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Flex Lab Frequently Asked Questions

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What is the Institute Flex Lab?

The state-of-the-art Flex Lab is designed to function as a collaborative facility for global sustainability and energy research. The lab serves as a major hub to accelerate and showcase research in these highly interdisciplinary fields at Northwestern University. Collaborative, team-science research projects between groups at Northwestern and other universities, industry, and national laboratories are performed at the facility. The Institute builds and encourages international and domestic team science by leasing its lab space to research teams engaged in high impact sustainability and energy projects.

Who is able to use the Flex Lab?

The Flex Lab space is available to Northwestern faculty members and student groups, as well as researchers from academic, non-profit, public-sector, and industry partners. Research teams must be sponsored by at least one Northwestern faculty member or senior research staff member.

I want to partner with the Institute and use the Flex Lab. What steps do I need to take?

Researchers wishing to utilize the lab space should submit an application. Prospective research teams must be sponsored by at least one Northwestern faculty member or senior research staff member. An occupant whose application is approved is required to enroll in relevant university safety training programs, which is mandatory for all researchers that utilize campus lab spaces. More information on the trainings can be found at Northwestern’s Office for Research Safety.

What kinds of research projects typically occupy the Flex Lab?

Preferential priority is given to applicants whose projects meet the following criteria:

  • Address core focus areas for the Institute's research portfolio (solar energy/fuels, catalysis, sustainable materials, climate and carbon science, water, and resilient communities); particularly with respect to Institute research goals outlined in the Institute Prospectus and consistent with the Institute's Strategic Plan priorities.
  • Include researchers from, or provide collaboration mechanisms with, public/private partners that can provide pathways for application of discovery/technology (e.g. demonstration-scale follow-on projects).
  • Engage junior-level faculty and researchers from underrepresented groups.

For how long are researchers allowed to use the Flex Lab?

Research projects must have a defined scope and associated timeline and typically range from three months to two years.

I want to use the Flex Lab. Am I allowed to bring in large, specialized equipment or modify the space to meet my research needs?

Yes. The large, flexible lab space is able to accommodate a wide variety of specialized equipment and alterations. Occupants requiring modifications may be responsible for covering the associated costs. Specific questions should be directed to Ryan Young, Director of Laboratory Research, at or (847) 467-2918.

Is there office space available at the Flex Lab?

Yes. The Flex Lab has a limited number of adjoining offices for researchers, project coordinators, and students. The lab also houses a fully equipped conference room (multimedia connections, flat-screen television, conference call hook-up, etc.) and an open collaboration space.

Does the Flex Lab offer on-site support?

Yes. A staff member is available on-site to facilitate occupants’ research and ensure that the lab is functioning properly at all times.

Who should I contact if I’m interested in partnering with the Institute and possibly using the Flex Lab?

Contact Demetria Giannisis, Paula M. Trienens Institute for Sustainability and Energy Managing Director, at or (847) 467-0863.

Who should I contact with technical questions about the Flex Lab (lab specs, room modifications, etc.)?

Contact Ryan Young, Director of Laboratory Research, at or (847) 467-2918.