The Good, The Bad, and The Selfie

Volume 9 Issue 10 | November 2014

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Cover Story

The Good, the Bad, and the Selfie

By F. Key Kidder

The barbarians were at the gates, the handwriting on the wall. Their digital firepower was unstoppable.Without further ado, they stormed the ramparts, overrunning scientific strongholds. There is no turning back now. Social media is a juggernaut, its impact profound and already making itself felt in ways that few could have envisioned.

Featured Articles


Editor's Buzz

The Kardashian Effect

This morning Queen Elizabeth made her first foray into the world of social media when she sent the first royal tweet under her own name to declare the opening of a new Science Museum gallery.

Business Management

In the Mix

No matter what field you serve, your role as a modern laboratory manager requires an intimate understanding of how safety, productivity, and sustainability work together to determine the success of your entire operation in achieving accurate results and containing costs. It’s no surprise that one of the biggest challenges of running a successful lab operation is meeting all these expectations without sacrificing any one of them.

Leadership and Staffing

The Politics of Personalities

Every workplace has at least one of them: the person who is smarter, the person who knows how to fix a problem better than you can, the person who is surely going to leave you in the dust on his or her way up.

Ask the Expert

The Emergence of Digital PCR

Reginald Beer, PhD, medical diagnostics initiative leader at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, talks to contributing editor Tanuja Koppal, PhD, about the trends and innovations in digital PCR. While touting the advantages of digital PCR, he explains that not every lab needs to invest in this technology. Lab managers should look closely at their samples and assays to determine if digital PCR is needed for their application.

Lab Health and Safety

A Preventive Approach

We believe in prevention—finding and fixing problems and hazards before employees are hurt. We also know that prevention programs are effective and do reduce workplace illnesses, injuries, and fatalities.

Lab Health and Safety Tips

Product Focus

Product Focus: Laboratory Mills

Googling the term “bead mill” retrieves dozens of links to large, process-scale devices. Add the word “laboratory” to the search string, and most products are still industrial strength.

Product Focus: Homogenizers

Scientists use homogenizers in a long list of ways, including dispersing, emulsifying, cell lysis and extraction, milling, and more. These tools can homogenize a liquid and a solid, two different liquids, and other combinations of materials.

Product Focus: GC Columns

Chromatographers often need to balance the convenience of universal-use columns against the sensitivity and resolution of specialized columns. “Where labs may at one time have employed a nonpolar, all-purpose column, they now seek columns engineered for chemical families or even specific methods,” says Timothy Anderson, GC products manager at Phenomenex (Torrance, CA).

Product Focus: Laboratory Washers

Choosing the right lab washer depends entirely on what needs to be cleaned and why. Both the labware and the washer features come into play, and these change with advances in technology.

Research-Specific Labs

Perspective On: A Cell Culture Lab

Many studies suggest that toxins in the environment may be a cause of autism, affecting a mother’s unborn child as it develops. However, proving this for certain is difficult, as it is something that cannot be tested directly.


2014 Microplate Handlers Product Survey

Microplate handlers are specialized robotic devices that transfer microtiter plates in three dimensional space from one location within a workflow to another. The “locations” are actually operations such as solvent addition (through liquid handling), aspiration, heating, shaking, incubation, washing, reading, and storage.

2014 Centrifuge Product Survey Results

When it comes to common technology in a laboratory, centrifuges rise toward the top of the list. Centrifuges separate particles and structures suspended in liquid by applying thousands of gravitational force equivalents to the sample through spinning and play a role in a wide range of workflows and applications.


INSIGHTS on CO2 Incubators

The relationship between form and function in carbon dioxide incubators has led to evolutionary changes in incubator design. In addition to tried-and-true waterjacketed CO2 incubators, most vendors now offer incubators that employ direct heating.

Laboratory Technology

November 2014 Technology News

Our two highlighted tradeshows this month include the Materials Research Society Fall Meeting and Exhibit (MRS) and the American Society for Cell Biology’s annual meeting (2014 ASCB/IFCB). The 2014 MRS Fall Meeting takes place November 30-December 5, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts, featuring over 6,000 presentations. Not long after, the 2014 ASCB/IFCB Meeting–a premier biomedical research conference–runs December 6-10 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Its Keynote Talks will span the origin of life to the cosmos. Remember that the companies highlighted here in Tech News will be exhibiting, but these specific products may not be at the shows.

Maintenance Matters

How it Works

How an Easy-To-Use Cell Sorter Works

Problem: Scientists must typically rely on high-end cell sorters in core facilities to run their samples. These cell sorters—equipped with five or more lasers and double digit detection channels—were originally utilized to answer pressing questions arising in the immunology field. However, they are overly complex for the new breed of user who sorts cells today: cell biologists and biochemists who employ fluorescent proteins and require at most four colors and one-to-two population sorting. The challenge is that as demand increases, the number of staff available to operate these complex instruments remains the same. As a result, wait times at core facilities have ballooned, literally putting research on hold until capacity is available. For the more than half of today’s cell sorting users who require four colors orfewer sorts, the elaborate equipment is becoming a bottleneck. 

How a Mini Plate Spinner Works

Problem: Achieving successful PCR (polymerase chain reaction) results requires proper control of many factors and parameters. The yield—quantity and quality—of amplified DNA is often essential for downstream applications and ultimately successful completion of experimental research. PCR reagents, consumable sample vessels, and the thermal cycler instrument must all be properly chosen for the specific PCR application, and must also meet quality and performance requirements. In addition to these components that must work correctly in conjunction, sample preparation is typically done manually and must be done with care and accuracy.

How a Single-Step Spill Agent Works

Problem: An emergency spill response plan is part of every laboratory safety protocol. However, despite all the best precautions, accidents can happen! Laboratories often house chemicals such as acids, bases, solvents and flammables—all of which can be toxic to human health and the environment if used incorrectly or spilled.

Products in Action

Automate Your Multichannel Pipettes

Multichannel pipettes are invaluable when working with multiwell plates. However, prolonged and repetitive pipetting sessions bear the risk of strain and fatigue, often resulting in repetitive strain injuries (RSI) and less reproducible results.
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