There are more than 1,200 laboratories across Virginia Tech, focused on everything from the strength of industrial materials to brain development. With so many laboratories and so many faculty, managers, and students, how does Virginia Tech disseminate information about laboratory resources?

Enter LabConnect.

Focused on bringing together faculty researchers, graduate students, and staff, LabConnect is a vital resource for the Virginia Tech laboratory community. Under the auspices of the Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation, the group provides training opportunities, mentorship, and communication channels for all who work in laboratories to share knowledge and resources. Ultimately, LabConnect hopes to promote good laboratory practices resulting in quality data.

One of the ways LabConnect does this is by providing workshop and seminar opportunities. For example, a half-day workshop “Introduction to Scientific Digital Images: Avoiding Twisted Pixels” will be taught on Oct. 4 by Douglas Cromey of the University of Arizona College of Medicine. The goal of this workshop is to show that images are data, to illustrate what can be done with those data, and the ease with which they can be compromised. Presentations will include what constitutes a digital image and what goes into acquiring good images, as well as jargon and concepts associated with digital images. Options and formats for presentation of images will also be presented, as will a discussion of the ethical (and not so ethical) use of digital images. 

Such an opportunity builds stronger networks and learning communities for laboratory research at Virginia Tech.

“What we’re really trying to do here is to share what we have for the good of all,” said Kelly Peeler, current chair of the LabConnect leadership team and Water Quality Laboratory manager in the biological systems engineering department. “Lab employees across campus have a wealth of knowledge from our varied experiences and expertise, and access to a variety of resources. Being able to share all this with other lab employees can improve daily operations, provide mentoring, and make efficient use of our resources.”

One of LabConnect’s most recent endeavors has been to partner with the Office of Sustainability in a campus-wide sustainability initiative. The group has promoted a number of efforts on campus, including a student-led pilot program of Styrofoam recycling, as well as the Office of Energy Management’s "Shut the Sash" program, which bolsters energy savings by encouraging users to keep chemical fume hoods shut.

“LabConnect has partnered with the Office of Sustainability to help with a student-driven pilot program to collect expanded polystyrene (EPS) containers (commonly known as Styrofoam containers) and transport them to a local company for recycling,” said Sandy Hancock, senior laboratory specialist in the College of Veterinary Medicine. “Currently in the College of Veterinary Medicine, we have collected well over 300 containers since the program started, which is 300 containers that will not end up in our local landfill. This is the type of partnership and connection that we are interested in building on campus.”

The 16th annual Virginia Tech Laboratory Exposition, an event co-sponsored by LabConnect and the procurement department, promotes awareness of available laboratory resources, new technologies from vendors, and offers lectures on the latest laboratory techniques. Last year, LabConnect brought Allison Paradise, CEO of My Green Lab, to describe her approach to promote more sustainable lab practices. This year's LabExpo will be held on April 3.

“LabConnect is an important part of Virginia Tech’s research ecosystem,” said Theresa Mayer, vice president for research and innovation. “By connecting researchers, students, and staff to each other and to best practices, technologies, and solutions through events like LabExpo, LabConnect helps strengthen and grow our research enterprise.”

LabExpo’s theme this year is Get Plugged In, and will focus on all the resources researchers can plug into on campus. Mayer will give the keynote speech. LabExpo will also spotlight teaching and core facility labs. Attendees can discuss teaching and demonstration materials with vendors, as well as learn what services are available through core facilities on campus. 

LabConnect is open to all researchers, students, and staff who participate in laboratory operations across campus.

For more information on upcoming events or to join, you can head to the LabConnect homepage.

Published by Tiffany Trent, March 29, 2019