Age of Possibility: Transition to a Digital Lab to Take Advantage of Technological Advances
Sometimes it’s easy to forget how far we’ve come with technology. I’m part of the last generation that remembers life before computers, let alone the Internet. There’s no doubt that upcoming generations won’t ever be able to fully appreciate how convenient electronics have made our lives. Of course, it’s easier to book flights without having to call in a reservation. It’s easier to keep tabs on your teenager with a cell phone. And we can store hundreds of HD videos of our kids on a hard drive that fits in the palm of our hand. These applications are relevant to daily life and extremely useful.
But also consider how technology has changed the way we perform research. One of my professors in grad school asked our class what was the single most important discovery in the world of science. We heard all kinds of responses: antibiotics, the structure of DNA and vaccines were probably the top responses. Yeah, those are great and have influenced a lot of lives. But what about electricity!? We’d still be in the dark ages (literally) without electricity. We had the structure of DNA for half a century before we discovered how to efficiently sequence it…thanks in part to electricity. I’m not taking anything away from the brilliant scientists that made these discoveries, but I bet any one of them would have loved to have had a computer hooked up to the Internet and a next-generation sequencing platform spitting out trillions of base pairs of DNA sequence in only a couple days.
The advent of electricity and resulting technology has sped up scientific progress by giving us better tools with which to perform research. Transitioning to a digital lab allows users to take advantage of convenient, cost-effective options to streamline research processes. Take a look at a couple of my favorite digital lab solutions:
Mobile devices like smartphones, digital cameras and barcode scanners have revolutionized our lives and our research practices. I can recall fighting with my colleagues over the timers in the lab, but now I can program an infinite number of timers on my smartphone. The ability to take quality photos with a smartphone or smart digital camera is another great feature of mobile devices. Scientists can now take a quick shot of a gel or data file and instantly upload it to their electronic laboratory notebook (ELN). Barcode scanners can quickly scan a barcode or QR code to bring up large amounts of information on laboratory products or equipment. Barcode scanning can also be utilized to maintain chemical inventory with a digital chemical inventory management system. Any container that enters or leaves your lab will be tracked in real-time, with the ability to manage container volumes and expiration dates.
As I sat down to write about the amazing technological advancements in science, I breezed through my Facebook news feed and came across this post from an old lab colleague: “I brought my lab notebook, my scratch notebook and an assortment of sticky notes home, all in the name of catching up on work.” Let me just say that sticky notes are not sticky enough to be traveling long distances in her car! It’s 2015 and it’s crazy to believe that lab data is still being carried around on sticky notes. An ELN provides real-time access to all of your lab’s data through a simple login through a web browser. You can access your notebook from the airport, on a long drive or in a country on the other side of the world.
As technology progresses, scientists gain access to comprehensive digital lab tools that can make research easier, faster, and more fun. Visit our website to learn more about our modern digital solutions, including the BIOVIA Notebook and BIOVIA CISPro.