The Evolution of the Research Lab

The evolution of laboratory research has progressed rapidly over the past fifty years. Advanced technology has changed the way research is performed. The integration of computers, robotics, chemical compounds and more have made laboratories more efficient and progressive. A look at the past and present provides a window into the future of laboratory research.

Laboratories in the Past

Thomas Edison is known for inventing the light bulb but few realize he also created the research laboratory in the late 1800s. At the age of 30, Edison brought together labor and materials in Menlo Park, New Jersey to research and create items that added up to over 400 patent applications. Later he expanded to a large research complex in Orange Park where more than 5,000 people were employed. This research facility turned out inventions such as the mimeograph and the movie camera.

A Laboratory Museum

The advantage of a research laboratory environment become clear. In 1894, Dr. Edward Livingston Trudeau built the first laboratory in the United States for the research of tuberculosis. The Saranac Laboratory was restored by Historic Saranac Lake in 2009 and is now the Saranac Laboratory Museum with exhibits on scientific research and more. The current exhibit showcases antique medical devices loaned to the museum by Ripley Entertainment Inc.

From Primitive to Progressive

Much of the laboratory equipment used over one hundred years ago is now just an amusing look at how the research was once done. Certain laboratory equipment, though it might look different today, continues to be used in laboratories around the world. This includes items such as beakers, flasks, droppers, pipettes, and the mortar and pestle. An example is a need for stirrers in a laboratory. Air stirrers were a cutting edge piece of laboratory equipment. Today, while air stirrers are still a mainstay in the industry, explosion-proof electric stirrers are used to mix a variety of fluids in laboratory settings.

Sanitary Conditions

Working with diseases, volatile elements, and a myriad of chemicals in a laboratory can become risky. Over the past few decades, the need for sanitary conditions become evident to avoid cross-contamination and injuries to the researchers. From sanitary gloves to sanitary strainers, every aspect of laboratory research is conducted in a pure setting to ensure accuracy and minimize danger.

The Growing Role of Robotics

The research laboratory became a place where numerous researchers gathered to make discoveries. This also involves performing an array of routine tasks, such as liquid handling and microplate handling. These jobs are mundane and time-consuming but must be done to conduct certain types of laboratory research and development. Today robotics handle these tasks in laboratories around the world. It is anticipated advanced robotics will perform more detailed tasks in the laboratories of the future. The possibilities of robotics in medicine are evidenced by da Vinci surgeries. These minimally invasive robotic surgeries are used for cardiac surgery, head and neck surgery, and much more.

Data Requirements

Laboratory findings and interactions with medical facilities need to be secure until the final results and products are released. The use of computerized records have made the release of important information faster but also necessitated certain regulations. A certain level of patient privacy is mandated by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA). Employees should be trained to ensure compliance. It is also essential to verify the latest validation data for medical personnel and facilities. Finally, to offset potential financial risks, workers compensation insurance takes care of workers who might get injured at the workplace.

The evolution of the research laboratory involves paying attention to detail and being responsible for pertinent data every step of the way. The advanced care and treatment patients receive in 2016 proves the benefits of this evolution and the potential it has for the future.