As part of LAB2050, SmithGroup and Caltech hosted a national forum with academia, private industry, government and students to glean the identity and role of the scientist in the years to come. LAB2050 is a decades-long research initiative to explore the future of laboratory and research trends. The current iteration is people-focused in order to dive deep into who we are designing laboratories for.
Our goals included exploring the notion of the WHOLE scientist as opposed to the physical lab itself; considering current and projected future demographics regarding research scientists and environments; foreseeing ever-evolving researcher attributes, characteristics and aptitudes; and anticipating social dynamics and individual needs in the research space.
Based on what heard from members of Gen Z, industry professionals and scientists, we identified five key takeaways:
- Remote Is Here to Stay: To the extent possible in scientific work, the value of a hybrid approach has been cemented in our culture.
- Humans Need Lunch: Minor and major a-ha moments will always occur during unexpected casual interactions.
- Reverse Mentoring: The younger generation’s voices have much to offer and need to be heard.
- Empathy & Human Connection: Face-to-face interaction is irreplaceable and we must not lose it.
- Trust & Empowerment: Bringing up future generations faster within an organization will replace brain drain.
As one biology student attendee shared, "The future is uncertain, so you have to take advantage in the moment." Many thanks to NASA, DOW, Caltech, City of Hope and the private developer and student community for their insights, observations and dialogue.