Project Description

First steps of digitalization and interoperability in the analytical lab

By Liane Kober, Molecular Biotechnology and Functional Genomics, Fachbereich Ingenieur- und Naturwissenschaften, Technische Hochschule Wildau

If you think about research, you generally make associations with innovation and great new things that are developed, always up to date with the equipment and laboratory organization. While attending a congress that was dealing with the smart laboratory of the future, I realized that our university and research departments were far away from the current state of the art lab tools and products. ELNs, namely electronic laboratory notebooks, have been introduced in large companies several years ago, whereas I had heard the term for the first time only a few months ago when the head of our department approached me and asked if I was interested in testing new equipment and workflow within my research project. A colleague of mine – skilled in mass spectrometry – was asked as well. Both of us agreed, although we only had about six weeks to establish the digitalized workflow. So, within two weeks we got accounts for the ELN SciNote, received Gilson’s TRACKMAN® Connected pipetting system and completed two remote trainings. We said goodbye to our paper lab notebooks and took our first steps toward a digitalized laboratory.

SciNote and Gilson TRACKMAN Connected 

Before we take a look at our new workflow, let me explain the particularities of the ELN and the pipetting system, respectively. An ELN is an online platform, on which a group of scientists can work together on projects, write and share protocols, plan experiments and store all data in one place.

ELNs are structured in multiple layers to keep your data organized. Within SciNote, there are four main layers: team, projects, experiments, and tasks. In the beginning, a team is defined, consisting of different researchers. Those researchers can create projects, and within those projects, individual experiments are created that consist of multiple tasks.

Each task has its own protocol, which can be self-written or imported from – a collection of freely available protocols. For each task, you can set start and due dates, add comments, and assign them as completed. Besides that, you can add the results of a completed protocol directly to the respective task.

Further integrated functions include:

  • Inventories that can be assigned to tasks
  • Activity lists to track changes made within SciNote
  • Generation of reports to summarize your experiment(s) and results
  • Manuscript writer add-on to create a draft of a manuscript

By using an ELN, we have significantly more functionalities available compared to a paper lab notebook. Those are even further extended when we take the Gilson TRACKMAN Connected into account.

The Gilson system consists of a tablet with accessories that can be paired to Bluetooth®-connected pipettes. The tablet is used to create pipetting plans with defined volumes and positions in a selected format (e. g. 96 or 384 wells). A microtiter plate (MTP) can be directly attached onto the screen of the tablet. The pipettes are connected via Bluetooth, and after that the pipetting is performed almost automatically. The only task the researcher needs to complete is to set the pipette at the right position and click a button. Pipetting is visually and acoustically assisted by marking the pipetting spot through the transparent bottom of an MTP and making a sound at the end of the pipetting step. Additionally, multi-dispensing and automated mixing is possible. After the pipetting is finished, a pipetting report is created that shows all experimental details. The plans and reports can be directly uploaded to SciNote.

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