PITTCON, 2008: bioDIY questions, RFVials, and Science’s new web hirings

pittconchildAs a local New Orleans face (my colleagues just call me Mitoman in the lab) I had the chance to just simply walk into the grandiose PITTCON exhibiton at the Ernest N Morial Convention Center and I liked it. In addition to getting answers to some strictly lab related questions concerning filters and fuges (nevermind), I satisfied my 2 major side interests: the older bioDIY and the brand new RFID.

1. I surprised every biotech vendor – some of them laughed, others were meditating a bit – with the question: ok, but what is the cheapest gadget you have for somebody who wants to set up his basic DNA private lab at his backyard?

In my coming series to help launch a grassroots biotech DIY movement I’ll put together concrete suggestions on what to buy, but according to the experts:

– the price of a new benchtop centrifuge (6-8000 x g) is $800-1200, but the manufacturer is simply not interested in individual service and recycle used machines for low-throughput hobbyist end-users

– liquid nitrogen: 24 liter tank around $5000 (you can get it lower), LN itself is not that cheap but it’s worth storing your cells in a local repository bank instead, at least an expert guy told me

– a laminar hood for sterile work with cells is also around $5000, way too much for garage biofreaks, but you can still build your own out of a household air purifier

2. Have you ever thought of tracking, reidentifying your eppendorfs and tiny PCR tubes in the lab instead of the almost impossible hand marking? Well, we are not there yet, but Baytek developed an RFID kit for glass GC or HPLC vials. Continue reading

First DIY RFID experience: Arduino controlled Parallax reader

RFIDParallaxArduinoiBookIn the last couple of weeks I became heavily interested in RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology probably because the dangerous idea of all pervasive computing and the opportunities to build sg from the bottom-up. So here is a how-to to my first installed low frequency, read-only RFID system hopefully followed by a more juicy stuff in the ultra high frequency range up to 9 meters.


Parallax RFID reader with 2 tags ($49.99+shipping, Radio Shack)

9-Position Female Crimp D-Sub Connector($1.99, Radio Shack)

4 hook-up wires

Arduino Diecimila microcontroller ($34.99)

Macbook, iBook

Software, code:

Code in C programming language for using the Arduino with the Parallax RFID reader but in order to upload it to the Arduino board and make it actually work I had to put the reader activator line:

 digitalWrite(2, LOW);                  // Activate the RFID reader

into the

 void loop()

function just like in the the sample Wiring tutorial

Arduino software: different packages for Intel based Macbook and PPC iBook

Here is a screenshot on the Serial Monitor reading the tags on iBook: Continue reading