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  • Ben Sandkam

We’ve arrived – time to start the lab! But what is a lab?

I’m thrilled that we’ve officially landed in our new laboratory space at Cornell! A little over a year ago we sketched out how we wanted our new space to be designed and over the course of construction we got to work with a fantastic team that included engineers, architects, chemical safety specialists, ADA support advisors, animal care veterinarians, and many many more. Everyone was great to work with and did a fantastic job despite COVID delays to many aspects of the project. Our new space is truly beautiful and will be a great fit for us. But in all the excitement of new space and purchasing new equipment I’m led to reflect on “What is a lab?” and I’ve arrived at what this means to me:


A “lab” isn’t actually a place, it’s a tight knit community of dedicated people who share an interest in asking questions about a topic and figuring out how to answer those questions.

When people hear scientists talk about ‘their lab’ they often assume they’re referring to their “laboratory”- the physical space that houses benches with things like glass beakers and test tubes. And while having dedicated laboratory space is often helpful for housing equipment and providing the space for experiments; more often what is meant by ‘a lab’ is the people that work in the space. Without the people no science can happen, it’s just a collection of equipment and reagents. But even without a laboratory space a dedicated group of people will still make science happen. Over the past year COVID shut down many laboratories around the world, yet labs continued to find ways to come together to ask questions and found ways to answer them with the resources available. All in all, the most important aspect of a lab is the team of people that work together to answer questions. To that end – I’m thrilled to be starting the lab with Dr. Matt Taves, Neel Mehta, and Animish Vaze.



If you’re excited to ask interesting questions about genomics, behavior and/or vision and want to join the lab, please get in touch! We’ll be accepting graduate students through the Neurobiology and Behavior Program to start Fall 2022.

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