PI Crash Course: Skills for Future or New Lab Leaders

June 10-11, 2024 | In-person training

The most recent PI Crash Course was on June 10-11, 2024. Sign up below to hear about the next training!

The Principal Investigator (PI) Crash Course is a two-day intensive boot camp of seminars, discussions, and hands-on activity sessions to provide exposure to fundamental leadership and management skills and tools needed for success in your lab.

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Jump to: Overview | Audience & Requirements | Instructors | Scholarships | Locations | Testimonials | Registration Fees | Additional Information

PI Crash Course Overview

Summer 2024 dates: In-person training June 10-11, 2024; 9am - ~5:00pm EST

This two-day intensive crash course integrates the principle skills that future and new PIs did not develop during their post-doctoral training, but will be necessary to survive as a new Lab leader and manager. Whether you are a doctoral student, postdoc, new PI, or looking to start your own lab, as a lab leader you will immediately be confronted on daily basis by a variety of situations that you must be prepared to handle. This crash course will provide you the tools you need to start your lab on the right foot.

Led by a team of experienced leaders and scientists in the field of environmental sciences, epigenetics, genomics, epidemiology, immunology, neuroscience and bioinformatics, this workshop will integrate lectures with hands-on sessions to put eight key “survival skills” into practice: Negotiating, Staffing, Leading, Mentoring, Managing People, Managing time, Managing projects, and Networking. Emphasis will be given to leadership styles, leadership vision, self-awareness, successful delegation, responsibility, problem solving, adaptability, communication techniques, goal setting, and strategizing. The Crash Course will conclude with a panel discussion with successful PIs at different stages of their careers, ranging from Assistant Professors to Department Chairs.

By the end of the workshop, participants will be familiar with the following topics:

  • Negotiation skills for a new position/promotion/collaboration/publication
  • Staffing skills for job posts/candidate screening/interviews/hiring
  • Leadership and mentoring skills in the Lab
  • People management: day-to-day/conflict resolution/misconduct/promotions/layoffs
  • Time management: balancing research, teaching, service/when & how to say No
  • Project management: planning/tracking progress/meeting deadlines/introduction to management software
  • Network creation and maintenance: mentors/collaborators/supporters
  • Real-life lab leader success stories and best tips from early-stage and experienced investigators

Audience and Requirements

Senior post-doctoral students and associate research scientists from any institution about to start their independent position search are particularly welcome to attend, and we strongly encourage new and recent PIs to participate as it is never too late to get an overview of the survival skills that you will need throughout your career.

What's the difference between the PI Crash Course and PI's Business of Research Boot Camp?

The SHARP Program offers two professional development programs geared towards PIs: PI Crash Course and the PI's Business of Research Boot Camp. PI Crash Course is for transitioning into a faculty position and navigating the first years of this position. PI Crash Course is about obtaining key skills to successfully start your research group whereas PI’s Business of Research is for those leading more established research groups and more focused on day-to-day operation of that group almost as a ‘business’. PI Crash Course includes negotiation skills, determining your leadership style, and how to build a colleague network to support you as a junior faculty member, whereas PI's Business of Research Boot Camp looks at the group you are leading with budgeting, setting up team meetings and a deeper dive into project management, and internal workings of the team. There is some overlapping themes between the two trainings, but PI Crash Course is core career development skills for the individual, and PI's Business of Research Boot Camp is more operational/management skills for the group you lead.

There are no prerequisites to attend the PI Crash Course.


Course Director: Diane Re, PhD, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University. ​

Joan Casey, PhD, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, University of Washington.

Julie Herbstman, MSc, PhD, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University.

Shane Liddelow, PhD, Grossman School of Medicine, New York University.

Matthew Perzanowski, PhD, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University. ​

Parisa Tehranifar, DrPH, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University.

Robert Wright, MD, MPH, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Speakers are subject to change. Panelists are separate from this list of instructors.


Training scholarships are available for the PI Crash Course.


Summer 2024: The PI Crash Course will be a live, in-person training taking place June 10-11, 2024 from 9am - 5pm EDT at the Columbia University Irving Medical Campus in NYC. All training start and end times are in EDT.


"Fantastic workshop on leadership perfectly preparing on all the skills necessary to be a successful PI. I think it is particularly well suited for postdocs ready to transition to the independent position (interviewing or having received the offer)." - Faculty member at Humanitas University, 2023

"An outstanding course which I wish I had taken before "winging it" as a PI for a year. Thanks to this course, I will now approach my responsibilities as a PI more deliberately. I will be recommending this to all my friends who are transitioning to the PI role!" - Faculty member at Boston University, 2023

"The PI Crash Course provided all of the practical information that is often lacking in standard training. This two-day concentrated experience was a worthwhile immersion of self-reflection, peer engagement, and motivating tips and tricks to navigate a career in academic research." - Faculty member at University of Kansas Medical Center, 2023

Additional Testimonials

"This course provided the opportunity to gain insight from the myriad of ways to be successful in science, with many different kinds of tools and strategies for managing people, time and expectations." - Faculty member at the Oregon Health and Science University, 2022

"The PI crash course was a great overview of several skills and topic that are generally not discussed in grad school/postdoc training. All the speakers were incredibly interesting and generous, and I warmly recommend this training to senior postdocs/early career faculty. My only complaint is that the training was too short (I would have taken more)!" - Postdoc at Harvard University, 2022

"As an early career investigator, just being promoted to Assistant Professor at the time of the course, I found this course crucial and very timely to get all the keys to successfully transition into an independent investigator and new PI. This 2-days course covers a lot of important and essential topics, from negotiation (position, start-up package, solving conflicts), to management (of project, time and people), and provides tips on how to be a good/better manager and leader, and develop and expand network of collaborators." - Faculty member at UT Health Science Center at Houston, 2022

"Every trainee even considering R1 PIship should take this course; the applicability and specificity of content cannot be compared. This is an incredibly valuable investment for PIs." - Trainee at the NIH, 2022

"This course was absolutely amazing and exceeded all of my expectations. As a postdoc I now feel more prepared to receive my first grant and go on the job market." - Postdoc at the University of Central Florida, 2022

"Great course, lots of interaction and activities - covered relevant topics for all career stages. Wish I had a course like this earlier in my career - very helpful shared future resources - thank you!" - Faculty member at University of Iowa, 2021

"The PI Crash Course touched on topics and issues that not typically discussed and often seem taboo to discuss at work. The course will be helpful for establishing a well-run lab that students will be excited to join." - Carrie D., Postdoc at Ohio State University, 2021

"The PI Crash Course provides hands-on experience and open dialogue with leaders in their respective fields to help early career/junior faculty navigate the challenges of starting and successfully running a wet, humid, or dry lab." - Kalisha B., Postdoc at Emory University, 2021

"A great environment to learn in, with very approachable, real instructors." - Natoshia A., Faculty member at University of Iowa, 2021

"The skills that all PIs need, and nobody teaches in "formal" training." - Postdoc at University of Bordeaux, 2021

"This course is a wonderful opportunity to develop personal and professional skills for the advancement of a successful academic career as a junior faculty member. In addition, it is a fantastic way to meet and network with other young investigators within your peer group." - Faculty member at Cold String Harbor Laboratory, 2020 virtual training

"Very valuable and useful resources for all postdocs who are transitioning into faculty positions and new PIs. I strongly recommend to all postdocs who are embarking into research independence! As researchers, we need more training like this!" - Postdoc at Cornell University, 2020 virtual training

"I am a tenured Associate Professor. I wish I had the course when I started. There are so many valuable experiences and advice that I wish I had known earlier to make me a more effective PI." - Faculty member at the University of Kentucky, 2020 virtual training

"This course gave me a brief synopsis of almost everything I need to know and be thinking about before setting up my own lab in the future. So helpful, and everyone should be required to take a course like this before becoming a PI!" - Postdoc at University of California, Irvine, 2020 virtual training

"The PI Crash Course provided incredibly valuable information in working with collaborators, managing a lab, and assessing and knowing your own leadership style. The format and detail in the sessions was unlike any other training I had received previously and will be foundational to my efforts to start a new lab." - Faculty member at the University of Puerto Rico Medical Center, 2020 virtual training

"As an individual who is in the midst of transitioning from postdoctoral fellowship to an assistant professor position, this PI Crash Course has more than covered the basics on how to successfully do so, and covers all of the advice of things to do and potential pitfalls to avoid in order to launch my lab (and career) successfully!" - Postdoc at the University of Minnesota, 2020 virtual training

"This was the most important and informative boot camp I have taken to prepare for my faculty position.  It covered all the main topics I was hoping for, the faculty were exceptional, the course director was fabulous and the breakout group sessions and handouts were super helpful and fun!  I think every future or new PI should take this course!" - Postdoc at the NIH, 2020 virtual training

"Taking the Crash Course as a doctorate student, the course helped me not only in planning ahead for my future career but also how to better manage and supervise my undergraduate mentees." - Student at Purdue University, 2020 virtual training

"While I have heard some of these topics before it was great to have a dedicated time to focus on developing my skills as a PI. I plan to implement several things I learned into my lab immediately." - Faculty member at the University of Mississippi, 2020 virtual training

"The mix of lectures/break out sessions/discussion panel in the PI Crash Course was excellent. Overall, I learned lots of great tools that I am looking forward to applying once I start my own lab next year." - Postdoc at the University of Washington, 2020 virtual training

"The PI Crash Course provided succinct and sage advice on some of the greatest challenges faced by early career scientists. I appreciated that the messaging was useful both for senior postdocs and new PIs." - Faculty member at UNC Chapel Hill, 2020 virtual training

"This useful course covered both the hard and soft skills necessary to get a jump start on the early academic career phase. I enjoyed how the virtual format still encouraged participation and networking opportunities." - Postdoc at UNC Chapel Hill, 2020 virtual training

"The sessions were useful, interactive ways to gain information and skills that are critical to preparing to be a PI, but often learned "on the job." This course made me more prepared to take on theses aspects." Heather D., Weill Cornell, 2019

"The PI Crash Course provided a focused thought experiment for how I want to run my lab and how I will approach the etiquette situations we are not formally prepared for during our training." - Anonymous Postdoc, 2019

"The course was very useful and gave me many tips on how to manage this tricky period of my career. It also helped to feel alright about struggling sometimes and find solutions to avoid/improve some situations." - Faculty member at Thomas Jefferson University, 2019

"I'm a Senior post-doc considering junior PI positions and was a bit worried by the huge operation opening a lab represents. The course confirmed it is huge indeed, but empowered me to fee the confidence I could do it, giving me really practical tools and/or know where to look for help." - Marie L., Columbia University, 2019

The PI Crash Course gave me insight into things I wasn't aware I didn't know. It gave me tools to address those deficiencies and resources to continue to strengthen these skills. - Faculty member at Albany College of Pharmacy, 2018

Very valuable resource for all postdocs who are transitioning into faculty positions.  I strongly recommend to all postdocs who have particular interest to start their own lab, or in developing their careers as professors. - Suresh A., postdoc at Weil Cornell Medicine, 2018

Very informative; a good focus on the mindset change required going from lab participant to lab leader. A new perspective of softer skills not covered in other academic courses. - Lucas H., Postdoc at Harvard University, 2018

This course was like a "mini retreat meets business school for academics" and came at the perfect time, as I just started my new faculty position.  We need more workshops like this that are less science and more business leadership. - Anonymous Faculty member, 2018

Registration Fees

  Early-Bird Rate (through 4/10/24) Regular Rate (4/11/24 - 6/3/24) Columbia Discount*
Student/Postdoc/Trainee    $695 $795 10%
Faculty/Academic Staff/Non-Profit Organizations/Government Agencies   $895 $995 10%
For-Profit Organizations $1,095 $1,195 NA


*Columbia Discount: This discount is valid for any active student, postdoc, staff, or faculty at Columbia University. If paying by credit card, use your Columbia email address during the registration process to automatically have the discount applied. If paying by internal transfer within Columbia, submit this Columbia Internal Transfer Request form to receive further instructions. Please note: filling out this form is not the same as registering for a training and does not guarantee a training seat.  

Invoice Payment: If you would prefer to pay by invoice/check, please submit this Invoice Request form to receive further instructions. Please note: filling out this form is not the same as registering for a training and does not guarantee a training seat.

Registration Fee:

  • For in-person summer trainings: Registration Fee includes course material, breakfast, and lunch on training days. Course material will be available to all attendees during and after the workshop. Lodging and transportation are not included.
  • For virtual winter trainings: Registration fee includes course material, which will be made available to all participants both during and after the conclusion of the training.

Cancellations: Cancellation notices must be received via email at least 30 days prior to the training start date in order to receive a full refund, minus a $75 administrative fee. Cancellation notices received via email 14-29 days prior to the training will receive a 75% refund, minus a $75 administrative fee. Please email your cancellation notice to Columbia.SPH.PI@gmail.com. Due to workshop capacity and preparation, we regret that we are unable to refund registration fees for cancellations <14days prior to the training.

If you are unable to attend the training, we encourage you to send a substitute within the same registration category. Please inform us of the substitute via email at least one week prior to the training to include them on attendee communications, updated registration forms, and materials. Should the substitute fall within a different registration category your credit card will be credited/charged respectively. Please email substitute inquiries to Columbia.SPH.PI@gmail.com. In the event Columbia must cancel the event, your registration fee will be fully refunded.

Additional Information

The PI Crash Course is hosted by Columbia University's SHARP Program at the Mailman School of Public Health.

Jump to: Overview | Audience & Requirements | Instructors | Scholarships | Locations | Testimonials | Registration Fees | Additional Information