LII:The Laboratories of Our Lives: Labs, Labs Everywhere!/Labs by industry: Part 4

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6. Labs by industry: Part 4

We conclude our examination of 20 broad industry categories and the laboratories associated with them, looking at the final five. For each you'll find a brief description with common services and how the lab type affects the average person. As discussed previously, using our client type + function model we dig into examples found in the private, government, and academic sectors and then outline function through activities, sciences, test types, equipment, and unique attributes. Finally, we discuss the role of informatics in each industry lab type. A discussion follows in the final chapter.

6.1 Nanotechnology

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Nanoscience is the study of objects (materials, structures, devices) and phenomena on the nanometer scale. Physicist Richard Feynman's talk titled "There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom" at the end of 1959 helped spark an exploration today of the world of the fantastically small[1], one that has spawned a great number of discoveries and inventions based on nanoscience.[2] From quantum computing to cellulose nanomaterials, private, public, and academic labs of all types are improving the way we construct, work, and play. These labs provide many different services, including (but not limited to)[3] :

  • characterization and testing of nanoscale devices and materials
  • improvement of the performance of existing technologies and materials
  • development of new materials
  • research and development of nanosafety plans
  • research and development of nanotech standards
  • research and development of nanomanufacturing and -measurement equipment
  • development of nanomedicines

But how do nanotechnology laboratories intersect the average person's life on a daily basis?

As the technology and research around nanotechnology is still in somewhat of an infant phase, it's less clear how these labs affect the average person. The fact that by definition visualizing the design of nanotechnology due to its nano scale is challenging doesn't make relating to nanotech labs any easier either. The idea of the quantum computer, a computational device utilizing nature's small-scale physics, is still in early development, but nanotechnology labs such as MIT's Lincoln Lab continue to research and apply nanoscience to the hardware that could make up the first practical quantum computer.[4] Moving from the theoretical to the more applicable, the United States National Nanotechnology Initiative list several applications of nanotechnology found in products today, including solar panel films, windmill blades, gas lift valves, and airplane cabin filters.[5]

6.1.1 Client types

Private - Private nanotech labs are usually associated with a major company or part of a private-public partnership, as the equipment to analyze and manufacture at the nano scale can be costly.

Examples include:

Government - Government-based nanotechnology labs are typically themed towards a certain sub-branch, from nanomedicine (cancer research) to military (war machines).

Examples include:

Academic - The nanotech labs of higher education tend to have a focus on post-graduate education and research, occasionally subcontracting its expertise out to the private domain.

Examples include:

6.1.2 Functions

What are the most common functions? analytical, QA/QC, research/design, and teaching

What materials, technologies, and/or aspects are being analyzed, researched, and quality controlled? nanoemulsions, nanomaterials, nanomedicines

What sciences are being applied in these labs? astrophysics, biology, biomedical engineering, chemistry, electrical engineering, microfabrication, molecular biology, molecular engineering, organic chemistry, physics, statistics

What are some examples of test types and equipment?

Common test types include:

Acute toxicity, Biocompatibility, Characterization, Chronic toxicity, Design review and evaluation, Ecotoxicology, Electrophoresis, Efficacy, Friction, Grain and particle size, Irritation, Nanoparticulate, Proficiency, Safety, Spectral, Subchronic toxicity, Surface topography

Industry-related lab equipment may include:

atom probe, atomic force microscope, atomic force microscopy-Raman system, atomic layer deposition system, calorimeter, cryogenic probe station, dynamic light scattering equipment, electron backscattered diffraction system, ellipsometer, flow chemistry reactor, helium ion beam microscope, micro hardness tester, micropositioning system, nanoparticle characterization system, optical tweezers, particle size analyzer, plasma etching system, safety cabinet, scanning electron microscope, scanning near-field optical microscope, separation membrane, spectrometer, spectrophotometer, transmission electron microscope, viscometer, X-ray camera, X-ray diffractometer

What else, if anything, is unique about the labs in the nanotech industry?

The laboratory equipment of a nanotechnology lab stands out among other industry labs, in so much that it tends to be specialized and expensive, regardless of what sub-field of nanotechnology is being studied.[6][7] This extends to the laboratory space itself, where conditions must be specially maintained for optimal results; this includes electromagnetic shielding, reduced acoustic levels, reduced vibrations, and carefully maintained temperatures.[8]

6.1.3 Informatics in the nanotechnology industry

Yes, data analysis and management systems are also important in the burgeoning field of nanotechnology. Referred to at times as nanoinformatics, the application of informatics tools to nanotechnology happens in several ways:

  • Nanomaterials development: the use of artificial neural networks and other tools to formulate, analyze, and assess requirements specification for nanomaterials; develop conceptual designs; and finalize a detailed technical solution[9]
  • Nanosafety data management: the management and sharing of "information on the physicochemical characteristics of nanomaterials, toxicity, exposure, data and metadata"[10]
  • Nanotechnology ontology development: the development of "a web ontology in the form of a semantically precise and computer-processable definition of entities and their relationships" that will further integrate disparate data standards, sources, formats, and models towards a higher-quality and more efficient nanotech development sector[11][12]

6.1.4 LIMSwiki resources and further reading

LIMSwiki resources

Further reading

6.2 Petrochemical and hydrocarbon

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A petrochemical and hydrocarbon laboratory is focused on analyzing the properties and constituents of various petrochemicals and their feedstock (including petroleum, natural gas, and coal) for the purposes of ensuring their safety, quality, development, and improvement. Secondarily, these labs may provide a platform for research and development (R&D) and teaching. Petrochemical and hydrocarbon labs are found in the private and academic sectors, and occasionally in government, providing many different services, including (but not limited to)[13]:

  • analysis for purity
  • analysis for contaminates
  • corrosion testing
  • characterization testing
  • environmental testing
  • quality control testing

But how do petrochemical and hydrocarbon laboratories intersect the average person's life on a daily basis?

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimated that of the approximately 7.19 billion barrels of petroleum consumed in the U.S. in 2016, 48 percent of it went towards motor gasoline, 20 percent of it went to distillate fuel, and eight percent was used as jet fuel.[14] The EIA also notes that while petroleum is used as a feedstock for the creation of plastic in the U.S., it's not the main feedstock for plastic, and regardless, the EIA is unable to determine what percentage of petroleum consumed in the U.S. went towards the creation of plastics[15] (though simple math using the numbers previously provided proves that it must be 24 percent or less). Even so, these facts alone can't but cement the idea that the world as we know it today would not be as it is without petroleum and petrochemical laboratories and their laboratorians. One could argue that laboratories developing renewable source of energy and the equipment to harness it are more important from an environmental standpoint, but the point still stands: we currently depend heavily on petrochemicals as energy and to create thousands of products.[16]

6.2.1 Client types

Private - These labs provide an array of analytical services as third-party testers and consultants, or they work as company-based or independent research and development laboratories developing new petrochemical-based products.

Examples include:

Government - At least in the United States, government petrochemical labs are typically working to ensure consistent fuel quality, product safety, and fuel transportation methods. Secondarily they may act as environmental response centers, reacting to petroleum spills and natural spills or developing improved remediation methods.

Examples include:

Academic - Academic petrochemical labs are providing education to undergraduate and graduate students, as well as driving new research into petrochemical extraction and infrastructure.

Examples include:

6.2.2 Functions

What are the most common functions? analytical, QA/QC, research/design, and teaching

What materials, technologies, and/or aspects are being analyzed, researched, and quality controlled? aromatics, coal, feedstocks, hydrocarbons, intermediate chemicals, monomers, natural gas, petroleum, polymers, sediment, solvents, sulfur, trace metals, water, wear metals

What sciences are being applied in these labs? chemistry, environmental science, geology, geophysics, mathematics, petroleum engineering, physics, thermodynamics

What are some examples of test types and equipment?

Common test types include:

Acid and base number, Aniline point, API gravity, Basic sediment and water, Biodegradation, Boiling - freezing - melting point, Calorimetry, Carbon-hydrogen ratio, Cargo inspection and sampling, Cetane, Chemical and materials compatibility, Cloud point, Combustion, Compliance/Conformance, Conductivity, Congealing point, Conradson Carbon Residue, Contamination, Corrosion, Damage tolerance, Decomposition, Density, Dissolved gas, Doctor test, Emissions, Evaporation loss, Flash point, Fluid dynamics, Geochemistry, Geophysics, Heating value, Hydraulic, Hydrocarbon group type, Immersion, Impurity, Kauri-butanol value, Leak, Lightning, Lubricity, Macroetch, Mobility, Moisture, Molecular weight, Octane, Oxidation reduction potential, Oxidation stability, Passivation, Permeability, Peroxide value, pH, Plating and coating evaluations, Pour point, Pressure, Process safety, Proficiency, Quality control, Radioactivity, Radiochemical, Ramsbottom Carbon Residue, Refractive index, Salt content, Saponification value, Seismic, Smoke point, Stress corrosion cracking, Surface tension, Thermal, Vapor pressure, Velocity and flow, Viscosity, Weathering

Industry-related lab equipment may include:

amperostat, balance, chromatographic, combustion analyzer, constant temperature bath, density meter, dissolved oxygen meter, evaporation loss analyzer, flashpoint tester, flocculator, fume hood, hot plate, hygrometer, iodine flask, metallic iron analyzer, muffle furnace, oil-in-water analyzer, oxidation stability analyzer, pH meter, pycnometer, refractometer, rheometer, shakers and stirrers, specific gravity flask, spectrometer, spectrophotometer, thermometer, thin film oven, titrator, turbidity meter, vapor pressure analyzer, viscometer, water bath

What else, if anything, is unique about the labs in the petrochemical and hydrocarbon industry?

Because of the environmental consequences of petrochemical and feedstock pollution of the environment, petrochemical labs share some of the same characteristics of environmental labs. Also like environmental labs, petrochemical labs have their fair share of field analyses, both on land and on the water.

6.2.3 Informatics in the petrochemical and hydrocarbon industry

Proper data analysis and management in the petrochemical and hydrocarbon lab is vital to the quality of the final consumer product and to the efficiency of the business itself. Laboratory informatics software like the laboratory information management system (LIMS) is an important tool towards meeting those goals. And the processes are different at each manufacturing and R&D stage, from improving operation efficiencies in drilling and recovery of the upstream phase, the process optimization of midstream hydrocarbon cracking and refining, and the process development and improvement of polymers and plastics downstream.[17] LIMS and other tools are capable of automatically capturing data from a continuous process flow that involves in-process testing using numerous instruments, processing and storing that data, and making it available for a variety of purposes, including quality testing.[18] As the need for efficiency and improved quality grows, conferences such as the International Petroleum Data Integration, Information and Data Management Conference[19] and the Esri Energy Resources GIS Conference[20] provide further opportunities for the industry to share and innovate new ways for informatics systems to further benefit the industry.

6.2.4 LIMSwiki resources and further reading

LIMSwiki resources

Further reading

6.3 Pharmaceutical

Generic Propecia.jpg

The pharmaceutical laboratory is complex, but at its core the laboratorians in them aim to better develop, analyze, improve, and quality control the drugs and medical devices that improve humans' and animals' quality of life. Due to the potential health risks of ingesting/implanting a poorly tested pharmaceutical/medical device, these labs tend to be heavily regulated by governments. In fact, the governments themselves will often have their own labs to test for product quality and lab compliance. Universities provide not only education programs and graduate research opportunities but also pharmaceutical analysis and outreach programs. Pharmaceutical labs are found in the private, government, and academic sectors, providing many different services, including (but not limited to)[21][22][23]:

  • hit picking/screening of potential therapeutics
  • method development and validation
  • stability and photostability testing
  • shelf life testing
  • bioequivalence testing
  • dissolution testing
  • impurities testing
  • counterfeit testing
  • formulation optimization
  • quality control

But how do pharmaceutical laboratories intersect the average person's life on a daily basis?

In a 2000 journal article published in Journal of Automated Methods & Management in Chemistry, author Juanita M. Hawkins of Jansen Pharmaceutica noted the following: "Understanding the contributions that the laboratory can make in product/process development, process improvement, market surveillance and general business is key to the pharmaceutical business today. Poor laboratory practice yields compliance issues, increased cost, increased cycle time and delayed product introductions."[24] While a very business-centered statement, reading between the lines—and further into the journal article—reveals why properly run pharmaceutical labs are important to the average person today: "customers expect the product to be safe and efficacious" and "that it meets all specifications."[24] All but those participating in a primitive society will at one point (if not frequently) have the need to be treated with a pharmaceutical drug or device. Without the associated laboratories and quality control (QC) procedures in place, the pharmaceuticals would be of poor quality (if they existed at all) and endanger many lives. Even if you take something as simple as an aspirin, remember that a lab developed it, improved it, and/or QCed it for your benefit.

6.3.1 Client types

Private - These labs are either part of a pharmaceutical company's portfolio or are third-party contract labs that provide extensive analysis and consulting services.

Examples include:

Government - Government pharmaceutical labs typically act as either research centers or in an official regulatory capacity to ensure product quality and lab compliance.

Examples include:

Academic - The pharmaceutical engineering labs in the academic sector provide not only education programs for students and graduate research opportunities but also pharmaceutical analysis and outreach programs.

Examples include:

6.3.2 Functions

What are the most common functions? analytical, QA/QC, research/design, and teaching

What materials, technologies, and/or aspects are being analyzed, researched, and quality controlled? biological agents and samples, contaminates, drug substances, elemental metals, microbials, proteins, raw materials, solvents

What sciences are being applied in these labs? biochemistry, biology, chemistry, genetics, molecular biology, neuroscience, pathology, pharmacology, physiology, posology, toxicology

What are some examples of test types and equipment?

Common test types include:

Absorption, Active ingredient, Acute contact, Acute oral, Acute toxicity, Alcohol level, Allergy, Altitude, Amino acid analysis, Angle of repose, Antimicrobial, Bioavailability, Bioburden, Biocompatibility, Bioequivalence, Biosafety, Boiling - freezing - melting point, C- and N-terminal, Carcinogenicity, Characterization, Chronic toxicity, Circular dichroism, Cleanliness, Clinical diagnostic, Colorimetric, Compendial, Compliance/Conformance, Composition, Congealing point, Contamination, Cytotoxicity, De novo protein, Detection, Developmental and reproductive toxicology, Disintegration, Dissolution, Disulfide bridge, Efficacy, Electrophoresis, Endotoxin, Expiration dating, Extractables and leachables, Flavor, Formulation, Fragrance, Friability, Functional observational battery, Genotoxicity, Human factors, Identification, Impurity, Ingredient, Ingress, Inhalation, Irritation, Iterative, Locomotor activity, Lot release, Microfluidics, Minimum bactericidal concentration, Minimum inhibitory concentration, Moisture, Molecular weight, Mutagenicity, Nanoparticulate, Organic carbon, Osmolality, Osmolarity, Oxidation reduction potential, Oxidation stability, Pathogen, Peptide mapping, Permeability, pH, Pharmacokinetic, Photostability, Phototoxicity, Polarimetry, Post-translational modification, Preservative challenge, Process safety, Proficiency, Protein analysis, Protein characterization, Purity, Pyrogenicity, Quality control, Radioactivity, Radiochemical, Safety, Saponification value, Sensitization, Solubility, Specific rotation, Stability, Sterility, Subchronic toxicity, Surface tension, Thermal, Total viable count, Toxicokinetic, Ultraviolet, Usability, Validation, Verification, Virucidal efficacy, Water activity

Industry-related lab equipment may include:

animal monitoring equipment, balance, biological safety cabinet, blood and hematology analyzers, calorimeter, cell counter, cell disruptor, cell harvesting system, centrifuge, chemical synthesizer, chromatographic, cryocooler, dissolution equipment, dissolved oxygen meter, DNA shearing sonicator, drying and heating chamber, electrophoresis equipment, flow cytometer, flow injection analyzer, freeze dryer, freezer, fume hood, glove box, hit-picking system, incubator, inhalation chamber, interferometer, laminar flow cabinet, liquid handling equipment, metallic iron analyzer, microplate equipment, particle counter, PCR equipment, pH meter, powder analyzer, pumps and sprayers, refractometer, rheometer, solid phase extraction equipment, spectrometer, spectrophotometer, steam sterilizer, sonicator, turbidity meter, UV chamber, vacuum evaporator, viscometer, water purification system

What else, if anything, is unique about the labs in the pharmaceutical industry?

QC is important to any laboratory; however, in the pharmaceutical industry, many countries like the U.S. place extra emphasis on pharmaceutical QC labs. "The pharmaceutical quality control laboratory serves one of the most important functions in pharmaceutical production and control ... This includes pharmaceutical laboratories used for in-process and finished product testing," says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.[25] Even the World Health Organization puts focus on their importance, pointing out[26]:

The government, normally through the national medicines regulatory authority (NMRA), may establish and maintain a pharmaceutical quality control laboratory to carry out the required tests and assays to verify that APIs, excipients and pharmaceutical products meet the prescribed specifications. Large countries may require several pharmaceutical quality control laboratories which conform to national legislation, and appropriate arrangements should, therefore, be in place to monitor their compliance with a quality management system.

As Maura May notes for Pharmaceutical Manufacturing, the importance of these labs not only lies in protecting the public and company; they're a product of a competitive environment, where spending, cleanliness, and lead times are vital.[27]

6.3.3 Informatics in the pharmaceutical industry

In the pharmaceutical industry, we can look at how informatics is applied in two key ways:

  • the drug discovery and R&D phase, found within the pharmaceutical company continuum (sometimes referred to as drug discovery informatics, and pharmacoinformatics)
  • the dispersal and use phase, found within the healthcare continuum (sometimes referred to as drug informatics, pharmacy informatics, and pharmacoinformatics)

In the first case, drug discovery and development is supported using data analysis and management tools that allow laboratory researchers to model molecules, search and visualize research data, build databases, and track efficacy.[28] In the other, patients and doctors are provided with more relevant and timely drug information, drug utilization reviews, medication-related policies and procedures, and dispensing practices.[29] The development and propagation of informatics tools to perform these and other important tasks in and out of the lab are furthered by journals such as ASSAY and Drug Development Technologies[30] and special interest groups like the Association of Faculties of Pharmacy of Canada (AFPC)'s Pharmacy Informatics SIG.[31]

6.3.4 LIMSwiki resources and further reading

LIMSwiki resources

Further reading

6.4 Power and utility


The labs in the power and utility industry cover at least two broad categories: power generation and transmission (electrical engineering and its sub-branches) and water treatment and distribution (water engineering and management, including water purification chemistry). Natural gas transmission and distribution (natural gas engineering) is a third type, though more often than not these labs appear in the upstream and midstream distribution chain (i.e., within the petrochemical industry). In several parts of the world, the development and maintenance of local, regional, and even national broadband internet infrastructure is increasingly also considered a responsibility of the public utility system. These labs are found in the private and academic sectors, and occasionally in government, providing many different services, including (but not limited to)[32][33]:

  • hardware design, verification, and optimization
  • real-time digital power system (RTDS) simulation
  • magnetic material characterization
  • short circuit analysis
  • high-voltage analysis
  • forensic and incident analysis
  • environmental simulation testing
  • certification testing
  • water quality monitoring and analysis

But how do power and utility laboratories intersect the average person's life on a daily basis?

If you live in a location where access to power and clean water is consistent, to the point of being easy to take for granted, then your life is positively affected by a power and utility laboratory. Sometimes things go wrong, though, as they have done in the city of Flint, Michigan, where government leadership failures and cost-cutting measures led to a problematic water treatment plant and water source to continue to be used despite warnings the water was dangerous.[34] The Flint crisis is a reminder that when processes break down in a public utilities lab—whether caused internally or from higher up in government—people get hurt or even die. Power, water, natural gas, and even broadband internet: most enjoy and expect these basic services on a daily basis, and sound laboratory analysis and research ensures this holds true.

6.4.1 Client types

Private - These company labs provide a wide array of testing services to third-party clients, conduct research, and even provide certification testing.

Examples include:

Government - These are federal, state, or local laboratories responsible for testing and maintaining the safety of water supplies, developing and improving electrical infrastructure, or researching new technologies for public utilities. Occasionally local municipalities will post requests for proposal (RFPs) to contract out regulation-mandated water quality testing rather than invest in the infrastructure to do it their self.

Examples include:

Academic - Academic power and utility labs are largely instructional, with graduate level research helping to expand the field.

Examples include:

6.4.2 Functions

What are the most common functions? analytical, QA/QC, research/design, and teaching

What materials, technologies, and/or aspects are being analyzed, researched, and quality controlled? actuators, conductors, electrical converters, energy storage, high-voltage direct-current links, hydroelectric generators, networking equipment, superconductors, transformers, transmission lines, wastewater, water

What sciences are being applied in these labs? chemistry, control engineering, electrical engineering, electrochemistry, electromagnetism, electronics, forensic science, nanotechnology, physics, power engineering, signal processing

What are some examples of test types and equipment?

Common test types include:

Accelerated stress testing, Accelerated weathering, Acoustical, Aging, Anion, Antimicrobial, Artificial pollution, Bioburden, Chemical and biochemical oxygen demand, Cleanliness, Climatics, Comparative Tracking Index, Compliance/Conformance, Compression, Corrosion, Current and current switching, Damage tolerance, Decomposition, Degradation, Dielectric withstand, Efficiency, Electromagnetic compatibility, Electromagnetic interference, Electrostatic discharge, Emissions, Endurance, Environmental stress-cracking resistance, Failure, Fatigue, Fault simulation, Flash point, Geothermal, Hydraulic, Immersion, Impact, Incident analysis, Induction motor fault, Internal arc, Lightning, Macroetch, Mechanical, Mechanical durability, Minimum bactericidal concentration, Minimum inhibitory concentration, Out-of-phase making and breaking, Partial discharge, pH, Plating and coating evaluations, Power quality, Pressure, Proficiency, Radioactivity, Radio interference voltage, Reliability, Resistance - capacitance - inductance, Short-circuit withstand, Short-line fault, Solar, Stress corrosion cracking, Temperature-rise, Tensile, Thermal, Torque, Turbidity, Velocity and flow, Voltage, Weathering

Industry-related lab equipment may include:

Electrical engineering: arbitrary waveform generator, circuit simulator, configurable test grids, current and voltage probes, inverter systems, LCR meter, machine drive and controller systems, magnetometer, microcontroller systems, multimeter, oscilloscope, potentiometer, primary metering unit, real-time digital power system simulator, Rogowski coil, semiconductor curve tracer, spectrum analyzer, tachometer, temperature camera

Water engineering: adenosine triphosphate meter, biocide test kit, borescope, burette, centrifuge, chlorination test kit, colorimeter, conductivity meter, dissolved oxygen meter, Erlenmeyer flask, hydrometer, incubator, Legionella test kit, oxidation-reduction potential meter, pH meter, purge and trap equipment, reagents, salinity meter, settling cone, spectrophotometer, thermometer, total dissolved solids meter, turbidity meter

Natural gas engineering: See Petrochemical section.

What else, if anything, is unique about the labs in the power and utility industry?

Looking at the lab equipment list above, it's relatively easy to tell that those labs focusing on electrical engineering are by and far dry labs, whereas water engineering labs are (no pun intended) of the more typical wet type. A reliable power supply and clean drinking water are easy to take for granted in first-world countries, but both are backed by laboratorians working in very differently equipped labs.

6.4.3 Informatics in the power and utility industry

The power and utility industry, including its laboratories, are using informatics in a variety of different ways:

  • Environmental informatics plays a role in power and utility labs, where researchers will use informatics tools to improve the integration and analysis of environmental data (such as from emissions tracking) and even make it available in a collaborative way for further regional or global analysis.[35]
  • Geographic information systems and related imagery tools can also positively contribute to utility companies looking to better build and maintain energy transmission and other utility corridors, limiting vegetation management hours and providing more accurate placements.[36]
  • More future looking, consider "power grid informatics," defined by researcher Klara Nahrstedt of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as the study of "the structure, algorithms, behavior, and interactions of power grid physical systems and artificial cyber systems (cyberphysical systems) which store, process, access and communicate information."[37] In particular, Nahrstedt looked at the future of electric vehicles—and one today could also extend it to driverless vehicles—and the "cyber-physical components" and data management considerations that come with a regional or even national infrastructure to support them.
  • Local utilities are using real-time water quality and supply data to improve how they manage water and wastewater treatment.[38]

6.4.4 LIMSwiki resources and further reading

LIMSwiki resources

Further reading

6.5 Veterinary

Iranian cat in clinic.jpg

Veterinary laboratories are to animals as clinical reference/diagnostic labs are to humans. These labs are designed with many of the same instruments found in a human diagnostic lab, with slight variations, and they conduct both clinical (serving the patient) and public health (serving the population) activities. Veterinary labs are found in the private, government, and academic sectors and provide many different services, including (but not limited to)[39][40][41]:

  • diagnostic consultation
  • toxicology
  • DNA profiling and testing
  • disease surveillance
  • educational outreach

But how do veterinary laboratories intersect the average person's life on a daily basis?

The most obvious way veterinary labs impact our lives is via the animals we care for. From hamster to elephant, a veterinary laboratory is responsible for diagnosing disease in animals, aiding veterinarians in the treatment process. They also work behind the scenes, investigating cases of food-borne illness and disease outbreaks in animal populations, allowing quicker action against at-fault food manufacturers and potent disease vectors. Without these laboratories, feed, rescue, and companion animals of all types would face worse outcomes, and our edible meat sources would more often be contaminated, putting human health at risk as well.

6.5.1 Client types

Private - These labs provide third-party analysis and consultation services for animal owners and other veterinary labs.

Examples include:

Government - As previously mentioned, many universities lump veterinary science programs with agriculture programs. You see some of this carry over to the government-run laboratories conducting animal health and disease diagnostic activities, typically though the government's agriculture department. Despite animal science as a scientific discipline arguably being more closely aligned with agriculture science than veterinary science[42], those government animal health labs are typically overseen and operated by veterinarians (see examples).

Examples include:

Academic - At least in the United States, academic veterinary laboratories typically act as both teaching labs for students and as diagnostic or disease tracking facilities for paying clients and the public. Those providing third-party services will also be accredited by one or more associations such as the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians.

Examples include:

6.5.2 Functions

What are the most common functions? analytical, QA/QC, research/design, and teaching

What materials, technologies, and/or aspects are being analyzed, researched, and quality controlled? avians, biological specimens, cadavers, canines, DNA, exotic animals, equines, felines

What sciences are being applied in these labs? clinical chemistry, clinical microbiology, cytopathology, genetics, hematology, histopathology, immunohematology, immunology, parasitology, pathophysiology, reproductive biology, surgical pathology, toxicology, virology

What are some examples of test types and equipment?

Common test types include:

Acute contact, Acute oral, Acute toxicity, Allergy, Amino acid analysis, Antimicrobial, Bioaccumulation, Bioburden, Blood culture, Blood gases, Blood typing, Biophysical profile, Calorimetry, Characterization, Chronic toxicity, Colorimetric, Complete blood count, Compliance/Conformance, Cytopathology, Detection, Electrolyte and mineral panel, Genetic, Genotype, Hematocrit, Hemoglobin, Immunoassay, Immunofluorescence, Immunohistochemistry, Infectious disease, Kidney function, Lipid profile, Liver function, Metabolic panel, Minimum bactericidal concentration, Minimum inhibitory concentration, Neurotoxicity, Nutritional, Osmolality, Osmolarity, Parasitic, pH, Proficiency, Protein analysis, Protein characterization, Red blood cell count, Sensitization, Specific gravity, Subchronic toxicity, Thyroid function, Urine culture, Wildlife toxicology

Industry-related lab equipment may include:

artificial insemination equipment, autoclave, balance, biohazard container, biosafety cabinet, centrifuge, chromatographic, clinical chemistry analyzer, colorimeter, desiccator, dissolved oxygen meter, dry bath, fume hood, homogenizer, hotplate, incubator, magnetic stirrer, microcentrifuge tube, microplate reader, microscope, multi-well plate, orbital shaker, PCR machine, personal protective equipment, pH meter, Petri dish, pipettor, powered air purifying respirators, refractometer, spectrophotometer, syringes, test tube and rack, thermometer, urinalysis device, veterinary table, water bath

What else, if anything, is unique about the labs in the veterinary industry?

While taking a pet to the veterinarian and having a biological sample analyzed is expected and ordinary, many people tend not to also be aware of the public health role many government and academic veterinary laboratories play. Described as veterinary public health (VPH) by the World Health Organization, the veterinarian makes "contributions to the physical, mental and social well-being of humans through an understanding and application of veterinary science".[43] Noah and Ostrowski break this concept down into six core domains in the Merck Veterinary Manual[44]:

  • Diagnosis, surveillance, epidemiology, control, prevention, and elimination of zoonotic diseases
  • Laboratory animal facility and diagnostic laboratory health aspect management
  • Biomedical research
  • Health education and outreach
  • Production and control of biologic products and medical devices
  • Governmental and legislative activity

6.5.3 Informatics in the veterinary industry

The idea of using computers and software in veterinary laboratories isn't a new one; the American Veterinary Computer Society (today the Association for Veterinary Informatics [AVI]) was founded in the early 1980s to address such an idea.[45] However, the application of informatics in the veterinary world arguably hasn't seen the same level of adoption as in clinical medicine. Associations like the AVI are helping to promote the expansion of veterinary informatics research and implementation in veterinary laboratories and offices, and universities such as Indiana University are offering specialized animal informatics programs that "will help students use technology to better understand animal behavior and develop tools to improve the health, well-being, and quality of life for animals."[46] Finally, entities such as Fetch dvm360 provide continuing education conferences to veterinarians on many veterinary informatics topics, including improving compliance, therapeutics, and clinical practice management.[47] Other applications of informatics in the veterinary lab include the development of diagnostic decision assistance systems, drug information systems, and electronic medical record systems.[46]

6.5.4 LIMSwiki resources and further reading

LIMSwiki resources

Further reading


  1. "What is Nanotechnology?". United States National Nanotechnology Initiative. Retrieved 29 June 2022. 
  2. "Nanotechnology Timeline". United States National Nanotechnology Initiative. Retrieved 29 June 2022. 
  3. Goddard, W.A.; Brenner, D.W.; Lyshevski, S.E.; Iafrate, G.J., ed. (2012). Handbook of Nanoscience, Engineering, and Technology (3rd ed.). CRC Press. pp. 1093. ISBN 9781439860151. 
  4. Hardesty, L. (8 August 2016). "Toward practical quantum computers". MIT News. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Retrieved 29 June 2022. 
  5. "Applications of Nanotechnology". United States National Nanotechnology Initiative. Retrieved 29 June 2022. 
  6. Boysen, E. (24 March 2008). "For Rent: One Nano Research Lab…". Nanotechnology Now. 7th Wave, Inc. Retrieved 29 June 2022. 
  7. Damase, T.R.; Stephens, D.; Spencer, A.; Allen, P.B. (2015). "Open source and DIY hardware for DNA nanotechnology labs". Journal of Biological Methods 2 (3): e24. doi:10.14440/jbm.2015.72. PMC PMC4598940. PMID 26457320. 
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Citation information for this chapter

Chapter: 6. Labs by industry: Part 4

Title: The Laboratories of Our Lives: Labs, Labs Everywhere!

Edition: Second edition

Author for citation: Shawn E. Douglas

License for content: Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International

Publication date: July 2022