Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Size Exclusion Chromatography Set Up

My avatar Caia Alter, hovering in front of the Rosania Research Group laboratory in Second Life. The blue chromatography column is in place, and the pink "Millipore filter" platform has been placed on top, to facilitate loading of the column.

A different view, from the teleporting entrance to Second Nature.

A nice view of my avatar, Caia Alter, hovering next to the blue column. Note that a single piece of polymer has been loaded in the column. I tested the column by dropping myself into it. Not only did I confirm the column is strong and firm, but it was also a really nice ride.

Today I worked on setting up the size exclusion chromatography experiment. I am finding out that filling the column can be quite difficult. Actually, I think I crashed the SL computer. I was loading physical polymer into the column, and then I accidentally moved the column (which I believe was NonPhysical). What ended up happening is that the polymer ends up crossing the column, part inside/part outside and this freezes the computers, at least for a while. Actually, as I was doing this, Edimayo from next door stopped by. He was complaining that Hiro was giving a presentation about SL to the ORU faculty, and that SL suddenly slowed down to a halt. Hiro, I am really, really sorry...I think it was me.

Fortunately, there must be some really good error correcting codes built into the software, because in a little while, the column had disappeared into thin air, and a pile of polymer was strewn around my lab. Nevertheless, there are several important lessons here: 1) there is a computer behind all this, so beware....SL software engineers are geniuses (hats off), but there is hardware behind all this, somewhere in RL. 2) Scientific applications/experiments may need to be done somewhere distant from where normal educational acitivities are happening... in case things explode, freeze, or go really, really wrong. I already spoke with Finola Graves about this. 3) One may need to coordinate activities so that experiments gone wrong do not ruin important presentations...this is really hard for people working on experiments around the clock. One last lesson: if one is giving a presentation or introducing SL to someone, make sure there are several back up sites available to retreat to, in case the original site crashes. I had a crash the other day while presenting SL to a friend. It was late Saturday night and several SL servers crashed, with everyone being sent to some distant island. What we saw at this island cannot be described....let's just say that Dante's Inferno paled in comparison. So, always have a nice back-up site to retreat to, in case a server crashes.

Anyway, back to chromatography. I am going to try a different way to pack the column (first, set the column to nonphysical object and locked so that it is not moved). Then, load physical polymer, one piece of polymer at a time. As soon as the polymer finds its way to the bottom of the column and is nicely settled, change it from physical to non-physical. Will it work? I don't know. Another thing that I did was that I moved the Millipore filter that I had made the other day directly on top of the column. One of the pores on the filter opens directly on top of the column. The Millipore filter is linked and locked, as is the column. This way, things are held in place. Hopefully the column can be loaded. Actually, I am thinking that before I load polymer, I am going to load physical balls because balls may be easier for the computers to handle.

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About Me

I am Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan College of Pharmacy, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences