Babysitting the Labbots

Meet Derek and Robert. Derek is about 10 years old and Robert is about eight years old. They live in the Molecular Diagnostics Lab at the Beckman Center in Escondido. The Beckman Center is the home base of the Institute for Conservation Research right next to the Safari Park. Derek and Robert each have their own rooms that connect to the main lab. Both work together on the same projects.

While most of our laboratory work is done manually we do rely on our lab robots Derek and Robert especially when dealing with a peak throughput of samples.

Derek sits on a bench top and specializes in pipetting. He can pipette tiny amounts of fluid from one tube to another. Over and over again. He can even pipette tiny amounts of fluid from several tubes in a row at the same time.

For example, he can be taught or programmed to load a 384 well plate. This takes a lot of focus and concentration when done well manually. While this process can take an experienced technician one to one and a half hours to complete it takes Derek only 40 minutes.

Robert specializes in extracting DNA from tissue samples. DNA is found in the nucleus of cells and encodes genetic information. It is the basis of a lot of the molecular diagnostics we do in the lab. Robert uses various buffers and solutions, filters and tubes to extract DNA step by step.

While both of our labbots are well trained they do misbehave or malfunction on occasion. Which is why we keep a close eye on them to ensure quality work.