One day at SLAS – and the disruptive app as an ELN

So due to family travel limitations I was only at the SLAS meeting this year for a day (Monday) and I am very grateful for them waiving my registration to be there. In that time I gave the talk on mobile app workflows and presented a poster. I also attended the meeting last year, and I have to say that compared to other similar meetings, I really like it. Why? Well its not too big – although the exhibition hall was jammed with vendors and automation of every ilk. The keynote was great. The posters at the meeting get pretty good traffic, (as did the CDD booth) and unlike the ACS, which has so many parallel tracks that sometime audiences are really just a handful of colleagues, this one had 6 tracks on Monday afternoon. Audiences were in the hundreds of people. In fact I was in the session on target vs phenotypic screening, and that one was overflowing. Of course I tweeted prolifically (so checkout tweets with @collabchem and #SLAS2014 or #slas2014) but there really were not that many others live tweeting. I even got to ask a question that was tweeted from a scientist in the UK to me, to then ask the speaker!

The session I spoke in on informatics was well attended and one talk in particular really got my attention, as Emily Walsh, a medical student from NYU described her labs use of the mobile app Evernote as an E-labnotebook (ELN). Why is this important. I think, while its not a “real” ELN it just goes to show how a mobile app can do many of the things an ELN could do and depending on the version of Evernote you use, it could be done for free. For me that is a great example of disruption. 30 years plus of ELN evolution and BAM! a mobile app can do the job, it can enable you to share your research with colleagues in the lab. Of course now I want to see how useful it could be for me to keep track of the work that I do – Now there is a challenge. Of course Evernote may not be all that good for chemists as its not chemistry aware, but you could imagine that between Evernote and some of the free chemistry apps this could be sorted out.

My final take away from the meeting that impressed me was a group of children from USFIRST.ORG from San Diego who demonstrated the automated devices they had built from lego or the robots they had built from scratch. This was an eyeopener, perhaps one day these young adults would be building the lab automation of the future!

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