Oliver de Peyer has invented a robot to do all the mundane experiments that biochemists would rather not do.
I’m installing a robot to carry out many automatic biochemistry experiments. It fills up a large room. It’s made up of many trays of mini test tubes, which hold liquids, and they move around on a sort of railway. A robot arm with a gripper moves the plates between the different pieces of apparatus for various experiments.
My plan is to do more experiments in less time, and for less money.
The room I work in is a lab in an academic research institute. In a typical day, I spend about half of the time at my computer programming my robot, and about the other half tinkering with it.
On a good day, I get some cooperation with my robot. Or I think of something that no one has thought of before. It was fantastic when we found out we’d got the money to build the robot – I went wild!
On a bad day, for no reason nothing seems to work – on these days, I find myself standing outside my institute on the way home, yelling obscenities at the brickwork.
It gets very lonely in a lab with only a robot for company, so I make a point of ambling along the corridor to say hi to my colleagues in other labs. I also try to synchronise my lunch and tea breaks with other people. There are always plenty of emails flying around.
My robot does everything. I mean it. It is made from many pieces of equipment from different companies – it has a ‘jumble sale’ look to it. Think of an experiment and then ring me up – chances are I could buy it and fit it in somehow.
Oliver de Peyer, post-doctoral researcher, MRC National Institute for Medical Research, London
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