Sensors Keep Experiments in Check at Weill Cornell Medical College

A network of Oceasoft sensors allow researchers in the life-sciences lab to keep tabs on essential equipment and environmental conditions within the lab—even when they're not working.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Tags: Business
Jan 26, 2015

Researchers at the Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, a branch of the Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City, conduct a wide range of biomedical research projects focused on everything from diabetes to cancer. Key to the success of these studies is ensuring that biological samples and temperature-sensitive agents are kept in a stable environment—a job that falls on Harald Moubarak, the college's research laboratory manager, and his team.

"We manage the lab so the researchers can focus on the research," Moubarak explains. "So we do the cleaning, providing equipment; we maintain the culture rooms, make sure the plumbing is working properly, etc. We also conduct safety checks and manage equipment."

Weill Cornell Medical College; Photo: Joey Coleman
Yet, there is only so much Moubarak and his team can do to ensure that the research efforts are well supported. Without assigning personnel to monitor the lab 24 hours a day, for example, he was unable to ensure that all equipment would function properly at all times.

In the event of an overnight power outage or equipment failure, vital equipment such as CO2 incubators (designed to maintain a temperature- and humidity-controlled carbon dioxide atmosphere for the growth of tissue culture cells) or liquid nitrogen storage tanks could be knocked offline. "You could come to work in the morning," he explains, "and find that years of research is gone because the storage or incubation system was not working at night."

Seeking a technological solution, Moubarak put out requests for proposals (RFPs) for a sensor network that could act as eyes and ears, monitoring vital lab equipment and alerting staff members electronically any time that power was disrupted.

The RFP required that the solution be completely wireless—this would make installation more straightforward, Moubarak explains, and help him avoid bringing the IT department in to run cable. The sensors would also need to be able to run on battery power so that they could operate in the event of power-line outages.

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