Science 101: What Is the Future in Science LaboratoriesBy Amy Lee, UniversityHerald Reporter
Science laboratories were introduced to the education curriculum in the late 19th century. Laboratories have always been the epitome of scientific development and progress. It's quite easy to imagine these buildings with special resources and experts working non-stop to further help in the progress of learning more about natural phenomena and how nature operates. It all started in the last third of the 1800s, it was the beginning of the special buildings which were specifically designed for the pursuit of science and innovation, equipment was provided as well. Studying and applying science stopped being a matter of individuality and idealistic character reformation. Modern laboratories, following the new concepts of science, had a clearer aura, which stripped all intentions into one bare purpose, to remove the fog surrounding the scientific community and to push further innovation while gaining traction for further funding.
The first scientific laboratory in a university was Yale's. It was more than 150 years ago; only scientists were allowed to use the laboratory, students were restricted from entering it. 40 years later, universities finally found that practicing science in laboratories is the logical step to prepare them for a scientific career, a boost that will aid the scientific community by properly preparing potential scientists. The practicalities of science involved techniques and empirical procedures. Teaching only the scientific or theoretical part wouldn't be enough to push students towards the path of scientific discovery. A professor was the main advocate of teaching science using a different technique, discovery instead of simply being taught; thanks to the professor's efforts, the scientific community started paying attention to the importance of laboratories.
Providing scientific laboratories for the masses wasn't an easy job, with fixed state-mandated curriculums and rigid schedules. Educators gradually started to go back to their old habit, laboratory activities became a chore that needs to be done to complete the curriculum. Projects were lengthy and lasted for more than one laboratory period. Interest in research and development in the 50s soared high naturally as the fight for dominance of space flight between the two major powers during the cold war grew stronger. It was natural that extra funding poured from governments to support a path of scientific discovery. Despite all the money and effort spent to push science laboratories into the fabric of scientific education, it failed to do its purpose. Viewing science laboratories as a necessity or a chore that has to be done to move on can kill the passion of discovery and exploration; it simply ceases to be the driving motor and all the effort gone into it starts to seem without an actual purpose.
The future of science laboratories has become under the spotlight with the introduction of the internet. Putting simple simulations of labs isn't enough to allow a student to experience the sense and feel of a laboratory. Prerecorded labs allow taking actual numbers that are obtained through interacting and engaging a real lab simulation for students to be able to contribute their personal data and allows further discovery and exploration. We'll be giving you a brief guide that can help you understand or even choose a different material. The challenge will be making sure the devices are secure and if you're safe, it is the right thing to do anyway. We'll be giving you our take on what the future of science laboratories is going to look like in the next few years.
A paperless laboratory isn't exactly a new concept, many laboratories are becoming paperless as they progress. Paperless labs operate without using any physical medium such as paper to record their findings and track the numbers for research and development. Most labs now are using tablets and other electronic devices to simply save and record any detail needed. This approach is considered eco-friendly and reduces waste, optimizes, and control the time needed for documentation. No more rooms with stockpiles of paper that need to be categorized separately.
The cloud made it possible for labs to communicate with each other in real-time without any time wasted to send or fax papers. The location of data is supposed to be secure yet easily accessible when needed. Laboratories in other regions can do joint research easily with all the details shared in real time, all updates and developments can be set to alert devices connected to the cloud. Less miscommunication and time wasted means saving money, budgets don't have to be forced to accommodate less important matters and instead focus on the actual process of research. This rising approach requires labs to obtain data centers, servers, and being able to manage the security of the network.
3D printing technology has been around for decades, but it's considered a relatively new concept to incorporate it into existing scientific fields and research. It used to be a very expensive technology that wasn't readily available everywhere, so it wasn't thought of as a practical addition to laboratories, whether they're educational or professional. Once it became affordable, the true potential of 3D printing has started to gradually show; designing very specific tools like nails, screws, and anything that has a tight set of requirements would be better off designed with 3D printing down to the perfect measurements required.
Some 3D printing companies provide open-source 3D printing technology. Those companies provide a laboratory, whether it's in a school, university, or even military, with hardware that can be tweaked and developed freely to fit the laboratory's need. This can translate to giving laboratories almost infinite resources and making it possible for labs to carry out a lot of tasks they either never could do before or took too much time. The 3D printing and scanning technologies are developing at a remarkable pace, with many industries integrating them in the way they deem fit. It's become possible to create almost any hardware using 3D printing technology.
Automated Analytical Programs
A technology that is carving up its way to the top and should be mentioned is automated analytical software. Almost all lab work requires a high degree of repetition to ensure that the results are accurate. A simple experiment can take much longer than you'd expect just to prove that the results obtained weren't a coincidence or influenced by an external cause. Adding human error to the mix makes this even harder, suspicions take a long time to be cleared in successful readings or experiments. Automated analytical software makes this process easier; scientists can depend on the software to handle the repetitions and double checking everything in a much lesser time frame than usually needed. Scientists are able to focus on other things like developing ideas and analysis instead of pouring all their concentration into retracing back their steps to make sure a number is right. Coupled with the internet, automated analytical programs are becoming more popular and they are expected to significantly improve the speed of scientific research in many fields. Smart tools like format screens and touch-walls are going to take the place of older and more traditional tools. Newer technologies replacing older ones should ensure the acceleration of scientific analysis and research, in addition to providing new competitive and collaborative spaces.
Data Acquisition Systems
Data collection aided by the force of the internet is going to be a remarkable element in scientific studies. The amount of data collected using advanced data acquisition techniques is too large compared to obtaining the same data manually. Scientific labs will be using advanced sensors and analysis tools to facilitate further development in proving a theory or aid scientists to put the final touches on a product. Advanced data collection methods are going to be a competitive aspect between labs, as it will become easier with more advanced analytical tools to make a breakthrough, facilitating the patenting and confirmation.
The most futuristic aspect in the development of scientific laboratories is that scientists or students don't have to physically be in the lab to research, conduct experiments, or check readings. Virtual labs started becoming more popular with schools and universities, using online virtual laboratories makes it easier in terms of the availability of equipment. A university doesn't have to have a huge budget to accommodate the prices of the equipment needed, students will be able to access it and use it from anywhere. The data obtained through virtual laboratories is tracked and accurate; it's the future of teaching and conduction of experiments.
Less Laboratory Time
Thanks to the new technologies and developments, the time scientists need to spend in the lab has been drastically reduced. Advanced science lab equipment is going to affect the flow of work in terms of utilizing the extra time to do research and collaborate. It's believed that in the next decade, scientists would be spending 20% less time than they used to spend originally. Even though the time spent in actual labs will be reduced, the focus and efficiency are going to increase to unprecedented levels. Collecting data won't take as much time as it used to, giving more freedom to scientists to develop ideas collectively or alone, pushing scientific discovery and advancements even further.
Laboratory Designs and Work Flow
The flow of works has changed as young and technologically-literate people enter the scientific field. Designs of traditional science laboratories are not the greatest, it could give a bad image or 'vibe' to young talented people. All industries right now started investing in the comfort and happiness of their employees, especially those related to the tech fields. These environments attract potential talents due to allowing more space for innovation. Focusing on the quality of work and the atmosphere provides more flexibility which in turn leads to more creativity and progressive teamwork.
The balance between work and personal life is a remarkable cultural aspect of the youth community. Science laboratories will have to accommodate the new flexible style of the modern world. Technologies like automation and data acquisition are going to decrease the mundanity of the lab environment, leaving room to focus on the creative and progressive aspect of scientific research. Scientists and students will be able to conduct experiments from the comfort of their homes or in their favorite coffee shop. Like most industries, this smart approach to mobilizing the workforce dynamics is going to push the quality of research and attract more potential talents to the industry.
Almost all industries are looking for new methods to ensure sustainability and being environmentally safe. Some scientific laboratories now use progressive and innovative methods to achieve a sustainable work environment. Some new buildings offer natural ventilation using the most advanced architecture methods. This allows for efficient use of energy, whether it's for cooling or heating. Lighting is also an important factor, using natural lighting is very cost-effective and environment-friendly. Keeping greenhouse emissions low is also a remarkable feat to avoid any leakage from refrigerants.
Role of Students
Training science students to be aware of actual issues like climate change, energy consumption, and pollution is beneficial for the upbringing science-literate young students. The technological advancements are going to remove many restraints that used to slow down the development of young scientists in the making. More countries are now aware that improving scientific training for students is going to be the most viable long-term solution of furthering innovation in tackling problems that affect their environment. Students are becoming more and more ready to start working right away in scientific fields thanks to the technological tools that made deepening understanding of science in a short time-both practical and theoretical approaches- a possibility.
Many nations and industries are now realizing the true potential of technologically-aided scientific innovation. The gap between seasoned and experienced scientists and new-to-the-field scientists is becoming shorter and shorter every day. The approach of using technology to innovate further technologies and research is one of the greatest achievements of the human race. It's still hard to know for sure how the future of science laboratories is going to look like due to the many forces in play. It's inevitable that new ideas, designs, approaches will continue soaring high as we deepen our understanding of science.