Before joining FORMULATRIX®, I spent many years in a previous role verifying equipment to ISO 9001 standards. I worked hands-on with everything from spectrophotometers to, my personal favorite, liquid handlers. After developing a keen understanding of various pieces of laboratory equipment, I then moved into a reagent manufacturing environment, soon becoming an expert in the optimization of liquid handling automation to ensure the highest degree of cost savings and reproducibility. As you read this, it may be hard to understand exactly what that I mean by “liquid handling optimization”, but to the automation engineer, this exists as their most vital role. So, who are automation engineers, particularly in the genomics world? How is it that these employees are so critical to the reproducibility of data and results in translational genomics and drug discovery research?
After all, if you have not heard, the genomics age is upon us.
Automation Engineers At Work
Although some may associate Automation Engineers with someone who sets up automated solutions to remove the work of a laboratory technician, I can assure you that this is not a fair assessment of the situation. Liquid handling automation provides time for laboratory technicians to focus on more valuable tasks like analyzing data or designing the next experiment, and it turns out that this is work more rewarding to any scientist! Further, the work of an automation engineer is critical to carrying out genomics reactions more reproducibly than a laboratory technician ever could, especially on such a high-throughput scale.
While working in the field as a sales consultant, I can say that my favorite conversations have certainly taken place with automation engineers. I think the reason for this is simple; I used to perform the same function, so I understand intimately their pain points and drivers. Automation engineers are proud of their ability to take the most complex scientific workflow, and view it in a manner completely differently than that of a lab manager or laboratory technician. Automation engineers do not necessarily focus on the chemistry behind the biology. They characterize, quantify, and maneuver the limitations of the technology being used to perform a given biological assay. Automation engineers help scientists achieve the most efficient and reproducible results in a high-throughput manner.
What are their responsibilities?
Most biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies have an automation engineer on the payroll. In academia, the same function takes place in a core facility, that specializes in performing applications like NGS in the most efficient and reproducible manner. In a core facility, the scientists may not have the title “Automation Engineer”, but they certainly share the same responsibilities. At the most basic level, they must understand every piece of equipment in the lab in its entirety, while maintaining an expert degree of knowledge regarding the technological landscape of the laboratory automation market.
It is unclear to me whether FORMULATRIX is a household name in the liquid handling market yet. Regardless, our technology is one that needs to be considered when optimizing high-throughput liquid handling workflows. We offer one of the few positive displacement liquid handlers on the market, and the only fully automated digital PCR platform, the CONSTELLATION® Digital PCR System. Truth be told, if you are not using our technology within your fully automated system, you probably are not getting the most precise and cost effective results possible. Our technology is so new, that you may have yet to be exposed to it. Click here to read about five compelling reasons to supplement your liquid handling arsenal with the MANTIS® Liquid Handler.
Touch Base with Formulatrix
In the previous paragraph I mentioned “FORMULATRIX may or may not be a household name, yet.” If you have never had us in your lab, you may be surprised to learn that we offer an extremely hassle-free way to evaluate our equipment. Of the 100+ product demonstrations that I have personally performed this year, only a hand full have lasted over an hour. Our sales team is trained to demonstrate all capabilities of our equipment and give relevant data and references regarding your application within this time frame.
If you are an automation engineer and you are responsible for evaluating liquid handling workflows, it is in your best interests to reach out. Simply click the link below to schedule a chat with one of our liquid handling consultants. Remember, this article was written by someone that was in your shoes not long ago. It is up to the unsung heroes of reproducible results to drive science forward.
Paul Berning joined FORMULATRIX as the Midwest Account Manager in August of 2016. Prior to working at FORMULATRIX, Paul spent four years at Integrated DNA Technologies (IDT), where he worked directly with various liquid handling platforms. Paul won employee of the year at IDT in 2015 for the method development and optimization of their liquid handlers. Paul has performed over 100 demonstrations of the MANTIS and TEMPEST Liqiud Handlers, helping researchers to refine their approach to genomic sample preparation along the way.