Lab Tour

Telling Your Lab Story

If your lab is conducting research that may not affect a patient for many years, you can still illustrate the eventual impact your work will have. Some of the most profound changes in biomedical engineering have taken a long time to come to fruition.

The best way to illustrate the impact of your research is to relate your research story to your legislator. How is the patient treated today? How will that patient be treated when your research is completed? How will your research change or even revolutionize the treatment paradigm?

Consider inviting a patient or several patients with the condition or disease you are working to treat or resolve. Patients can be powerful allies in your efforts to tell your research story. They can explain their disease or condition and their current treatment options. You and your staff can then show your legislator the transformative effect of your research on patients’ future treatment options.

The lab tour combined with the patients’ experiences can illustrate the critical nature of your work and the absolute necessity of a reliable funding stream. Throughout your tour, remember to relate every aspect back to the final patient outcomes you plan to achieve.

Lab Tour How-To

Scheduling the Tour

 Look-up your Members of Congress. Determine the lawmakers served by your university lab.

  • Draft your Invitation to your Members of Congress to visit your lab. Briefly describe your area of research in lay terms. Invite the Congressperson/Senator to tour your lab and see the impact of medical and biological engineering funding in his/her local district.
  • Send your invitation.
    • Email your letter to the office of your Congressman/Congresswoman. Be sure to edit the draft letter text on the AIMBE Advocate website to personalize for your needs.
    • Follow-up one-week after your invitation has been sent.

Planning the Tour

  • Plan a one-hour tour. What two or three key messages do you want to convey about your research? How has the funding enabled you to achieve certain goals?  How will future funding help you reach specific objectives?
    • What do you want to show your legislator?
    • What do you want to discuss with your legislator?
    • How much time should you allocate for Q and A?
  • Research your representative or senator. What committees does he or she sit on? Investigate his/her website and determine if s/he has issued press releases in support of medical research. Can any parallels be drawn to the type of research you are conducting?
  • Contact your Chair, Dean, Chancellor, and Provost. Make sure they are aware of the dates of the tour and invite them to participate.
  • Contact your Government Relations Office. Let them know that you are planning a tour for a legislative representative to demonstrate how your NIH funds are used.
  • Contact campus security and your media relations department. Campus security can provide parking and additional support needed by the lawmaker. Your media relations department can provide a photographer and/or videographer to capture the tour for media purposes.

Conducting the Tour

  • Thank the Legislative Representative for his/her support of federal research funding and for taking time to tour your lab.
  • Address your legislator’s interests. Before starting the tour, ask your legislator if s/he has any specific interests or issues related to medical research. Include plenty of time to address the interests and issues of your legislator.
  • Engage your legislator and keep your tour highly interactive. Give the representative or senator hands-on experiences. Ask the legislator’s opinion on research funding and seek questions throughout the tour.
  • Show your legislator the benefits of your government funding to the local economy. How many people do you employ? How many jobs has your lab created?
  • Underscore the critical role of federal funding to your continued research. Who funds your research—NIH, NSF, DoD or other agencies?
  • Demonstrate the way(s) your research will benefit patients. Even if your research may not be ready for the “bedside” for some time, explain its potential to change patients’ lives. What is the standard of care now? How will your research change that treatment?
  • Communicate your messages clearly and concisely.
    • Avoid scientific jargon. Use simple analogies to explain complex scientific concepts.
    • Translate your research to the “bedside” by offering examples of how this research will be used.
  • Take photos of the lawmaker visiting your lab. Tweet the photos to your lawmakers and share broadly with your university and colleagues.

Following the Tour

  • Inform AIMBE about your tour. Please send a short summary about your tour, with photos, to AIMBE Executive Director Milan Yager at
  • Send “thank you” letters. Each person involved in the lab tour should send a personal “thank you” letter to the representative or senator following the tour.