Streamlining Scientific Research via Electronic Laboratory Notebooks and Wireless Sensors


October 6, 2005


This talk will discuss the use of computing to assist research in an academic laboratory environment. Two projects conducted at the MIT BioInstrumentation Laboratory within the framework of the MIT / Microsoft iCampus project will be discussed. These two projects are named iLabNotebook and iDat.

The iLabNoteBook is an experiment in which we attempt to replace traditional laboratory notebooks with Windows XP powered Tablet PCs. This new computing platform offers a multimedia environment for scientists and students to document their work and conduct scientific research. The virtual laboratory notebook empowers researchers not only to record experimental procedures digitally but also to add multiple data-format content to a lab notebook page. In addition these electronic notebooks can be easily searched, backed-up, transported and shared amongst colleagues worldwide. Evaluation of this technology was conducted for a one year period among fourteen scientists at MIT.

The goal of the iDat project is to develop Web-based wireless iDAT sensors specifically designed as multidisciplinary educational tools to teach instrumentation to students in a diverse range of fields, including physical sciences, engineering, biological science and neuroscience. Imagine you are a curious student keen to tie the theoretical knowledge you have acquired in your undergraduate courses to real measurements. For example, you might be interested in measuring finger acceleration during piano playing, measuring the forces and accelerations involved in playing tennis, or measuring heart rate, peripheral body temperature, and foot-pedal force while riding a bicycle. At present, it is essentially impossible for students to make such measurements. iDat is a major educational initiative where, for the first time, measurement of a huge range of phenomena will become very easy, both in terms of use and cost.


Patrick Anquetil

The BioInstrumentation Laboratory in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at MIT is dedicated to the development of novel modern medical instrumentation requiring the combination of many traditional disciplines including biology, optics, mechanics, mathematics, electronics and chemistry. It is uniquely placed to bring together these areas of research with its broad array of students and post doctoral research scientists from Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Physics, Chemistry, Materials Science and Biology. In addition, we have extensive laboratory facilities including mechanical, electrical and optical work shops, a BL2 biology work area, a chemistry laboratory and a clean room complete with an electron microscope. These facilities allow our researchers to move quickly from a medical device concept to a prototype and rapidly iterate their designs.