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Blog
November 22, 2024
1 min

Marieke Using Ascenscia With Confocal Microscopy

About Marieke

Today, we are highlighting the incredible journey of Marieke Meteling, a doctoral candidate at the University of Twente in the Netherlands.

For as long as she can remember, Marieke has been fascinated by the complex interactions of cell biology. She kicked off her journey studying Biomedical Engineering then embarked on her PhD in 2020. Through her Ph.D. research at the University of Twente, Marieke explored how the (engineered) cellular microenvironment - the immediate surroundings of a cell - orchestrates cell behavior. Coming to understand these cellular mechanisms ignited Marieke's curiosity even further. Now her goal is to apply those fundamental insights to optimize cell culture systems. In the long run, she would like to contribute with these insights to refining stem cell differentiation protocols or improving drug screening models, to advance treatments for chronic illnesses.

Marieke was a witness to the digital transformation process in her lab. During her MSc and the first year of her PhD, she documented her research using traditional paper-based lab journals. One of the downsides of using paper-based lab journals is that it can be rather time-consuming, and if you want to have your notes digitally as well, same as your experimental data, you need to take the additional step of photocopying your paper-based lab journals. She emphasizes: “Paper-based documentation is one of the main aspects of lab work that lags behind when it comes to digitalization.”

Marieke described some of her struggles using paper-based documentation, such as the inability to search data entries, especially old data. She says: ”Using a hardcover lab journal you cannot just press ctrl+F and quickly search for a specific entry. So, finding back older entries from several months, or years ago can take quite some time.” She also expresses her concerns from an environmental point of view on the excessive printing needed if you were to include your experimental data, such as images or data tables, in your paper-based lab journal. She explains: “To include your data, such as images or calculations in your paper lab journal, you need to print them and subsequently glue them into your notebook. Apart from the time it takes, it is also not environmentally friendly to print a lot.”

A paper lab notebook with printed data glued to it

As Marieke’s lab took their first step into the digitalization journey by adopting eLabNext solution, she was one of the first scientists to try it out. Marieke quickly recognized the potential of digital solutions to elevate her daily research experience while minimizing environmental impact.

Reflecting on her experience with eLabNext, Marieke shared how transitioning to an electronic lab journal revolutionized her workflow:

“Transitioning to eLabNext means that I'm able to quickly look up specific entries. Also, it allows me to put together my protocol, respective experimental notes, calculations, and experimental data in one lab journal entry (i.e. one folder). I like to have it all in one place.”

Marieke also highlighted the convenience of sharing lab journal entries with her colleagues in the lab, and being able to link related lab journal entries to each other, among other benefits. Additionally, the time-saving functionalities offered by eLabNext, such as the option to make templates for protocols or the duplicate function, proved very beneficial in optimizing efficiency within her lab work. As Marieke highlights: “Being able to make my own protocol templates or alternatively duplicate protocols, and then only having to make small changes where necessary, and adding the new experimental information- saved me time. I don’t need to rewrite everything from scratch, that speeds up the documentation process.”

One more convenient solution for Marieke is the inventory management system provided by eLabNext, which saves her time since she can easily search for reagents in stock and look up their storage locations.

Challenges in the lab

Even after introducing eLabNext in Marieke’s lab, she still faced some practical issues with her experimental workflow, specifically when it came to capturing data on the spot. Marieke was still relying on pen and paper to write down her notes because it was handy and easy to access on the lab bench. Part of her lab work requires that she takes notes in the lab, such as documenting experimental observations, or writing down calculated cell concentrations, which brought her the additional inconvenience of transferring her written notes into her elabJournal later on.

While browsing eLabNext marketplace for solutions to overcome this inconvenience, Marieke came across Ascenscia's add-on voice assistant solution to eLabNext. She explains: ”When I learned that it is possible to couple the eLabJournal with Ascenscia voice-assistant software, I was happy to give it a try. I really liked the idea of being able to take my notes by just dictating them.

Marieke regularly uses the confocal microscope. She then multitasks between adjusting the microscope settings on the screen, looking at her samples, and documenting all these details. Usually, she goes back and forth between looking at the microscope and taking notes, trying to remember everything. Sometimes, she even keeps notes in her head to write them down later on. This can be stressful and she might lose important data.

Working with voice

Using Ascenscia voice assistant in such a critical moment was a game changer for Marieke. The ability to dictate notes through hands-free commands helped Marieke bring about efficiency and accuracy to her workflows. Now, she can just talk to Ascenscia and it will transcribe her notes for her, in a structured manner. No more multitasking or worrying about missing details. She elaborates: “When I am viewing my cells and taking images, I like to use Ascenscia to dictate my observations while I am looking at my cells through the ocular of the microscope. In this way, all my notes are captured orderly on the spot, and I don’t have to memorize them to write down my observations afterward.”

Additionally, she finds the seamless integration between Ascenscia and eLabNext invaluable since it eliminates the gap of transferring data from papers or scattered sticky notes to the eLabjournal, which saves her a lot of time spent on manual documentation. In her own words, she says: “I find the connection between Ascenscia and eLabJournal very convenient and it saves me a lot of time.” She adds:

“One of its main advantages is that you have your hands free and can continue to work. You do not need to put the pipette aside or take off your gloves, to take a note. In this way, I think it can help to make the note-taking process both more time efficient and more accurate, which ultimately helps to make experiments more reproducible.”

With the combination of Ascenscia and eLabNext, Marieke's lab work is easier and more efficient than ever before.

Marieke before finding Ascenscia:

Marieke after finding Ascenscia:

Future thoughts

Closing our interview with Marieke, we asked her to share her vision of the future of lab digitalization. For her, the essence of a digitized lab lies in its ability to empower scientists to conduct high-quality experiments, capture precise data, and enhance overall productivity. She says:

I envision labs with digital solutions that help scientists to access and capture data instantly without interrupting their workflows. This will enhance lab efficiency and reproducibility.”

She pictures boring daily tasks being done automatically to save scientists’ time. Things like receiving notifications about low reagent levels or seamlessly syncing data files with Electronic Lab Notebooks will be a normal part of the lab of the future. Emphasizing advancements in sample recognition technology, particularly in imaging, Marieke envisions a future where autonomous operations replace some of the more time-consuming but rather simple manual processes.

On a personal note, Marieke expressed her aspirations for a more sustainable lab environment, advocating for reduced energy consumption and the adoption of recyclable materials. She believes that documenting experiments well can also contribute to this, since improved reproducibility can ultimately lead to fewer experiments and less waste generated. As she described this: “Albeit a small contribution, I think that increased reproducibility, thanks to good experimental documentation, can help reduce the number of total experiments run, and thus reduce the produced waste.”

In Marieke's vision, the lab of the future isn't just a place of scientific innovation; it’s an example of efficiency that goes hand in hand with sustainability.

As we conclude our feature on Marieke, we're left inspired by her dedication, innovation, and passion for advancing scientific knowledge. Her story serves as a testament to the remarkable work being done in laboratories around the world. We extend our heartfelt thanks to Marieke for sharing her insights and expertise with us.

Stay tuned for more inspiring stories in our upcoming Scientist of the Month episodes!

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