Balances Consciousness Lab History tips for



Balances Consciousness Lab History tips for
March/April 2012
Lab History
The definitive source for lab products, news and developments
safe 12
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tips for maintaining
a safe lab
Are You Protecting Your Hands?
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Mar./Apr. 2012
The definitive source for lab products, news and developments
10Labs: then and now
The clinical services lab has a long history,
reaching all the way back to the beginnings of medical sciences. The key difference between then and
now is technology and knowledge, and what observers of the clinical services lab know is that as technology changes, so do labs. Labs are as much a product
of what we know as they are a product of the tools
we use.
18Fighting for the brain
Mario Beauregard’s new book Brain Wars
argues that neuroscience is hamstrung by
a reliance on outdated ideologies. We question
Beauregard about his claims about the nature
of consciousness and whether the mind can
exist without the brain.
24 Scientist profile
Richard Peltier is one of Canada’s leading
climatologists. He says public scientists have
an obligation to fight for the right to speak to
the public they serve. Is government listening?
It may not matter if the public doesn’t care.
A safe lab
is good business
Safety is, as everybody knows, pre-eminently important.
So why do some labs fail to meet basic safety
requirements? Sometimes it’s oversight and
sometimes it’s a case of safety fatigue. Whatever
the case, we offer 12 tips to making the lab safer
for employees and better for business.
Suzuki Matters
Tech Watch
Lab Ware
Lab Business March/April 2012
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Bio Business Magazine
hat can you buy for $15 billion? A fleet of F-35 fighter jets, you say?
Wrong. For 65 fighter jets, you need $25 billion. But hey, that’s the price
of owning a set.
Now, what’s the difference between $15 billion and $25 billion? That’s easy! $10
billion. Wrong again. It’s the difference between austerity and faux austerity. It’s the
difference between a reputation as sterling fiscal managers and ducking-the-goose
incompetents. It’s probably the difference between a strong, stable majority and a last
place finish. (But don’t worry, they say, no money has been spent yet!)
The recent federal budget tells Canadians something else—but not necessarily
something new—about the federal government: science is corrosive to unfounded
beliefs. And so, coincidentally, because we need to be austere, we must eliminate the
parts of government generating facts on which we make decisions.
The government’s decision to cut basic research warrants special attention. In
particular, the decisions:
• To transform the National Research Council into a market-oriented organization. Will this change undermine the NRC’s ability to conduct basic research?
• To eliminate the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy.
Will killing this advisory body silence dissenting voices?
• To cut Environment Canada’s budget by $98.6-million over three years, almost
nine per cent. Will these cuts improve our ability to manage our environment?
• To let NSERC’s Discovery Grant program continue to dwindle. How does
underfunding research at our universities benefit Canadians?
Details of public service layoffs are still unfolding. It seems clear, however, that labs
conducting basic research will suffer. Government scientists won’t complain, until
they’re let go, because they’re muzzled. The many groups arguing against the government’s anti-science bias are expertly ignored.
So here we are, cutting in the name of “austerity,” kneecapping science, and
misrepresenting the costs of jet planes to cover up incompetence and ideology.
These facts are hard to ignore.
Robert Price,
Managing Editor
We’re Online!
@ On the Web at
On Twitter at biolabmag
On Facebook at biolabmag
Do the flip!
Flip this book to read what Canada’s
leading cancer researchers have to say
about Canada’s cancer fighting efforts.
Printed in Canada
Lab Business March/April 2012
news beat
Gairdner Awards honour new medical insights
he Gairdner Foundation announced
the recipients of the 2012 Canada
Gairdner Awards recognizing some
of the most significant medical discoveries from around the world.
The Canadian scientist recognized by
the foundation is Lorne Babiuk, VicePresident of Research at the University of
Alberta. Babiuk’s work has focused on
studying how diseases are transmitted
from animals to humans, while developing vaccination approaches to control
infectious diseases such as the Rotavirus. Through his study of infectious disease, and leadership role in the University of Saskatchewan’s
Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization and at the University
of Alberta, Dr. Babiuk has helped to relieve mortality, morbidity, and
economic hardship caused by infectious disease.
In addition to recognizing the work of a Canadian researcher,
the Gairdner Foundation showcases the work of international
researchers. Recipients include:
Bu i l di n g L ab Excel l en ce
Brian M. Greenwood (London School of Hygiene and
Tropical Medicine, London, UK): Dr. Greenwood and his
colleagues proved that insecticide-treated bed nets and preventive treatment reduced child mortality by a third. He also
showed that vaccinations were highly effective against meningitis and pneumonia.
Jeffrey V. Ravetch (Head of the Leonard Wagner
Laboratory of Molecular Genetics and Immunology, The
Rockefeller University, New York): By identifying how antibodies work, and how autoantibodies can be manipulated
to prevent them from doing harm, Ravetch’s work paves the
way to understanding how to develop therapies for various
autoimmune diseases such as lupus and arthritis, as well as
cancer and infectious diseases.
Thomas M. Jessell (Howard Hughes Medical Institute,
Kavli Institute for Brain Science, Columbia University
Medical Center, New York): By studying the assembly and
organization of the circuit that controls movement in the
spinal cord nervous system, Jessell identified the direct connection between the sensory neuron and the motor neuron.
The discovery has the potential to create interventional
strategies to treat and cure neurodegenerative diseases such
as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and Spinal Muscular
Atrophy (SMA).
Michael W. Young (the Laboratory of Genetics, Rockefeller
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March/April 2012 Lab Business
University, New York): Young’s work investigates how circadian clocks operate throughout the body’s cells and use a
common genetic mechanism to control the rhythmic activities
of various tissues.
The Gairdner Foundation also recognized the work of
Jeffrey C. Hall (Professor Emeritus of Biology, Brandeis
University, Waltham, MA) and Michael Rosbash (Howard
Hughes Medical Institute, Department of Biology, Brandeis
University, Waltham, MA).
Worth Repeating
“Despite promises that your majority government would follow
principles of accountability and transparency, federal scientists
in Canada are still not allowed to speak to reporters without the
‘consent’ of media relations officers. Delays in obtaining interviews are often unacceptable and journalists are routinely
denied interviews. Increasingly, journalists have simply given up
trying to access federal scientists, while scientists at work in federal departments are under undue pressure in an atmosphere
dominated by political messaging.”
– From an open letter to Prime Minister Harper signed
by a coalition of Canadian scientists and journalists
Acquisitions in Lab Science Sector
New research to
improve food safety
recalls, traceability
ew research out of Alberta aims to
improve food safety recalls and traceability systems, while also offering scientists a better method for tracking animals.
The research project, funded in part by
Genome Alberta, focuses on using DNA
to improve food safety and traceability
systems around ground beef. Researchers
extracted samples from ground beef
batches, and then pulled DNA from individual muscle fibers found within the
samples. Using a statistical method,
researchers were then able to infer how
many individual cattle made up each
Researchers who need to estimate
animal populations in complex situations also have a new method for doing
so. Traditional methods greatly underestimated population numbers in settings where there was greater variation,
such as those found in packing
plants. The Alberta researchers were
able to account for this variation in
their DNA tracking method, leading to
more accurate estimates.
“Basically what this research shows
is that there is a whole new set of tools
available now to the research community that has application to all kinds of
industry, including the livestock industry. This type of result would not have
been possible even a couple of years ago
because the technology was not
advanced enough,” says Gijs van
Rooijen, Chief Scientific Officer for
Genome Alberta.
The research could also eventually
add value to traceability systems for
consumers and livestock producers.
ntario-based laboratory services company Gamma-Dynacare Medical Laboratories
acquired LifeLabs Quebec. Gamma-Dynacare takes responsibility for laboratory
testing and Patient Services Centre operations effective April 30, 2012.
Gamma-Dynacare’s Quebec operations include a medical diagnostics laboratory in
Pointe-Claire and its recently acquired Warnex Medical Laboratory facility in Laval,
plus a network of 24 patient services centres in the Montreal and Quebec City areas.
Also, Mandel Scientific Company Inc., a distributor of scientific instrumentation
and supplies for the Canadian analytical and life sciences marketplace, acquired
InterSciences Inc., a distributor of analytical and life science products, located in
Markham, Ontario. Under the agreement, the operations of InterSciences will merge
with Mandel Scientific Company.
AstraZeneca closes Montreal facility
o cut costs and to prepare for the loss
of patent protection on some of its
best-selling drugs, AstraZeneca announced
it would close its Montreal research facility
and cut 132 jobs, approximately 17 per
cent of its Canadian workforce. The closure follows a string of closures and job
cuts among Canadian-based, Big Pharma
operations, including 100 layoffs at SanofiAventis’s Laval, Quebec, research centre;
the termination of 126 positions following
the closure of Johnson & Johnson’s research
centre; and the loss of 200 jobs when
Merck closed its Montreal lab, once one of
the largest labs in Canada.
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Lab Business March/April 2012
suzuki matters
Non-science nonsense
Climate change denial isn’t about science, or even skepticism
By David Suzuki with contributions from Ian Hanington
interests. That doesn’t explain why so many ordinary people buy
the industry spin, but a number of theories have attempted to
shed light on that phenomenon.
What’s important, though, is for those of us who rely on facts
rather than spin to look at solutions. We can all do much more to
reduce our environmental footprints, but the problem has grown
so much that large-scale efforts are needed, and many of these
must come from decision-makers in industry, government, and
academia. However, there appears to be reluctance in some of
those circles to act unless the public demands it. And so it’s up to
all of us to become informed. Then we can hold our leaders to
account and challenge those who refuse to see the big picture.
This public responsibility is especially important in light of
stepped-up efforts to deny the reality of climate change or the
role humans play in it. Cases in point are illusby the denialgate scandal revealed by the
The misrepresentation of Nordhaus’s research is trated
release of Heartland Institute documents and the
typical of the Orwellian doublespeak deniers employ, revelation that Ottawa’s Carleton University hired
Harris, a PR man for a number of astroturf
but scientists and researchers are calling them on it. Tom
groups with a mechanical engineering background, to teach a course on climate change.
There are many credible sources of information, and they
We could pretend global warming isn’t happening, or that
aren’t blog sites run by weathermen like Anthony Watts or
humans aren’t a factor if it is. That would be crazy in the face of
industry-funded fake science organizations. One place to start is
overwhelming evidence to the contrary, but even if it weren’t,
at Click on the tab that says “Arguments”
there would still be no reason to continue down the road we’re on.
for scientific responses to all the main climate change denier talkEnergy is at the heart of modern society’s needs, but when the
ing points.
source is finite, it seems folly to be hell-bent on using it up in a
Another great rebuttal to the deniers came in a recent article
few generations, leaving the problems of depletion and pollution
in the New York Review of Books by Yale University economics
to our children and grandchildren. The longer we delay impleprofessor William D. Nordhaus. He said his article, “Why the
menting solutions to our energy challenges the more costly and
Global Warming Skeptics Are Wrong”, was “primarily designed
difficult it will be when we have to face the inevitable.
to correct their misleading description of my own research; but it
So, why do so many people insist that we remain stuck with
also is directed more broadly at their attempt to discredit scientists
outdated and destructive systems and technologies? Why do so
and scientific research on climate change.”
many try to throw roadblocks in the way of progress and soluThe misrepresentation of Nordhaus’s research is typical of the
tions? And what can we do about it?
Orwellian doublespeak deniers employ, but scientists and
Many books and studies have addressed the first two quesresearchers are calling them on it.
tions, including Merchants of Doubt by Naomi Oreskes and Erik
Armed with credible information, we can challenge those who
Conway, and Climate Cover-Up, by James Hoggan and Richard
misrepresent science and spread confusion. If nothing else, we’ll
Littlemore. Those show that huge sums of corporate money have
be able to breathe easier! LB
been spent on campaigns to sow doubt and confusion about issues
ranging from the dangers of smoking to threats to the ozone layer
to climate change. It’s all about protecting corporate profits and
Dr. David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster and author.
et’s suppose the world’s legitimate scientific institutions and
academies, climate scientists, and most of the world’s governments are wrong.
Maybe, as some people have argued, they’re involved in a massive conspiracy to impose a socialist world order. Maybe the
money’s just too damn good. It doesn’t matter. Let’s just imagine
they’re wrong, and that the polar ice caps aren’t melting and the
climate isn’t changing. Or, if you prefer, that it’s happening, but
that it’s a natural occurrence—nothing to do with seven billion
people spewing carbon dioxide and other pollutants into the
Would it still make sense to continue rapidly burning the
world’s diminishing supply of fossil fuels? Does it mean we
shouldn’t worry about pollution?
March/April 2012 Lab Business
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lab history
Times change, so do labs
Labs and laboratory scientists evolve with changing science and technology
By Robert Price
he clinical service labs of today have evolved over centuries in the same way other technologies have changed:
we use our tools to discover something new, and then
use what we learn to improve our tools.
The humid anatomy room of the 17 Century, reeking of
decomposition, has given way to the sterile plainness of the climate controlled pathology lab. The alchemist’s den has been
swept to the realm of curiosities, replaced by the calculated
sophistication of today’s chemistry labs. And the chief diagnostic
tools of the doctors of old—namely, superstition and a best
guess—have as much in common with the technology of today’s
clinical services lab as a leech has to a syringe.
remembers the days when standards and safety precautions were
an afterthought. “There weren’t the superbugs, there wasn’t SARs,
and we didn’t worry about pandemics. We handled every body
fluid and tissue in a vacuum of knowledge about the donor of the
specimen. If somebody’s serum was bright yellow, we thought, oh,
it could be jaundice or hepatitis, and we might pay attention to it,”
says Hall.
Hand washing is often cited as the number one cause of hospital-acquired infections. Thirty to forty years ago, Hall says, lab
workers didn’t worry about catching or spreading illnesses. From
today’s perspective, the ways lab workers operated—without
Yesterday’s clinical labs
Today’s professional clinical service labs arose about a century ago,
as advances in pathological sciences demanded controlled work
environments. The arrival of antibiotics in the 1940s and 50s created new microbiology tests and new lab technologies to help
physicians match antibiotics to bacteria. Labs expanded in the 60s
and 70s as the number of tests increased, and the growth and
professionalization of the lab continued through the 80s and 90s
as automated machinery and new fields of research entered the
clinical services lab.
As the laboratory became more complex, and scientists learned
more about how to control the laboratory environment, laboratory professionals had to adapt to new technology and a new level
of professionalism. In Canada, quality assurance programs and
other professional standards began to come online in the 70s and
80s. “[The move to professional standards] started with introducing quality control and understanding all the different variables,
then recognizing the difference in the quality of the lab work as
patients moved from location to location. This led to external
quality assurance,” says Sheila Woodcock, President of QSE
Consulting and Chair of the Canadian Standards Association
Technical Committee for Medical Laboratory Quality Systems.
Ontario began issuing laboratory licenses in the early 70s. By the
time standards caught up to the licensing, “a whole lot of labs shut
down because they couldn’t meet the proficiency testing,” says
Vacuum of knowledge
Barbara Hall began her career in the 70s as a laboratory technologist. Today she is the Vice President of Capital Health, but she
March/April 2012 Lab Business
knowledge of what they were working with, without basic safety
precautions, without even the technologies that we basic in today’s
lab—well, the way they worked looks crazy.
One example of the craziness: the way labs handled fluids. “We
used to mouth pipette. We used to take up blood in a pipette and
sometimes it could get in your mouth. You would suck up a cerebral spinal fluid that was cloudy, which meant it was full of something, and you could get it in your mouth. We didn’t have automated pipettes. Everything was by your mouth or by hand. We
mouth pipetted acids!”
Another example of the craziness: the way they kept their
workstations. “They used to encourage us to use a bulb but most
people didn’t wear gloves, the agents we worked with were all
corrosive, we had open flames in the labs, and we could smoke at
our workstations. People could smoke next to doing tests. It was
quite amazing.”
When universal precautions did arrive, Hall says many of her
colleagues rebelled. This was especially true with the arrival of
automation. To make people comfortable with automation, it
wasn’t uncommon to conduct duplicate runs of tests so the lab
could compare manual results with automated results. “That was
done for months and months and months,” says Hall. “It was
relying on technology to do something you used to be able to do.
It was quite a change.”
Times were different, Hall says. “You can’t look at the past
through today’s lens. We just didn’t know. It wasn’t until there
were incidents. Those were occupational hazards and we didn’t
really think too much about it.”
Finding footing today
Today’s clinical service lab has several obvious advantages over
yesterday’s lab: knowledge, technology, automation, standards.
What the lab still lacks is political profile. Labs are a relatively
need, if we want to control costs of healthcare and improve
healthcare overall, to involve laboratorians in determining what
constitutes an appropriate test, rather than just order tests across
the board and waste dollars,” says VanDenakker.
Future challenges
Most observers of the clinical services laboratory agree that the
lab of tomorrow will arrive quickly. Technological change is accelerating, and with integrated technologies, tests that once required
a laboratory might soon be completed at the bedside by any
healthcare worker. Then what will become of the lab professional?
Hall hopes to see lab professionals maintain their professional
status, regardless of whether they stay in the labs or take their
work into the hospital wards. “The role of the laboratory technologist is interpretation,” she says, adding that having humans
who understand how lab technologies work and when they fail
will become increasingly important to healthcare as technologies
undergo further integration and automation.
How to cultivate that kind of professional intelligence is a
challenge. Two- and three-year college diplomas cannot fit more
technology training into their already-packed curricula, and governments are uninterested in extending degree status to lab technologist training programs.
What’s more, labs continue to be bombarded with requests to
perform more tests, and more kinds of tests, with little incentive
put on laboratories to find efficiencies in how they do their work.
Labs that become more efficient at something usually see their
budgets cut. “You don’t get that money to put it into becoming
more innovative. Those are the kinds of things that really senior
people need to look at. We need to completely challenge everything the way we’re doing now,” says VanDenakker. LB
CSMLS turns 75
small item on an institution’s budget. Unable to fight for muchneeded budgets, many labs saw their funding cut to dangerous
levels. Some of the medical errors that grabbed headlines in
recent years can be traced to inadequate resources, says Tricia
VanDenakker, President of CSMLS. But this is slowly changing.
“Now [funders] are realizing that all of the cost-cutting over
several years had an impact, and most organizations are starting
to reinvest in the lab,” says VanDenakker. “For the most part,
clinical service labs are starting to get to the right place.”
Funding remains a concern for laboratory workers, but
increasingly there is a concern among laboratory workers to have
greater say in what kinds of tests labs conduct. “I think there’s a
The Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory
Science turns 75 this year. The organization, which
has been instrumental in creating training standards
for laboratory workers across Canada, began in
1937 as the Canadian Society of Laboratory
Technologists. The society had 65 members across
Canada. Membership cost $3.00 per member. In
1938, the society offered the first set of laboratory
examinations and began publishing the Canadian
Journal of Medical Technology. Fast-forward to
1997, the year the society renamed itself
the Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory
Science. Today, CSMLS is the national certifying
body for medical lab technologists and medical lab
Lab Business March/April 2012
lab safety
12 Tips
to a Safer Lab
A safe lab is good for employees and good for business
By Julia Teeluck
Tip #1
alk around the downtown area of any major city,
and you will likely find construction in progress
such as new condos, road work, or a hole that needs
to be dug at the corner of a one-way street. While
passing, you may have noticed posted on the wire gate surrounding these sites a big white sign: Safety helmets, boots and vests to
be worn at all times. Seems logical, right? Guys working with
heavy machinery should wear the proper protection gear. Well,
the same applies to lab workers. People handling hazardous
chemicals and gasses should keep themselves protected.
Besides safety wear, there are a number of issues that can prevent labs from being as safe as they can be. These issues range
from improper chemical storage to managers who enforce the
rules only some of the time.
These 12 tips ought to remind even the safest labs about what
they need to do. Remember: a safe lab is a smart lab.
March/April 2012 Lab Business
Assess hazards
A lab’s safety policies should be based on a
good hazard assessment. Like going to the
doctor for a checkup: you won’t know your
potassium’s low until you take a blood test.
Then you can work with your health care
provider to figure out the best solution. “My
advice to the managers is to do that hazard
assessment, identify the risk, identify what
controls are necessary, make sure everybody
understands the ‘why’ and then enforce your rules,” says Gene
Shematek, Occupational Health and Safety Consultant to the
Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Science. The entire lab
needs a hazard assessment, but some of the key areas include:
chemical storage (is there a danger of dangerous mixing of
chemicals?), fire prevention strategies (are extinguishers in easy
reach?), and safety clothing (do lab workers have the right safety
clothing, and does it fit?).
Tip #3
Keep the lab tidy
Tip #2
Enforce regulations with contracts
Are there any rules that you feel strongly about? Do you have them
in writing? A simple, inexpensive way to enforce your lab’s safety
regulations is a contract. A contract can prevent hassles down the
“Have them sign a statement that says, ‘I’ve read it, I understand it, I agree to follow it and I realize that if I don’t, it will cost
me the privilege of being here,” says James Kaufman, president
and CEO, The Laboratory Safety Institute. One copy goes to the
manager, one to the worker and another to the Human Resources
Department. That way everyone knows that if Bob doesn’t follow
the rules, Bob will be fired.
“Laboratory organizations need to scrutinize those core foundation rules that you just don’t want to mess with,” says Kaufman. For
example, if a person works with infectious materials all day, then
her lab coat should stay in the lab and not over the chair in the
Contracts also need to be carefully worded. Kaufman says
when he reviews a lab’s safety material, he looks for two words:
must and should. “Are these policies that must be followed where
you have no discretionary authority or are they policies that you
need to use your professional judgement to decide how best to
implement them?”
Tip #4
Speak plain language
Does your AFM meet the TRWA standards? Are your technicians
YEB-certified? It doesn’t really matter because these terms don’t
exist. But if someone asked you these questions and you hadn’t the
slightest clue what he was talking about, would you speak up or
nod your head and smile? Kaufman addresses another problem:
people don’t understand the words or acronyms in the safety
manuals. “People are afraid or ashamed to say, ‘I don’t know.’”
Lab managers can create a safer work environment simply by
using everyday vocabulary to describe job functions and safety
A place for everything and everything in its place goes the saying.
For Serge Perron, a health and safety officer at the National
Research Council’s Institute for Chemical Process and Environmental
Technology, housekeeping is on the top of the list of things he looks
for when evaluating lab safety. Perron says the potential for risk
lowers when a lab is neat and well-disposed and when workers
have good habits of identifying and storing equipment and chemicals. Garbage cans, hazardous waste containers and sharps containers should be clearly marked and changed regularly. Lab
managers should model clean behaviour and encourage lab staff
to scan for cleanliness before they begin their work and to clean
up after they complete each experiment. So put your stuff back on
the shelf where it belongs!
Tip #5
Dress smartly
You wouldn’t wear suede shoes as your rain boots, so why wear a
lab coat that absorbs liquid? Many lab coats are constructed from
cotton/polyester blends. There are many lab coats on the market
that protect differently in different labs. Take the new DenLine
Splash Resistant lab coat as one example. It combines the comfort
of cotton with a splash resistant and stain resistant material. Along
with wearing the right coat, the right gloves, the right shoes, and
all the other safety gear, lab managers need to make sure the
safety gear fits each employee properly.
Lab Business March/April 2012
lab safety
Tip #6
Protect your peepers
Analyzing samples without protective eyewear is a no-no]
Like the lab coat, safety glasses are a staple in the lab. Gene
Shematek, Occupational Health and Safety Consultant to the
Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Science, says lab workers have a tendency to not want to wear particularly protective eye
wear. “Most places are good with gloves at this point, but people
find protective eyewear uncomfortable,” says Shematek. If a person already wears prescription glasses, either he has to purchase
prescription protective goggles or wear a set of goggles on top of
his glasses. This can be an annoyance, so people tend to choose
comfort over safety and forego the safety glasses altogether. Lab
managers should make eye protection mandatory and give lab
workers safety gear that fits. Sometimes it’s as easy as not allowing
anybody into the lab who doesn’t wear eye protection. When
everybody does it, it’s easier to remember when somebody’s forgot
their glasses.
Tip #8
Update and upgrade to safer lab
appliances and furniture
Every day, technology changes and
improves, and unless your six-figure income
allows it, keeping up with the latest products can be tough on the pocket. Finding
money to fund research is tough enough let
alone finding money to buy new equipment. But when it comes to the safety of
your environment and staff, spending a
few extra dollars is a good idea.
For example, Thermo Scientific
improved the design of their Biological Safety Cabinets.
Traditional BSCs use a single motor while Thermo’s upgraded
BSCs have SmartFlow design which uses a dual blower system
where the exhaust blower controls and maintains inflow in realtime, providing a higher level of safety.
“These are types of products that generally aren’t replaced
very often. They tend to have a very long life time—almost like
the furniture in your house,” says Brenda Freidag- Bruker, Senior
Product Manager, Biological Safety Cabinets, Thermo Fisher LPG.
“That’s why I think it’s important for lab managers to re-think the
replacement aspect because we have new features and newer
technology that make these products safer.”
Another example of a safety upgrade to an existing product is the
Newson Gale Earth-Rite static electricity monitoring system. This
updated monitoring system provides an enhanced margin of
safety when type c flexible intermediate bulk containers or similar
static dissipative containers are used to transfer bulk powdered
and other solid materials in hazardous area applications.
March/April 2012 Lab Business
Tip #7
Create comfort at the computer
Serge Perron says ergonomics—the science of adapting a workstation to a person’s body—is a huge issue today. Long hours sitting
at a desk in front of a computer screen scrolling and clicking can
cause aches and pains. Over time this can lead to chronic disease.
“People sit for a long period of time and they have back problems,
they don’t have the proper chair, they don’t have the proper keyboard, so this is one aspect that we look at,” says Perron. Labs
upgrading their furniture should ask vendors to provide ergonomic
alternatives to standard office equipment. For example, ErgoFusion’s
adjustable workstation can be tailored to an individual’s body to
reduce unnecessary pressure and discomfort.
Tip #9
Reduce the noise
Long-term exposure to noise generated from equipment can cause
ear damage and factors into increased stress levels, hypertension,
ischemic heart disease, annoyance, bowel movements, and sleep
disturbance. Additionally, excess noise can cause accidents by
covering hazards and warning signals, and by disturbing a worker’s concentration. When earplugs just won’t do, you may want to
noisy equipment from the
rest of the lab. One such
product is MS Noise’s
product enclosures. These
enclosures create a quieter environment by dampening the sound produced
by lab equipment.
1-800-234-7437 •
© 2012 Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. All rights reserved.
Count on Fisherbrand for the products you need,
when you need them. Quality, reliability and value.
lab safety
Photo credit: Courtesy of Metrohm AG
Tip #10
Label ingredients clearly
In a restaurant kitchen, jars are
labelled so the chef doesn’t grab
oregano when he wants thyme.
And while he can probably tell the
difference between the two herbs
by their aroma, a lab worker
doesn’t have that same luxury when
handling liquids or gases. George
Porter, Product Manager, Titration,
at Metrohm, says that making sure liquids are properly labelled is
a basic principle, but still doesn’t happen that often. “Sometimes
what happens is labels may fall off or become unreadable for
some reason,” says Porter. Metrohm’s Dosino dosing device
addresses this problem. “When you attach the Dosino to the bottle,
you can program it with the reagent’s name in concentration so
you’ll be able to read it when it’s attached to one of our systems to
see what’s in there,” says Porter.
Tip #11
Show a little gratitude
Everyone likes a pat on the back now and then. “We have too
many ways of telling people they’re doing a bad job and not
enough ways to tell people they’re doing a good job,” says
Kaufman. “The simplest least expensive reward you can give an
employee that doesn’t require a purchase order or requisition is a
thank you.” So if all goes well within the next year, give your team
a thank you for not burning the lab down.
Tip #12
Plan ahead for lab safety: The
Global Harmonization System
Laboratory Furnaces and Ovens
[email protected]
March/April 2012 Lab Business
LB Jan-Feb 2012.indd 1
1/24/2012 10:44:09 AM
Lab managers should educate themselves about the Global Harmonization System of Classification and
Labelling of Chemicals (GHS). GHS
will define and classify the hazards
of chemical products and communicate health and safety information on
labels and safety data sheets. The
system will have the same set of rules
and format for classifying hazards,
and the same format and content for
labels and safety data sheets throughout the world. Because countries
currently have different ways of
classifying and labelling chemicals,
the safety of workers who handle
imported chemicals and have difficulty understanding the labels is a
concern. A standard global method
will reduce some of the risk. Gene
Shematek suggests lab managers
visit the Health Canada website, take
a look at GHS, and realize some of
the other implications.
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critical perspectives
Fighting for
Neuroscientist battles ideological science in
new book about the brain and consciousness
By Robert Price
n Brain Wars: The scientific battle over the existence of the mind and
the proof that will change the way we will live our lives, Mario
Beauregard, an associate researcher at the University of
Montreal, sets out to show how a less ideological approach to science can improve the outcomes of working scientists.
The mind isn’t, Beauregard argues, a product of electrical
impulses inside the brain. Mind and consciousness is far more
complicated—so complicated it can’t be described by the limited
vocabulary of materialist-based views of science. LAB Business
spoke to Beauregard about his theories on science and the mind.
What’s the argument you make in Brain Wars?
In my book I criticize the scientific materialist’s view that says all
we experience—our thoughts, beliefs, intentions, feelings, sense of
self—result only from neurons firing in the brain.
In the first part of the book I review recent scientific evidence
showing that our thoughts, our beliefs, our emotions greatly influence what happens in our brains and in our bodies, and are
deeply important to our health and well-being. In the second part
of the book, I present evidence that mind and consciousness are
not strictly confined to the body. There is, if you will, a non-local
aspect to mind and consciousness and they can affect events
occurring outside the confines of our body. Mind can also receive
meaningful information without the use of ordinary senses in
ways that transcend the actual space and time constraints.
And I also present cases involving vertical perceptions, which
are perceptions that are corroborated by independent witnesses
during so-called out of body experiences that are induced by
cardiac arrests. Where there is a cardiac arrest, usually the brain
will cease activity about 15 to 20 seconds following the cardiac
arrest. Usually in that kind of state it’s not possible for mind and
consciousness to operate. Yet there are cases reported in the lit-
March/April 2012 Lab Business
erature indicating it is possible during these out of body experiences triggered by cardiac arrests, it’s possible to be conscious, to
perceive things.
I conclude that the brain is not what generates mind and consciousness. It acts more like a transducer for mind and consciousness, since it’s possible to experience mental processes even when
the heart and the brain are not functioning.
So, overall, what I’m trying to demonstrate is that the scientific materialist’s view that has been around for a few centuries
now is false. What we call mind and consciousness are more than
electrochemical processes in the brain. At the end of the book I
announce a major paradigm shift in science because there is an
increasing amount of evidence challenging this materialist world
view. I’m pretty sure that a few decades from now we’ll access a
new scientific revolution. It will be similar to what happened in
physics about a century ago with the advance of quantum physics.
Are you talking about the soul?
I’m not referring to the soul specifically, I’m talking more in terms
of mind and consciousness, mental processes, and mental processes can be associated with brain activity. When you use drugs
or when there’s a lesion in a specific part of the brain, you can alter
the state of consciousness and the mental processes. But it seems
that there is also a possibility for mental processes occurring in
absence of detectable brain activity. But I’m not using the word
“soul” specifically. I’m not referring to any religious tradition.
ed to the brain, like the immune system, the endocrine system.
Why did you write this book now?
We now know there is a psychosomatic network linking all these
In my own field of research, neuroscience, there is a big trend
various organs and physiological systems, and there is also recent
toward a reductive form of materialism. I would say a majority of
evidence showing that we can even alter gene expression, the
neuroscientists interested in the so-called mind-brain problem,
expression of certain genes related to behaviour and emotions.
and also consciousness these days, these materialists do not even
That’s the first take home message: our minds are very powerrealize that neuroscience should not be synonymous with materiful. The second thing is that the mind and consciousness can also
alism because it’s a totally different ballgame. It’s an ideology. It’s
like in religion, for instance, you believe in dogmas but
you don’t have any proof that your dogma is grounded
Is mind produced by the brain or is it only
in reality.
associated with the brain?
Do we need to have a shift in technologies before we
can confirm what you’re proposing?
Well, I use many brain imaging technologies, like functional magnetic resonance imaging. These powerful scanners allow us to
measure what we call correlates, so you will see a change in terms
of brain activity that is associated with a change in subjective
mental experience. However, it’s only correlation. There’s no causality involved.
The question neuroscientists need to answer is: What is causing what? It seems that there is an epistemological limit to where
we can go in neuroscience with the techniques we’re using. This
is why I’m suggesting that it’s interesting to look at other types of
research, for instance research involving so-called near-death
experiences, because in some of these
cases we know there is a cardiac arrest
and the brain is not functioning. We
need to address this fundamental question: Is mind produced by the brain or
is it only associated with the brain?
act non-locally, which means they are not limited within the
confines of the body. That’s something that’s also been realized in
quantum physics a century ago when physicists realized their
intention could alter the outcome of their experiments when they
were trying to measure the so-called behaviour of particles. They
realized the observations were related somehow to the consciousness of the physicists. LB
Brain Wars: The scientific battle over the existence of the mind and
the proof that will change the way we will live our lives is published
by HarperCollins.
What are the implications of this
One of the implications is that our
conscious minds are extremely powerful. I present studies showing that the
brain’s structure can be altered by
beliefs, for instance, in cases of placebos. Now we have studies showing if
you believe in certain placebo treatments, even in cases of Parkinson’s disease, then your brain will start producing more dopamine, a little like in normal healthy people for a certain period
of time.
The mind is very powerful. The
belief, the thoughts, the emotions can
change literally the way the brain functions and even its structure. We talk in
terms of neuroplasticity. It’s very
important to realize the power we have
over our brain activity and over all the
physiological systems that are connect-
Lab Business March/April 2012
MottLab.indd 1
8/16/10 4:11 PM
tech watch
Balances and Scales
here’s a difference between 1.01 mg, 1.001 mg, and 1.001mg. For labs needing razor
precise results, balances and scales are a key area of investment. The latest offerings in the
category of scales and balances give fast-paced labs the most accurate measurements and the
greatest efficiency available yet.
Explorer Series Balances are Full of Features
Ohaus Corporation recently launched its new
Explorer series of analytical and precision balances, all of which feature easy-to-use SmarTex
2.0 graphical software with 14 applications.
Optimized vibration filtering ensures stability in
unstable environments, and adjustable thumbwheels and a level assist screen make levelling
simple. The Explorer’s frameless, flip-top antistatic-coated glass draftshield maximizes access
to the weighing chamber. At 160 mm x 240 mm,
the side-entry is large enough to accommodate
large weigh boats. Easily removable glass panels
and a stainless steel bottom make the Explorer
easy to clean. A chamber light allows visibility
even in low light. Explorer balances are equipped
with four “touchless” sensors, enabling hands-free
operation of print, tare and many other functions
while improving weighing efficiency and minimizing contamination. All balances in the series
contain AutoCal, an internal system that automatically calibrates the balance daily.
Weight Sets Provide Increased Accuracy
Alliance Scale, Inc. has introduced a
new line of precision stainless steel
weight sets used to calibrate balances
and scales used in education, food,
forensic, pharmaceutical, and other laboratory, and quality control applications.
The advanced weight sets meet class 6
adjustment tolerances and provide
greater accuracy than general-purpose
weights. The weights are individually
wrapped in foam to minimize risk of
breakage in transit and each kit contains
tweezers for proper handling without
touching. The Alliance/Ohaus instruments are lead-free and completely
made from stainless steel. Alliance/
Ohaus ASTM Class 6 Weight Sets are
available in nine sizes, including 50g x
10mg, 500g x 1g, and 2000g x 1g.
Powder and Liquid Dispensing Modules Increase Efficiency
Mettler-Toledo’s new powder and liquid dispensing
auxiliary modules by Quantos increases laboratory efficiency, improves results, and eliminates errors in weighing, sample preparation, dilution and transcription.
Adding powder to a balance allows for a lower minimum weight, thus reducing waste by not forcing users
to weigh more than they need. The powder-dispensing
module lets users take advantage of Quantos’ dispensing head technology that automatically dispenses the
March/April 2012 Lab Business
compound to a target weight, eliminating the need to
weigh out powders by hand with a spatula. The amount
of solution prepared as historically also been determined by glassware tolerance and measurement subjectivity, and typically up to 99% of a solution would never
be used. Over or under weight of the solid is compensated by the addition of a liquid to achieve the target
concentration of each element in a solution.
Modular Configurable Lab Balances are a First
Sartorius has recently introduced the Cubis line,
the first modular configurable lab balances in the
world, meaning that display control units,
weighing models, draft shield models, interfaces,
and other elements can be easily combined. The
Q-Guide interface is designed only to show
information relevant to the task at hand. Users
are guided interactively through procedures. The
Cubis line offers a wide variety of high-resolution interfaces, some with touch screens and
some with keys, to meet the needs of a variety of
users. The Q-level function in the Cubis balances automatically checks, performs and documents the exact levelling with the push of a
button, saving time and significantly lowering
risks of contamination. The Cubis balances are
the first to compensate for off-centre loading of
the weighing pan. Its draft shields have high
mechanical stability and a conductive coating on
the glass panels to eliminate error-inducing electrostatic charges.
Innovative Moisture Analyzers Distribute Heat Fast and Evenly
Rugged and compact, the new MA150
thermo-gravimetric moisture analyzers from Sartorius are suited to laboratory applications, incoming inspections and production monitoring. This
model does away with the use of
exposed glass components, features a
ceramic heat source and is equipped
with aluminum instead of glass panels.
The MA150 is flanked by the compact
and exceptionally easy-to-operate,
entry-level MA35 for simple routine
The clear benchmark for clear results.
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Lab Business March/April 2012
lab ware
Nanolitre Pipettor Allows for Faster
Screening and Transfer
The collaboration between TTP Labtech’s
mosquito X1 automated nanolitre pipettor
and a microplate mover resulted in an innovative system used for the automating and
processing of compound hits from screens.
With the new mosquito X1 instrument, it is
now possible to transfer compounds within
a complex, high-density microplate format
without risking cross-contamination. The
use of CherryPicker software allows for faster preparation of serial dilution. This in turn
increases the screening rate and throughput. Additionally, the mosquito X1 can dry
spot compounds from source plates, solving
the problem of labile molecules aliquoting in
aqueous solutions in advance of the experiment.
Sapphire Optics are Versatile and
Chemically Inert
Meller Optics’ custom-fabricated sapphire
optics are chemically inert and designed for
a variety of uses in blood gas monitors and
other medical instruments. Second only to
diamond in hardness, Meller sapphire
optics can be coated for up to 99 per cent
transmission, depending on thickness. They are
impervious to low temperature chlorine and
fluorine gas, blood, and most chemicals.
With a possible flatness of up to 1/10th
wave, parallelism to 2 arc-sec, and surface
finishes to below 0.5 nm, Meller sapphire
optics can be used for glass-to-metal sealing or brazing into Kovar sleeves.
March/April 2012 Lab Business
Biospectrometer Achieves Greater
Accuracy and Sensitivity
The new Eppendorf BioSpectrometer outperforms Eppendorf’s current detection
product line by offering scanning capabilities
that allow methods such as measuring cytotoxicity, fluorescent dyes, and more. The
kinetic model is equipped with a temperature-controlled cuvette shaft, requiring no
additional accessories to study enzyme or
substrate kinetics. Scanning and wavelength
measurements can range from 200 nm to
830 nm. The latest BioSpectrometer does
not need to be connected to a computer
and is equipped with its own USB port and
basic data processing tools.
Perform Pressurized Chemical Reactions
in the Lab
Supercritical Fluid Technologies offers a
wide selection of stirred reactors for highpressure chemistry. The HPR Series reactors are designed to perform pressurized
chemical reactions in research laboratories.
Ranging in size from 50 ml to 4 litres, they
may be operated up to 10,000 psi and 350
C. The reactors have a magnetically coupled
impeller for optimal mixing. All high-pressure
components are ASME rated and protected
by a rupture disc for safe operation. The
chemical reactors are supplied as ready-touse instruments, requiring only utility connection before operation.
Buchi...................... Page 4 .........................
Cala........................ Page
Eppendorf .............. Page
Fisher Scientific...... Page 15...........................
KNF Neuberger....... Page 7
Metrohm ................ Page
Mettler Toledo ........ Page
Miele ..................... Page 21.............
Sample Analysis Made Easier and Less Expensive
PerkinElmer’s new Optima 8x00 Inductively Coupled Plasma Optical Emission
Spectrometers (ICP-OES) offers more effective but less expensive analyses of environmental, food, pharmaceutical, product safety and geochemical samples. The Optima 8x00
spectrometers are designed for simplicity of use, easy adaptability to new requirements
and exceptional throughput and detection limits, all of which maximize the laboratories’
productivity and profitability. eNeb generates a constant flow of uniform droplets, maintaining the stability of the instrument. Maintenance-free plasma induction plates replace
the traditional helical load coil, thus eliminating the need for cooling and reducing argon
consumption, which in turns lowers costs.
Image Analysis Combines
Fluorescence and Brightfield Analysis
Leica Microsystems’s new Tissue IA 2.0,
high performance image analysis for discovery research combines fluorescence
and brightfield analysis capabilities in a
single platform. With precision cell modelling, Tissue IA 2.0 offers a superior solution for IHC biomarker quantification and
provides tools for researchers to extract
the most from their studies. Color separation and multi-marker colocalization functionality provides insight and unbiased
measurement of multiple antigen immunostaining in brightfield or fluorescent
Animal Transfer Station Improves
The AniGARD e3 combines improved containment and enhanced ergonomics with
lower energy requirements to provide you with
unrivaled performance and protection. This
durable, easily maneuverable animal transfer
station features an ergonomically engineered,
adjustable work surface and slanted viewscreen for increased worker comfort. Permitting
operator access on three sides, the AniGARD
e3 ATS is designed to provide animal protection and particulate control in the laboratory
while maximizing productivity and flexibility.
The AniGARD e3 provides ISO Class 4
(Class 10) air cleanliness.
Mottlab .................. Page
Shimadzu............... Page 17 ................
Thermcraft.............. Page 16
VWR ...................... Page
Powerful NIR Light Source Features
Active Cooling
Ocean Optics’ Vivo NIR Source is a
compact, tungsten halogen light source
for VIS-NIR spectroscopy across the
360-2000 nm range. Compatible with all
Ocean Optics spectrometers, optical
fibres and sampling accessories, Vivo
delivers powerful output for reflection
and other measurements. The highpowered source is ideal for use in NIR
analysis of pharmaceuticals, grains and
oils, as well as food safety applications.
Vivo’s four tungsten halogen sources,
arranged for reflection measurements
at a 90-degree angle to the detection
fibre, can be turned on and off for precision control. An inner cooling fan
reduces the risk of overheating the
sample to ensure accuracy.
Lab Business March/April 2012
scientist profile
Richard Peltier
University Professor, University of Toronto, Department of
Physics and Director of the Centre for Global Change Science
By Robert Price
n February, Richard Peltier was awarded the Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal
for Science and Engineering, the highest honour of Natural Sciences and Engineering
Research Council. Peltier, a pioneer of earth sciences, uses sophisticated mathematical
models to explain how Earth’s climate has changed over the last 750 million years. The
Herzberg medal is just one of many high profile awards bestowed on Peltier. In 2002,
he won the Vetlesen Prize, the preeminent award for earth sciences, and in 2010 he won
the Bower Award.
What might be the long-term implications of the federal government’s policy that
keeps scientists from speaking freely with the public?
The implications are significant and severe. After all, government scientists are funded
by the public and the public deserves to have access to the understanding that scientists
acquire through the financing they receive from the public. For the government to hire
scientists to work in important areas like climate change and then prohibit these scientists from fulfilling their obligation to the public, it makes no sense to me.
Climate scientists are tested in the public arena constantly, probably more than any
other group of scientists working today. What has this fight for legitimacy taught
you about the way scientists communicate?
Scientists are somewhat challenged in public communication because it is certainly not
our main area of expertise. It’s very difficult for a scientist to counter explicit claims of
denial, such as those you hear on talk shows, because science is complicated and the
answers to these questions require thought on the part of the listener. There’s really no
way around this. When the debate is simply framed in terms of contrasting sound bytes,
the public gains nothing, and, in fact, becomes extremely confused. And, of course, the
denial industry is all about creating confusion.
It’s not uncommon to hear students say they “hate” science. What can science educators do to change this perception?
Science is fascinating because it deals with truth and the discovery of truth. We are truth
seekers and the investment one has to make to join the ranks of the truth seekers, if you
like, is a huge investment in education. Scientific education is pyramidal: every stage of
education builds on the last. It requires a long-term commitment on the part of a young
person to want to follow that path. I would argue that there has developed a huge
imbalance between the young people who see themselves on the fast route to the BMW
rather than on a path to learning and understanding of complex things. That didn’t exist
going back to the 50s when science was widely perceived to be something that parents
wanted their children to pursue. There is a social climate that is endemic that is almost
antithetical to factual information. Our current government, for example, clearly does
not respect or desire factual information, especially when it conflicts with their worldview. For science to thrive, we need a broader culture in which factual information is
desired and acted upon. LB
March/April 2012 Lab Business
022.A1.0122.A © 2012 Eppendorf AG
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