemistry at the College of William and Mary. | Image Credit: © Katelynn Perrault Uptmor

Katelynn Perrault Uptmor is an assistant professor of chemistry at the College of William and Mary. | Image Credit: © Katelynn Perrault Uptmor

“Because my research program is significantly undergraduate-driven, I did not have to convince my students to make the transition alongside me,” Perrault Uptmor said, in relation to her move from Chaminade University to the College of William and Mary (4).

Why Analytical Laboratories Move

Analytical laboratories often relocate for more than one reason. For many researchers, moving their laboratory is normally for one of the following reasons: to grow the program, to receive more funding, or a renovation of the building where the laboratory is located (3).

Researchers at academic institutions often have an easier time moving their laboratories because many have a logistical process in place to help lead investigators with the hurdles of relocating an analytical laboratory. However, not all laboratories and organizations have that support structure in place, and the lack of expertise often leads to insufficient planning and unrealistic expectations (5,6).

One of the main reasons why analytical laboratories have been relocating more frequently is because of the instability of research positions (7). Because most research projects are dependent on grants, they can only operate when the funding is in place for the project. For many analytical laboratories, they often lose funding to other projects that are deemed more important or cutting-edge, or they are subject to cuts in the federal budget (8).

This has been an ongoing issue that has been reported on over the last decade. Back in 2013, funding for academic research was already on the decline, and most grants cut back approximately 5% on funding and less grants were awarded (8). This may not sound significant, but that small percentage could be the difference between paying the salaries of the researchers in the laboratory and not paying them. Lost funding, as a result, usually equates to lost jobs (8).

Usually, it is the nontenured track researchers that are the first casualties to these budget cuts, as lead investigators have less money to pay researchers for their laboratories (8). But as funding for these laboratories grow tighter, even the lead investigators may be susceptible to budget cuts, which is a trend to watch for as the 2020s continue.

Considerations for Moving an Analytical Laboratory

Moving is a time-consuming and expensive process. It requires those moving to be very detailed to ensure every piece of delicate equipment is accounted for, and that anything being used for an experiment is accounted for. An analytical laboratory relocation is more complicated than just a regular move, and the stakes are often higher (3). Because of this, laboratory managers often coordinate with planners and moving coordinators.

“As a rule of thumb, cataloging and labeling everything that is moved can save a lot of headaches when getting ready to start research in the new facility and equip the new laboratory; I was lucky that my team did an excellent job at this,” Emanuela Gionfriddo, a professor at the University at Buffalo, told LCGC International (9).

Emanuela Gionfriddo is a professor at the University at Buffalo. | Image Credit: © Emanuela Gionfriddo

Emanuela Gionfriddo is a professor at the University at Buffalo. | Image Credit: © Emanuela Gionfriddo

One of the biggest challenges researchers face, is figuring out the environment that they will be moving to (3). Because of the equipment and technology that will be needed to be fitted into the new laboratory, researchers have to gain a clear understanding of the mechanical and electrical infrastructure in place to know how their new laboratory can be set up in the new location (3).

“It is also important to check (and eventually upgrade) the power supply in terms of emergency lines and types of power outlets and consider plugging the most sensitive instruments into uninterruptible power supply (UPS) systems or emergency power lines,” Gionfriddo said (9).

Apart from the mechanical and electrical infrastructure, researchers must consider other important aspects to a functioning laboratory, including ventilation.

“One must ensure it has adequate temperature control and ventilation, especially when operating instruments like mass spectrometers that can produce heat,” Gionfriddo said (9).

Another important consideration is the status of their research endeavors and preserving the data already collected. Ensuring research integrity is important for academia. This is where having a transition planner is advantageous, scientists told LCGC International. The transition planner can work with the lead investigator or laboratory manager to understand the needs of the laboratory, and how to transport the necessary equipment to the next location.

Moving an analytical laboratory requires extensive planning and preparation, as well as engagement with other individuals who are in positions to facilitate and support the relocation. A typical laboratory relocation is not done overnight; normally, it usually takes 4–6 months of planning to make the transition.

“I started approximately five months prior to my move making lists of different approvals and logistical planning that needed attention,” Perrault Uptmor said (4). “I also had a lot of meetings with different administrative teams at both my origin institution and destination institution during that time.”

Even after an analytical laboratory has relocated, there is still work that lead investigators need to accomplish. Perrault Uptmor explained that once at the new laboratory site, one of the first tasks is building out a recruitment strategy and the research group, especially if none or very few researchers follow the lead investigator to the new location. But doing so could be very rewarding, especially for the new team members.

The students “keep me motivated through all the troubleshooting,” Perrault Uptmor said (4). “I hope that by them being involved in the process of getting my laboratory setup, I’ll be passing on key skills my PhD advisor passed to me many years ago.”


(1) Ismail, M. S. Number and Percentage of State-to-State Movers Increased Between 2021 and 2022. U.S. Census. Available at: (accessed 2024-04-23).

(2) He, Z.; Zhen, N.; Wu, C. Measuring and Exploring the Geographic Mobility of American Professors from Graduating Institutions: Differences Across Disciplines, Academic Ranks, and Genders. J. Infor. 2019, 13 (3), 771–784. DOI: 10.1016/j.joi.2019.05.001

(3) Mooney, S. J. Tips for a Successful Laboratory Clean-Out and Relocation. Available at:,laboratory's%20scientific%20mission%20and%20productivity. (accessed 2024-04-24).

(4) Wetzel, W. Inside the Laboratory: The Nontargeted Separations Laboratory at the College of William & Mary. LCGC International. Available at: (accessed 2024-04-24).

(5) Palluzi, R. P. The Unrecognized Problems of Relocating Laboratories. Chemical Engineering. Available at: (accessed 2024-04-24).

(6) Sayre, R.Lab Relocation Roulette: It's Your Move. Nat. Biotechnol. 2009, 27, 313–315.

(7) Liston, A.; Dooley, J. A Guide to Relocating Your Laboratory. Immun. Cell Biol. 2023, 101 (8), 698–704. DOI: 10.1111/imcb.12665

(8) Price, M. Funding Cuts Ravage Academic Laboratories. Science. Available at: (accessed 2024-04-24).

(9) Wetzel, W. Inside the Laboratory: The Gionfriddo Group at the University at Buffalo. LCGC International. Available at: (accessed 2024-04-24).