Recently Biodata (@Biodata) have launched its new and shiny web-based laboratory management tool, Labguru. In the following post I will give an initial primer of this tool, which every graduate student should consider as its sidekick. Yeah, I mean it! This tool, as you will soon realize, will make your research work much more focused, much more organized and eventually will lead to better success of your project. Even though this will not be a tutorial, you are welcome to open a new browser window and follow me in real time – its free!
Logging in: the first step in determining your goal
Obviously, looking up Labguru in google will bring you a click away from your new Labguru’s account. On the right side you won’t miss the short registration form which will take you to a 4-step wizard. This step is CRUCIAL that you will fill, not just to skip – it’s the foundations upon which labguru’s promising success is built on and should DEFINITELY start get used to it in order to improve your research success. Fill in your project name, your goal and your first Milestone. If your saying “Mile-what?!” then I recommend you read several articles on the subject here and here Yeah, it’s necessary to read those. Do you want to get closer to your next success or do you want to waste your time??
Don’t be afraid to fill in the “Due date” – it is not the date in which your PI will come thumping into the lab and finger you to the hanging rope. Nope, none of that. This date serves YOU. Make an effort to stay realistic: if your next milestone is to clone the new gene, then try to remember how much time it took you to clone that last gene of yours. Two weeks? A month? or maybe two?? How difficult it was? Maybe this milestone worth splitting up into two sub-milestone, one to generate your sophisticated insert and another to ligate your new insert into a vector? Take a couple of minutes to figure this out – the milestone is a guide, not an enemy. Return to it each time you need to focus your resources on the task ahead of you.
Homepage redefined – meet your calendar
This will definitely be one of the most visited pages when working with Labguru, the calendar or scheduler. Think of it as your own personal secretary, if you wish. This is the place to plan how you will execute the cloning of gene X or any other experiment on your way to achieve your first milestone.
So, let’s take me for example. I am planning on doing a purification of a protein for crystallography purposes. So, I started to list all the major steps of the purification: French press, Ultracentrifuge, Ni-NTA column, dialysis, IEC and Superdex.
As you can see below, my schedule is quickly filled with all the tasks as well as my curriculum commitments (I am a teaching assistant of 2 courses this semester). Quickly I see that I will need some help here with all those commitments (even if I start working everyday from 7:30 to 17:30!). Don’t hesitate to ask for a helping hand, people! So, I am also adding a note to ask Geula, our lab manager, to give a hand with the IEC step at the least until I finish with the course exercise. I also see that on Sunday I need to plan on preparing all the buffers, gels and other stuff required for the purification. Eventually, next week looks like this:
Nice! I can see I am fully booked next week! I can of course generate a new task rather than an event, although I was never a big fan of “Tasks”. Notice to the two arrows on both sides of the weekdays which help easily navigate to past or future weeks. Before moving to other parts of Labguru , notice that this tab has a “homepage” logo, which is not coincidental. Your schedule and tasks manager is the place where you should start and end your day at the lab. This is the place where you remind yourself what are the tasks at hand and this is the place which reminds you what should be prepared for the next day’s experiments.
Storage module: making sure everything’s in place
Another tab which I want to discuss today is the storage tab. This tab faces you with the common reality that if you don’t keep good order with your specimen and molecular materials you will find yourself with a lot of mess and loss of time. The first thing you’ll notice is that plus button and two main tabs: boxes and tubes. While you’ll want to associate a tube with a certain sample, you better start with assigning the different boxes, “fill” them up with tubes and then you can assign a certain tube to a certain experiment.
Clicking on the “Box” tab will bring the box form which contains the name of the box (as is written on it!) as well as its dimensions (according to the slot’s matrix) and its color. The description is important, not only to give certain remarks in regard to a certain tube at a certain position (you can do that in the tube’s form) but also to give specific location details. The premium version of Labguru have a much detailed and fun way to “build” and map your lab’s storage facilities from the room level to the specific box. Of course once upgraded, you can integrate all your boxes to a certain room/storage facility or even a corridor!
Once finished, the box view changes to the top view of your box (according to the matrix defined) – click on any of the pluses which indicate the place of your sample and describe the content of the tube (notice that you can specifically define whether this is a plasmid, an antibody, a bacterial sample such as a glycerol stock and other stuff). Description and even tube’s color can be easily defined thus making it very easy to match between the tube you see in the virtual box and the real one. Saving the information you will find yourself back at the top view, now with the previously edited tube in place. Notice that you can also add tubes through a tabulated format (for quicker entry) or even import an excel sheet containing all your tubes.
There are additional features of Labguru that I will discuss in later posts – in the meantime you are welcome to update your account!