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Sample Tracking & Workflow

Good software can simplify tracking samples through multiple chemical processes. Aitken Scientific have provided software to track samples from initial stages (where samples are entered onto the system from incoming vials or plates), through daughter plate generation if needed, and then onto analysis, purification, pooling and any other process performed on the samples.

The important relationships between plates, tubes, vials and the original samples can be maintained in a database which records additional information such as fraction weights, purity and mass spectrometry results.

The work flow can also be controlled. At each stage the user is presented with choices once the current stage is complete. The actual flow used for a specific input sample or plate can be viewed as a hierarchy to aid understanding of the overall process.

The software written for each flow stage can also control equipment such as liquid handlers, plate readers and robotic manipulators to fully automate the process. Emailing of status and errors is available to allow unattended operation and help users maintain optimal throughput. Robotic transfer between steps can also be handled.

Typical User Interface

The main view (right) displays a filterable list of bar-codes for the known sample plates. Alongside the sample list the status and workflow of the currently selected sample plate is displayed.

The software also includes a powerful search dialogue that can filter the sample plates by by various properties such as chemist name, completion date, lab-book number or library identifier.

The workflow for the currently selected plate is visualised as a series of linked buttons with icons representing the individual workflow steps. Through this interface the chemist can choose any point in the workflow and review the decisions made, or continue from the last point in the sequence if the process is not yet finished.

Each stage is represented by a screen which replaces the workflow diagram. From each of these screens the chemist can update and track the samples for the chosen stage then progress straight to the next stage when the processing is complete.

The image to the left demonstrates the login stage for a new sample plate. The chemist enters their lab-book number and prints a barcode for the new sample plate. The system retrieves information about the samples for the new plate from files generated by an external process and displays them to the user as a detailed list and a plate-layout diagram.

The button at the bottom of the screen then allows the chemist to progress to the Analysis stage (where, in this case, the samples will be analysed using a mass spectrometer). This sequence will continue until the sample plate has been to all the necessary stages in the workflow.