EDITOR'S NOTE: Confident/Somewhat Confident
The good news from this year’s confidence report is that the laboratory industry, by and large, is moving in the right direction—forward—though in slightly smaller steps than we would have hoped. But as author Angelo DePalma writes in this month’s cover story, “Steady as She Goes,” “Survival is not a dirty word in a world recovering from catastrophic financial shenanigans, and toward that end treading water is not such a terrible strategy.” If you didn’t participate in this year’s survey, let me know if these results are in line with your own feeling of confidence as you head into 2013.
Fifth Annual Investment Confidence Report
Lab Manager Magazine’s 2012 Investment Confidence Survey, conducted in late Q4 2012, revealed a slight increase in optimism compared with the end-of-year 2011 survey. The good news is that on average survey takers were no more pessimistic than they were a year ago. Sixty-three percent of respondents indicated a managerial or supervisory role, compared with scientific or engineering job titles at 23.4% and technician or “other” at 13.6%. Figure 2 illustrates the percentage of respondents falling into various technical disciplines. R&D, QC, operations, and technical services were by far the leading categories, comprising 74.7% of all respondents.
The Procurement Dilemma
The Prisoner’s Dilemma, a classic game theory scenario, perhaps best illustrates the quandary confronting two parties, wherein cooperation and trust is the high road best taken, and acting in one’s own self-interest the low road to doom. Under the rules of the game, two accomplices are interrogated separately. Should one decide to implicate the other, he or she will go free, while his or her partner in crime is jailed for ten years. If both confess, each gets five years. But if neither talks, both get off lightly. It’s a clear win-win, the best possible outcome—yet can they rely on one another to follow suit?
Leadership and Staffing
Resolving Conflict in the Workplace
Most managers and employees fear conflict at work because it can reduce productivity, negatively impact teamwork, and consume valuable time that could be better spent elsewhere. Unfortunately, conflict is inevitable, since there are always differences of opinion and interests in the workplace, so we might as well learn to deal with it. How does conflict arise? There are several common causes of conflict in the workplace: interpersonal relations, organizational issues, change, and external sources. It usually starts out with two or more employees avoiding each other or just harboring negative feelings but can eventually develop into outright hostility and even violence.
Defining the New Art of Risk Management
Risk management in this economy goes well past the usual definitions of safety and compliance. Risk management is often identified in terms of assessment and prioritization of risks from uncertainty, project failures, legal liabilities, and, most of all, accidents. What seems to be challenging the scientific working world, and what has influence over all these possible factors, however, are the people who execute critical roles—the people who process and manage our projects in a laboratory, those who conduct research and development, and those who oversee manufacturing environments. Therefore, a risk management strategy as it relates to talent, succession planning, training, professional development, and, most of all, the acquisition of new talented resources is the largest risk to our business being successful.
Leadership and Staffing
Harboring a Hoarder?
In laboratories and research facilities around the world, you will sometimes come across a very peculiar type of person. The first clue that you have met a member of this distinct species comes when you try to borrow a flask or reagent from them. The second is their need for having several dozen full boxes of pipette tips in stock. And the third is that they have more empty flasks, Petri dishes and test tubes in their cabinets than the rest of your coworkers combined. But it won’t be until you actually uncover their enormous stash of unused laboratory supplies that you will know for certain that you’ve met a lab hoarder.
Motivate Your Lab
Even though he had just landed a grant for an exciting new project to study why and when people fail to monitor their progress towards a goal, University of Sheffield social psychologist Thomas Webb was a little stressed. “It’s only me and the two postdocs, and I knew it would come down to my management style,” at least as far as getting the work done. So he set up weekly meetings, in which the group outlined the tasks that needed to be performed and set deadlines for each task.
HPC Storage Solutions
Do you like Pringles™ potato chips? Do you use skin lotion? Have you noticed all the new planets outside our solar system that have been recently discovered? When you’ve flown, have you noticed the funny tails that are on the wing tips? Have you seen the new cancer-fighting drugs that are tailored to individuals and their tumors? All these things and many others are made possible by HPC (high performance computing). HPC is quickly becoming an important tool in many companies, research institutes, and universities.
Prepared for Power Failure?
Although the concept of a checklist has been regarded as a foundation of standardization and operational safety in government and industry services for some time, such techniques have generally escaped the scrutiny of the human factor industry. Most laboratory operators budgeting for and installing new equipment tend to overlook key elements of their projects. This oversight results in missing the full scope of the required tasks, which usually lands the laboratory or project manager on the short side of funding, time, materials, and human resources when contemplating and/ or installing a capital improvement project.
ASK THE EXPERT: Latest in Field Instruments: Applications for Water Testing
Matthew Sullivan, an environmental specialist in the Field Operations section of the Bureau of Environmental Services for the city of Portland, Oregon, talks to contributing editor Tanuja Koppal, Ph.D., about how field testing, particularly for water analysis, has changed over the years. The testing equipment is now better suited for field analysis, in terms of its size, compactness, and robustness. The newer instruments have also allowed for sampling and testing to be done remotely and in an automated fashion. Overall, field instrumentation is striving to provide faster, cheaper, more robust, and more real-time measurements for routine analysis.
Most Exciting Time Since Abbe
Microscopy is evolving toward greater functionality and capabilities. The Auriga FIB SEM platform from Carl Zeiss (Thornwood, NY) has been around for 11 years yet undergoes constant improvement. The system combines two distinct technologies: scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and focused ion beam (FIB). SEM’s capability of providing very high-resolution surface analysis is well known in the life sciences, materials, and semiconductor industries. SEM provides detail significantly beyond the diffraction limit of light microscopy, illuminating structures and events down to about 1nm.
More Than Just Power Supplies
Since standard laboratory equipment contains its own individually designed power supplies that plug into standard electrical outlets, many labs rarely use external power supplies—mostly for specialty applications, instrument testing, and design.
Specific Applications Require Particular Features
A glove box consists of a sealed box with the inside accessible only by gloves. “Although their use is getting broader all the time,” says Laura Geenen, product manager at Bel-Arts Products (Wayne, NJ), “they are really used for two basic ideas: Protect what you work on from the environment, such as an analytic balance on a production floor, or protect you from what you work on, such as a virus.”
Stirrers and Shakers
Customization, Shrinking Size, and Other Features Open New Applications
Assays from academics to industry require shakers. In the life sciences, for example, Ira Augenzucker, product line manager at Labnet International, a Corning Life Sciences company in Edison, NJ, says, “The new uses of shakers basically mimic what you see in the industry, which is an increase in the use of genomics.” He adds, “Shakers are used in almost every application in some fashion.” For example, he points out the wide use of shakers in cell culture work.
Lab Health & Safety
Blood, Sweat, and Fears
A significant concern for scientists in biohazard labs is preventing contact with potentially contaminated human body fluids, whether it is during collection of samples or during evaluation and analysis in the laboratory. Inadvertent exposure to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis B virus (HBV), or other human pathogens is a potential occupational risk that should never be overlooked. Even so, needlesticks, cuts, splashes, and other events contribute to an alarming number of exposures each year. This month the Safety Guys aim to raise awareness and discuss the prevention of blood-borne pathogen (BBP) exposures, beginning with an overview of the OSHA standard and a discussion of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s universal precautions.
Organize a Safety Committee
Your department should have a safety committee. Academic institutions and companies should all have safety committees. The committees should consist of employees, supervisors, faculty, staff, administration, and students.
Are you In The Market for an HPLC System?
High-performance/pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC) is, for many scientists, an essential chromatographic technique. HPLC systems used for the separation, identification, purification and quantification of various chemical and biochemical solutions are composed of a pump, a sample injector, a separation column, a detection unit, and a data-processor.
Are You In The Market For a Lab Oven?
While nobody gets excited about lab ovens, they are definitely essential lab components— drying glassware, controlling crucial temperature experiments, drying reagents and desiccants, annealing and curing materials and much more. The past couple of decades have brought big changes in lab ovens.
Are You In The Market For a Microscope?
While the technology & fundamental operation behind visible light microscopes has not changed much in 200 years, the wider field of microscopy has continued to greatly evolve. The confluence of advances in imaging, computing, microscopy, and reagent technologies mean live cell imaging has become one of the most exciting subcategories of biological microscopy.
Perspective On: A Biofuel Lab
Analytical laboratories are prominent—they are veritable nerve centers—in biofuel production facilities because of their crucial role in assuring quality, in guiding efficient and economic feedstock processing, and in driving research on next-generation products and enhanced processing technologies.
Need for New Abilities Drives Upgrades and New Purchases
The need for new capabilities— for new experiments and assays—is the major reason end-users need to either upgrade their current microplate readers or buy a new instrument. Edward Dell, Ph.D., BMG LABTECH international marketing director, adds that microplate readers often have multiple users, meaning there is lots of wear and tear on these instruments. Filters are also known to degrade over time and moving parts such as motors and belts can become misaligned. If maintenance can’t fix these problems, the reader will likely need to be replaced.
Lab Product News
The equipment, instruments, and systems introduced to the laboratory market at Pittcon 2013
How It Works
A Guided Pipetting System
Published studies, such as those documented by Artel®, have shown how a change in environmental barometric pressure creates volume variations, which alters the pipetting accuracy of air displacement pipettes. This effect is particularly noticeable when pipetting small volumes.
A Calibration-Free, Dry-Storable pH Meter
pH, one of the most fundamental properties in all of nature, is measured in nearly every industry including general laboratory research, pharmaceuticals, food and beverage processing, environmental testing and agriculture. Despite the importance of measuring pH, traditional glass pH meters have long suffered from problems associated with calibration and maintenance.
A researcher or lab manager’s worst nightmare is to walk into their lab and find a freezer, refrigerator, or any temperature controlled storage unit that has failed overnight and ruined or jeopardized precious samples, specimens, tissues, or products—not to mention the loss of countless hours of research.
Counting the total number of live microorganisms (TVC/TVO) on a Petri dish is one of the main laboratory procedures. It has been used worldwide in microbiological, medical, food, biotechnological, and environmental laboratories ever since the Petri dish was invented more than 120 years ago.