Giving it the old college try

Agilent instrumentation goes into new UC Berkeley chemistry lab so that next-gen scientists can receive real-world training

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SANTA CLARA, Calif.—Installation happened in fall 2012, butlate spring 2013 brought news from Agilent Technologies Inc. that it had alliedwith the College of Chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley (UCBerkeley), in the academic institution's campaign to redesign and rebuild itschemistry 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 Centuryproject 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 technologyinto the chem labs for students, whether underclassmen or upperclassmen,chemistry majors or otherwise.
"This all started several years ago with the realizationthat we needed to upgrade our chemistry labs in terms of the physical plan, butalso 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 ahuge push when the Dow Chemical Co.'s charitable foundation donated around $3.5million two years ago for lab and curriculum upgrades to a facility that reallyhadn't been updated in five decades.
"And because the university and the College of Chemistryhave a good connection with Agilent, they got excited when they found out whatwe were doing and were very supportive, and we got a significant discount onthe instrumentation," Mathies says. "The appeal to Agilent, I think, is thatthis is an experiment in demonstrating that modern instruments belong instudent labs and also a view, shared by us, that we want the next generation ofpeople who might enter in the fields of chemistry, molecular biology orwhat-have-you get a chance to use up-to-date equipment and see chemistry forthe exciting area of science we already know it is."
Agilent has a long history with UC Berkeley, notes JimLynch, Agilent's director of academic programs for the Americas, both with thecompany's Electronic Measurement Group and its Life Science Group. "More recentis a partnership around synthetic biology and wireless communications," headds. "Also, an Early Career Professor Award to a faculty member there."
The technology that makes up the new, more modern labs spaceis "a complete portfolio of products for the diverse needs of the teachinglaboratory," Lynch says. Key components of the collection include automatedinstrumentation and software to efficiently process large volumes ofexperiments, and Agilent's latest GC/MS, GC, LC, FT-IR and MP-AES technologiesare part of the collection.
"We are completely transforming the chemistry lab andcurriculum for both the chemistry majors and the non-majors in the classes,"explains UC Berkeley Prof. Anne Baranger, director for undergraduate educationand the faculty member primarily responsible for the curriculum renewal aspectsof the project. "We are focusing on using evidence-based methods and technologyto give the students an authentic experience. The non-majors don't go in and dotheir own projects but they do collaborate with each other on assignedexperiments over several weeks so they can see and feel the equipment inaction. As for majors, they go into the instrument room and start doing theirown experiments beginning in their second year, and this new instrumentationwill be key in developing their own research projects and getting qualityresults. We would like to see more universities do the same thing.Interestingly, the biology program here has already contacted me to see whatsimilar things they can do, so we already see this mindset spreading locally."
As for broader trends along similar lines, Agilent's Lynchsays they are seeing a trend toward upgrading undergraduate labs.
"UC Davis, Stanford in the Bay Area, and McGill, VirginiaTech and Yale elsewhere," he says. "Drivers for this are related to the STEMeducation push, competition between universities and to better prepare studentfor jobs. The technology desired is mostly low/mid-performance technology, suchas LC, GC, GC/MS and LCMS—single quad—as well as spectroscopy—molecular andatomic—and an increasing emphasis on data analysis."

Agilent and Shimadzuexchange chromatography instrument drivers
SANTA CLARA, Calif.—Agilent Technologies Inc. also announcedlast month an agreement with Shimadzu Corp. to exchange RapidControl.NET(RC.Net) instrument drivers. Shimadzu's adoption and support of Agilent'sRC.Net driver standard strengthens RC.Net as an emerging open industry standardfor instrument control across multiple data systems, the companies said.
Through this exchange, Shimadzu LabSolutions and AgilentOpenLAB Chromatography Data Systems will control both manufacturers'instruments, providing customers more freedom of choice in instrumentation fortheir laboratories, regardless of which CDS they use. In addition, customerscan preserve their investment in workflow definition and supporting operatingprocedures.
"At Shimadzu, we are dedicated to providing flexibleinstrumentation and software solutions for our customers," said Masami Tomita,general manager of Shimadzu's LC Business Unit, in a statement. "We are pleasedto announce that Shimadzu instruments are now able to be controlled by AgilentOpenLAB CDS. Our collaboration will provide a more integrated solution forcustomers who require a single CDS product to provide seamless multivendor controlof all instruments in their laboratory. This will allow any CDS that supportsRC.Net to control our instruments. Shimadzu's adoption and implementation ofthe RC.Net standard will also enable Agilent instruments to be controlled byShimadzu LabSolutions CDS."

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