21st August 2021

How to spend your prize money wisely

“The prize money of the Life Sciences Bridge Award is to be spent completely flexible”, we were told at the award ceremony in 2019. As anyone who runs a lab knows, such flexible funds are absolutely worth their weight in gold, and so I initially put them aside instead of spending them straight away. At the time, however, I had no idea how valuable they would become.

In mid-March 2020, the Corona pandemic suddenly hit us all, and my lab decided that we would all work from home until we had a good strategy for continuing to work in a reasonably safe manner. In home office, some group members sewed masks for everyone and we worked out a hygiene concept that included keeping our distance. However, this was not so easy, because at that time we were working in two small laboratories with a total of 10 laboratory places, which were all occupied, and in the summer more Bachelor students were to start. We were able to get a few lab spaces in the neighboring practical room, but they were not enough to comply with the distance rules. One way out would have been shift work, which we introduced briefly. But this meant that each individual was able to work in a much more restricted way, and the group also suffered from the very limited exchange with each other. Fortunately, during my interim evaluation for the junior professorship, I had just been assigned two more small laboratories, but they were not yet equipped. With the help of the prize money, this was not a problem; without further ado, we ordered a cool cabinet, centrifuges, pipettes, refrigerators, freezers, and some other small equipment, so that four more lab spaces could be created while complying with the distance rules.

Of course, we would have loved to buy some new fancy equipment for the prize money. However, considering the fact that the pandemic has kept us in limbo for almost a year and a half now, with no end in sight, the money was certainly very well invested and has enabled us to continue working almost normally. Hopefully, we soon can remove our masks, offer internships to our students without hesitation, and celebrate the many parties that we have postponed until after the pandemic! Then, it will also finally be time to officially inaugurate the new lab space.

Dr. Inga Hänelt, Goethe University Frankfurt