"We will put our best team on this one,” is a common refrain in many circles and is regularly heard in laboratories as directors seek to reassure customers and other stakeholders about delivering accurate and reliable results by deadlines.
No matter what the reason, whether because of an economic downturn or poor work performance, firing someone is never enjoyable. As a manager, even if the firing is deserved, it’s never fun to be responsible for terminating someone’s source of income. It can get emotional, and sometimes there are legal consequences if the employee is not given enough of a chance to improve before he or she is let go.
In the past few years I’ve heard more and more phrases like “work spouse,” “work bestie,” and “office neighbor.” In fact, it’s not uncommon for adults to meet at least one of their close friends through work. With work imitating life these days, “breakups,” no doubt, can affect us on the job, too.
What is the value of laboratory accreditation? Whom does it benefit? And what are those benefits? What is the standard of competence? What value does accreditation have from an internationally recognized body such as the American Association for Laboratory Accreditation?
The concept of lab automation sounds almost magical, as if a sophisticated machine here or there makes a lab run by itself. Indeed, automation can improve the efficiency of a lab and more, but figuring out the best “here” or “there” creates the challenge.
This month, we spotlight companies that will be exhibiting at the Society for Lab Automation and Screening’s Fourth Annual Conference & Exhibition (SLAS2015). This year’s event will feature the new 2015 SLAS Leadership Forum, which is geared to the interests of executive-level professionals and co-located with SLAS2015. The event runs February 7-11, 2015 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC. Please remember that these particular products may not be at the show, but the highlighted companies will be on hand to answer any questions you may have.
Linda Wegley Kelly, PhD, a marine microbial ecologist in the Department of Biology at San Diego State University, talks to contributing editor Tanuja Koppal, PhD, about what has changed in the field since 2001, when she started working in the lab. While genomic and sequencing technologies have become easier and cheaper, the work on the bioinformatics side has now become more tedious in terms of the volume of data that needs to be analyzed. While systems for sample collection and storage have become convenient and customizable, the use of automation in microbiology remains fairly limited. Contamination still remains a cause for concern, and protocols have to be rigorously outlined and implemented.
Forest Rohwer, PhD, is a professor in the Department of Biology at San Diego State University. He is a fellow of the American Academy for Advancement of Science (AAAS), American Academy of Microbiology
(AAM), and Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR). He led the development of viromics,” which involves isolating and sequencing the RNA/DNA from all the viruses in a sample. From this data, it is possible to determine what types of viruses are present and what functions they are encoding. Dr. Rohwer uses viromics to study ecosystems ranging from coral reefs to the human body and has shown that most genomic diversity on the planet is viral. Dr. Rohwer has published more than 150 peer-reviewed articles, was awarded the International Society of Microbial Ecology Young Investigators Award in 2008, and is listed as one of the World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds (Thomson Reuters 2014).
It’s just a fact: In today’s modern laboratory you are going to spend some time using a computer. You used to feel good all day long, but now you hurt after just a few minutes at the computer.
Using compressed gases in the laboratory can be dangerous if they are not handled properly. Many gases can be explosive, flammable, corrosive, and toxic. Because the gases are under high pressure in tanks and cylinders, any release of gas can spread quickly and endanger lab personnel—including the possibility of
death from explosion or asphyxiation. Less-deadly safety risks include physical injuries from mishandling tanks, especially to the hands, feet, and lower back.
The National Safety Council reports that about 1,000 people are electrocuted each year in the United States. In 2005, a biology professor at Cleveland State University died as the result of an electrical shock in the lab.
Clinical laboratories have among the most stringent requirements for purity of input materials (reagents, solvents, assay kits, gases, etc.). Yet the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988 (CLIA), officially promulgated in 1992, leave to clinical and diagnostic laboratory managers the task of assuring the quality and performance of chemicals and gases used to calibrate instruments and conduct general lab operations.
In my days in the lab, a pipette seemed about as impersonal as a lab tool could get. Today’s world of scientific equipment offers many ways to personalize your pipetting. For old-school scientists like me, though, the first question is: why personalize a pipette?
Many labs use chillers to control the cooling needed for some processes. To make the device work, a chiller uses a fluid, and the best kind of fluid depends on a range of factors. Part of the selection process depends on lab preferences. This article explores some of the thinking behind picking one chiller fluid over another.
The first question facing lab managers looking for an incubator is whether a dry or humidified incubator will serve their needs. Both designs have their pluses and minuses. Humidified CO2 incubators provide tighter control over cell culture conditions such as temperature, gas mix, and of course humidity.
Portable gas chromatography (pGC) is all about tradeoffs. Users demand value, reliability, ease of use, ergonomics, and measurement quality but with analysis limited to gases.
As part of the laboratory services division of the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food (UDAF), staff members act as gatekeepers for the safety and quality of food in the state.
One of the primary safety devices in laboratories where chemicals are used is the laboratory fume hood. It allows a researcher to work with—but not be exposed to— materials that create toxic fumes or particles when it is properly installed and maintained.
A Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) serves as the interface to a laboratory’s data, instruments, analyses, and reports. For many analytical laboratories, a LIMS is an important investment that assists management in evaluating the efficiency of the laboratory’s operations and reducing costs.
The expanded features in today’s pH meters reflect the broad use of this technology. Researchers use pH meters in a wide range of research fields—including biological and chemical, agricultural and environmental, and more—and virtually all kinds of manufacturing.
Problem: Many service or contract laboratories need to process the same sets of samples on a regularly-scheduled basis. In addition, many processes within factories of various types require collection of samples at pre-set dates and times to ensure the quality of the product being produced. One example is collection of air and surface samples to test the sterility of rooms used in the production of pharmaceuticals, foods, and medical devices. Another example is collection of samples during beer production. The task of logging these samples into a LIMS (laboratory information management system) can be cumbersome and time-consuming and it is easy to miss collection of a scheduled sample. Although these are two entirely different scenarios, both require the same basic scheduling of multiple sample collections.
Problem: At this very moment across the United States, thousands of digital eyes watch over laboratory equipment. It’s nothing scary; it’s the way we protect fragile samples from being damaged or destroyed. From facilities stocked with vaccines for the flu season ahead, to embryos frozen for future fertility treatments, life and livelihoods are literally on the line. For this reason, laboratories use continuous monitoring systems to closely watch over the environment of their specimens during experimental, growth and storage phases.
Problem: At the crossroads of understanding cell physiology, disease pathology and etiology lies cell metabolism, encompassing the cellular set of life-sustaining chemical transformations. Dysregulation of cell metabolism is now known to be a common component of cancer, immunology, obesity, diabetes, and neurodegenerative disease. This is because mitochondrial respiration and glycolysis are the major sources of life-sustaining and biosynthetic processes for the cell, specifically energy in the form of ATP (adenosine triphosphate) and macromolecules such as membranes, nucleotides, transporters, organelles, etc. Metabolic pathways are increasingly considered as potential therapeutic targets. Therefore, the ability to measure and understand cellular bioenergetics can provide valuable insight into disease and contribute to the potential identification of drug discovery targets.
Most food producers are subject to a broad range of regulations and standards, from industry-wide ones such as ISO 22000 (which sets out several communications and system management guidelines), the United States Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) of 2011 and the European Union Regulation (EC) No. 178/2002 to process-specific ones like the Egg Products Inspection Act (EPIA) or the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA).
Protecting your life’s work with a proper monitoring system has become increasingly important in research. A study conducted by Stanford University revealed that more than $2 billion worth of samples were stored within their freezers. Furthermore, many biorepositories and biobanks have hundreds of freezers storing priceless samples.
Hettich Lab Technology’s UNIVERSAL 320 benchtop centrifuge offers versatility, longevity, and efficiency within a compact footprint. The UNIVERSAL 320 is a midsized single-solution premium centrifuge well suited and easily adapted for many applications. Lab managers across the globe choose the UNIVERSAL 320 as an investment to serve diverse projects for years to come.