I'm going to be starting a research lab as a junior faculty, what is a good strategy for coming up with a lab name?

How important is a lab name in differentiating yourself in the field or potentially attracting graduate students?

Is it common for one to use their last name, i.e. 'Smith Lab' or should it be a term from the research domain?

  • 2
    I like "Smith's Research Domain." It imbues some sort of implicit domination. Really though, at my university, individual faculty get "NAME Lab" and groups of faculty get specialty names when working together.
    – Chris C
    Commented Jun 10, 2016 at 15:26
  • 4
    In some universities (US) you will need to be careful because certain designations must be officially approved at a very high level because the word has some sort of legalese meaning (i.e., Smith's "Center' for Great stuff needs high level approval, but Smith's Institute (or Lab) for Great Stuff doesn't need anyones. (Or vice-versa). Seriously, if the lab name is what is keeping you up nights, then I'd worry about you.
    – Carol
    Commented Jun 10, 2016 at 16:25
  • 1
    I've always hated the "Smith Lab" naming convention (which Smith? at which university? which years?), but my PhD advisor had a straightforward lab name the "CFD Lab" for Computational Fluid Dynamics Lab, which no one outside our university ever used, and there were lots of similar names within engineering and computing departments for their version of a similar thing (Comp. Fluid Mechanics Lab, Comp. Fluid Phys. Lab, etc., etc.). I don't think the lab name is useful at all for junior faculty unless you're already or nearly a rock star in your field.
    – Bill Barth
    Commented Jun 10, 2016 at 16:27
  • 6
    Obligatory Ph.D. Comic
    – tonysdg
    Commented Jun 10, 2016 at 19:38
  • @Bill Barth, like your last sentence. This is the exact concluding remark in the above discussion.
    – Mithun
    Commented Jun 11, 2016 at 15:14

1 Answer 1


You should use your own name in the name of your lab because it (likely) has existing name recognition. You should not include the subject of research in the lab name because it will evolve over time and shut you out of potential collaborations beyond the subject stated in the name.

  • 5
    I'd never name a lab after myself: traditionally, in my country, if there is a lab named after a person, it's because he or she is dead... Commented Jun 13, 2016 at 5:30
  • 1
    I second @MassimoOrtolano. It works the same in my (a different) country.
    – ASR
    Commented Apr 15, 2018 at 14:35
  • I think this varies by discipline. I think in biology "Smith lab" is the standard, but in computer science it would border on arrogance and instead the lab is named after the subject of inquiry.
    – Thomas
    Commented Jun 11, 2019 at 21:50

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .