Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) has a reputation second to none in high-performance computing. It builds and manages the two largest computers ever built and was one of the technical powerhouses that developed the internet. But running the computing side of a laboratory with such a reputation is not about sitting back on past laurels. Dona Crawford, as associate director for computation, probably has the top job in scientific computing management, and it is her job to keep it at the top.
Engineers are fast becoming an endangered species. The retirement of the baby boom generation is imminent - more than half the engineers currently working are over the age of 45 - and the number of engineers currently being trained in universities on both sides of the Atlantic is not high enough to meet the demands of industry. Larger firms are increasingly aware that it is becoming difficult to find enough young talent to feed market expansion.
In the beginning - that is, no more than a decade or so ago - there was genomics, the study of the genes of each organism as a whole. Ten years on, the new science has come of age, with the genomes of more than 200 single-celled organisms and many important higher organisms already known. And what has become known as the post-genomic era has yielded a multitude of other 'omes', starting with the transcriptome and the proteome: the full complement of RNA transcripts and proteins in a cell, respectively.
Serendipity: I've always found it a delightful word. It sounds like a song, or the flight pattern of a small bird, or the name of a young heroine in an old novel. It evokes by its sound words such as serenity, quiddity, Ceres, and derives from an old Arabic name for the island of Sri Lanka. And, of course, the thing that the word describes is one of the most rewarding moments in life or science: the unexpected and unlooked for discovery of something new and wonderful.
One consequence of the Kyoto protocol, which seeks to reduce global carbon dioxide emissions, is that power generated from nuclear fission is once again being discussed as an alternative to electricity from fossil fuels. However, for major players in the nuclear industry - such as BNFL - to gain public trust, safety must come before all other concerns.
Managing, analysing and sharing information across departments and sites remains a big challenge for most life science companies. Nowhere is that more apparent than in sending data from laboratory instruments to LIMS, ERP or other corporate software. That's because it's not just a matter of simply transferring the data; it's about data management too, including data security and regulatory compliance.