Researchers from areas as wide ranging as astrophysics, the automotive industry, and biomedicine use physical simulation and modelling software to aid the design and testing of products. The benefits include improved design, lower production costs and greater efficiency: Viasys Healthcare claims that the use of Star-CD from CD-adapco, a computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulator, to redesign an infant ventilator device, reduced the design phase from one year to just three days and saved the company $250,000, while making it safer for the baby and cheaper to run.
December 2006/January 2007
The UK is beginning an ambitious new project to collect and store millions of biological samples from people across the country. Over the next three or four years around half a million people between the ages of 40 and 69 will be involved in this study. The samples that they provide, along with other data about their health and lifestyle, will be correlated with their health records from the day that they sign up to the study until the day they die.
Chemists and biologists from many diverse laboratories are finally making the switch from paper to electronic notebooks (ELNs). The transition is a difficult journey for any company to undertake, both in terms of infrastructure, and in persuading thousands of scientists to change their working habits, but the benefits include tighter intellectual property (IP) control, increased efficiency, and better note-taking.
Electronic laboratory notebooks (ELNs) represent one of the fastest-growing informatics markets, with a growth rate of more than 30 per cent a year, and double-digit growth will continue over the next four years, according to a recent survey from Atrium Research (see page 53).
Electronic Laboratory Notebook (ELN) technology has experienced significant growth in the past three years, particularly in commercial life sciences. Driven initially by demand in medicinal and process chemistry, organisations are beginning to evaluate and install ELNs in other domains, such as biology, analytical chemistry, and quality assurance. We project market growth of between 30 and 40 per cent for 2006 over 2005, with sales of approximately US$50m(i).
Six years after the Human Genome Project produced its first draft of the human genome sequence, Laboratory Information Management Systems (LIMS) are beginning to appear in genetics laboratories around the globe. As LIMS expands out of the quality control/quality assurance laboratory, other novel applications include biobanking and clinical medicine. At the other end of the spectrum, there is renewed interest in integrating LIMS with process software.
The application of skills from the mathematical physics branch of science to finance and economics has become firmly established. By the late 1990s, physics graduates were being vigorously recruited by finance houses. As I write this, the Securities and Investment Institute’s Career Centre is advertising for ‘incredibly bright mathematics/ physics graduates (MSc/PhD preferred) to work alongside the founding partners’. Elsewhere, insights from physics have fed the development of models that provide understanding of wealth and poverty distributions.
Most people’s idea of a high-technology company is that it was founded by some young maverick working out of a garage. Bill Trowbridge decided to found his company, Vector Fields, when he was 54 – and, 22 years later, still yearns to continue his work developing tools for the design of magnetic systems, despite his retirement. His eagerness to keep working may be because he feels he wasted the first 10 years of his professional life in the merchant navy, before discovering his true vocation in physics.