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Giving it the old college try
SANTA CLARA, Calif.—Installation happened in fall 2012, but late spring 2013 brought news from Agilent Technologies Inc. that it had allied with the College of Chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley), in the academic institution's campaign to redesign and rebuild its chemistry and chemical engineering laboratories.
Of course, the slightly delayed news isn't all that strange, given that UC Berkeley's Chemical Science Laboratories for the 21st Century project has been an effort five years in the making, and even now at the end, is still a work in progress as the university brings fully modern technology into the chem labs for students, whether underclassmen or upperclassmen, chemistry majors or otherwise.
"This all started several years ago with the realization that we needed to upgrade our chemistry labs in terms of the physical plan, but also upgrade and modernize the experiments being done," says Richard A. Mathies, dean of UC Berkeley's College of Chemistry, telling DDNEWS that the process really got a huge push when the Dow Chemical Co.'s charitable foundation donated around $3.5 million two years ago for lab and curriculum upgrades to a facility that really hadn't been updated in five decades.
"And because the university and the College of Chemistry have a good connection with Agilent, they got excited when they found out what we were doing and were very supportive, and we got a significant discount on the instrumentation," Mathies says. "The appeal to Agilent, I think, is that this is an experiment in demonstrating that modern instruments belong in student labs and also a view, shared by us, that we want the next generation of people who might enter in the fields of chemistry, molecular biology or what-have-you get a chance to use up-to-date equipment and see chemistry for the exciting area of science we already know it is."
Agilent has a long history with UC Berkeley, notes Jim Lynch, Agilent's director of academic programs for the Americas, both with the company's Electronic Measurement Group and its Life Science Group. "More recent is a partnership around synthetic biology and wireless communications," he adds. "Also, an Early Career Professor Award to a faculty member there."
The technology that makes up the new, more modern labs space is "a complete portfolio of products for the diverse needs of the teaching laboratory," Lynch says. Key components of the collection include automated instrumentation and software to efficiently process large volumes of experiments, and Agilent's latest GC/MS, GC, LC, FT-IR and MP-AES technologies are part of the collection.
"We are completely transforming the chemistry lab and curriculum for both the chemistry majors and the non-majors in the classes," explains UC Berkeley Prof. Anne Baranger, director for undergraduate education and the faculty member primarily responsible for the curriculum renewal aspects of the project. "We are focusing on using evidence-based methods and technology to give the students an authentic experience. The non-majors don't go in and do their own projects but they do collaborate with each other on assigned experiments over several weeks so they can see and feel the equipment in action. As for majors, they go into the instrument room and start doing their own experiments beginning in their second year, and this new instrumentation will be key in developing their own research projects and getting quality results. We would like to see more universities do the same thing. Interestingly, the biology program here has already contacted me to see what similar things they can do, so we already see this mindset spreading locally."
As for broader trends along similar lines, Agilent's Lynch says they are seeing a trend toward upgrading undergraduate labs.
"UC Davis, Stanford in the Bay Area, and McGill, Virginia Tech and Yale elsewhere," he says. "Drivers for this are related to the STEM education push, competition between universities and to better prepare student for jobs. The technology desired is mostly low/mid-performance technology, such as LC, GC, GC/MS and LCMS—single quad—as well as spectroscopy—molecular and atomic—and an increasing emphasis on data analysis."
Agilent and Shimadzu exchange chromatography instrument drivers
SANTA CLARA, Calif.—Agilent Technologies Inc. also announced last month an agreement with Shimadzu Corp. to exchange RapidControl.NET (RC.Net) instrument drivers. Shimadzu's adoption and support of Agilent's RC.Net driver standard strengthens RC.Net as an emerging open industry standard for instrument control across multiple data systems, the companies said.
Through this exchange, Shimadzu LabSolutions and Agilent OpenLAB Chromatography Data Systems will control both manufacturers' instruments, providing customers more freedom of choice in instrumentation for their laboratories, regardless of which CDS they use. In addition, customers can preserve their investment in workflow definition and supporting operating procedures.
"At Shimadzu, we are dedicated to providing flexible instrumentation and software solutions for our customers," said Masami Tomita, general manager of Shimadzu's LC Business Unit, in a statement. "We are pleased to announce that Shimadzu instruments are now able to be controlled by Agilent OpenLAB CDS. Our collaboration will provide a more integrated solution for customers who require a single CDS product to provide seamless multivendor control of all instruments in their laboratory. This will allow any CDS that supports RC.Net to control our instruments. Shimadzu's adoption and implementation of the RC.Net standard will also enable Agilent instruments to be controlled by Shimadzu LabSolutions CDS."