Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Who pays for your laptop in the lab?

My graduate advisor did not like desktop computers. Ze was under the impression that people don’t really care for their desktop computers and they quickly get filled up with crap and then become slow. The lab only had desktop computers that were designated for things like the qPCR machine. So we all needed to have laptops. I think this is nice, because then you automatically have a computer if you need to work from home. However, my graduate advisor only paid for 150 euros a year (~$180) towards the purchase of a laptop (and mind you, this came from someone who hirself used laptops like lab notebooks: when one was full, ze would just buy a new one). Considering a graduate project in my homecountry takes 4 years that meant that you got $720 for a laptop (unless you worked on your own laptop for a year, and only then needed a new one, then you only got 3 years worth of money…). Given that I worked in a lab where we did a lot of “big data” type stuff, it basically meant that if you wanted to be able to still process data in your fourth year, you needed a laptop that was more expensive then what our graduate advisor would pay for.

Currently, I am in a lab where most people have desktop computers but some (including me) prefer get a laptop instead. I like to have all my stuff in one place and be able to work from more than one spot without having to remember to put my files on a hard drive or in a dropbox. My current PI paid for my laptop, and for some (but not all) people’s laptops in the lab. The rule was that if you got your own fellowship, you could get a laptop (however, as you might know I did not get a fellowship, but did get a laptop). But after nearly 3.5 years of daily use (to work in the lab and at home but also to watch TV at home) my laptop broke. I don’t have a fellowship yet to pay my own new laptop, and since I will only be in the lab for 5 more months, I decided that I didn’t want to ask my PI for another new laptop. So now I am working on a laptop that I paid for myself. And I know of more labs where people are required to bring a laptop to do work, but have to pay for those themselves. And I understand money is tight and all that, but if lab equipment and consumables are so much more costly than computers, why don’t some PIs equip the people in their lab with decent computers?


  1. My PhD and PD labs provided desktops (PC or Mac) in the lab... nothing else.

  2. When we had many people in our lab the question of who pays for computers was always a very heated topic. Some postdocs came expecting to be outfitted with one, some came with their own and that suited them just fine. Some had their own laptop but preferred to keep it at home so their kids could play on it and demanded we provide one. We've had fights over getting computers and the squeaky postdoc usually got the cheese, so to speak, leaving more timid postdocs fuming but quietly and limping along on some ancient abacus model. Sometimes they'd have to wait for someone to leave to inherit a computer, but because these computers weren't actually owned by their users, they often were not well-cared for, and who wants a computer that is missing keys, encrusted with some kinds of organic substance, or has been beaten on tables to entice it to start up or reawaken?? Now that we are down quite a few postdocs and poor as church-mice , we have a surplus of these relics, but the last guy to arrive absolutely refused to use even the youngest of our crop and expropriated a newer one that is supposed to be connected to an instrument. The squeaky wheel strikes again.
    To complicate matters too, our institution is blatantly financially codependent on Dell and almost openly hostile to Apple products and refused to service them for many years even if they were bonafide lab equipment or belonged to faculty, and they are very popular amongst the faculty here. They will work on PCs if they are lab-fund-bought but won't do a damned thing for our postdoc or grad student's personal PCs even if they are dedicated to their lab work! They sure as heck want us to generate data so we can up their prestige thru papers and grant F&A though. They just don't get that we need some place to put it and analyze it!

  3. Actually I also like to use laptop instead of desktop because on desktop there are so many things to maintain like different types of cables and other things but I frequently use desktop but mostly like to work with laptop. Thanks :)