Seminar on "Meta-instruments: Sensors, software, and LEGOs to make instruments faster, cheaper, and better."


Monday, April 10, 2017 - 3:30pm to 4:30pm


Elings Hall, room 1605


Prof. Will Grover
Instruments play a crucial role in a variety of different fields.  From a lowly pH meter in a chemistry lab, to a sophisticated DNA sequencer in a hospital laboratory, instruments provide vital information that drives research and informs patient treatment.  However, the process of developing new instruments for important applications is frustratingly slow and inefficient, for three main reasons.  First, developing instruments requires a combination of science and engineering skills that not all researchers possess.  Second, instruments are built out of a variety of expensive interdisciplinary parts that are not designed to work well with each other.  And third, instruments typically only do one or two different things, meaning that entire new instruments are needed to address new applications.  In this talk I’ll share our recent attempts to solve these three problems and make instruments faster to develop, cheaper to build, and more versatile.  This work includes a system of LEGO-like “building blocks” we developed that can be “clicked together” to build custom research instruments, software we are writing that automates the design of microfluidic chips, and inexpensive mass sensors we created that support applications in fields as diverse as materials science, toxicology, drug development, agriculture, and environmental monitoring.  These are our preliminary steps toward developing “meta-instruments,” a framework of hardware and software components that will ultimately enable any researcher to quickly and easily develop custom tools for their own research needs.
William H. Grover is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Bioengineering at the University of California, Riverside.  Before joining the faculty at UC Riverside, Dr. Grover was a postdoctoral associate and research associate in the Biological Engineering Division at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he made the first precision measurements of the density of single cells in the lab of Prof. Scott Manalis.  As a graduate student in Chemistry in the lab of Prof. Richard Mathies at the University of California, Berkeley, Dr. Grover developed the first microfluidic valves suitable for large-scale use in glass microfluidic devices; these valves have been cited over 500 times and are the subject of several issued US patents.  At UC Riverside, Dr. Grover’s lab develops instruments for biological and medical diagnostic applications.  Dr. Grover also directs the TEC Center at UC Riverside, an “experimental research makerspace” where large numbers of undergraduates use a novel system of “building blocks” to create instruments and gain research experience.

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