MWACD from a Marketer’s Eye: Keep the Core Tours Coming

A group of MWACD attendees head out to the core tours to kickoff the conference.

A group of MWACD attendees head out to the core tours to kickoff the conference.

Since becoming an ABRF member in 2013, I continue to be amazed at how different each experience is at the national and chapter conferences. As the marketing specialist for the Biomedical Research Core Facilities at the University of Michigan, I’m a member of the Midwest Association of Core Directors (MWACD). A few days out from #MWACD ’16, and I am still working through everything I learned in Cincinnati.

Confession: Cincinnati is my hometown, so I was even more excited than usual to being able to share one of my favorite cities with coworkers. The first item on our agenda was of course to introduce my Michiganders to one of my favorite local haunts: Skyline Chili!

After a great lunch, we arrived in the host hotel downtown and the real party started. Our gracious hosts at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital went above and beyond in every aspect of the event.

The conference kicked off with high energy as we toured the cores at Cincinnati Children’s. This is always one of my favorite parts of the annual MWACD meeting. Every year, we learn so much by having  the opportunity to meet with core facilities around the Midwest who are dealing with similar issues, challenges and successes that we have here at Michigan.
20161005_Nikon A1R upright multi-photonI’ve been with the Biomedical Research Core Facilities at U-M for five years, and the breadth and scope of what it takes to make a core facility successful – depending on facility and institution – never ceases to amaze me.
Cincinnati is certainly no exception. Seeing firsthand how the cores at Cincinnati Children’s collaborate through their divisions, learning about their workflow processes, and seeing some of their impressive equipment generated a lot of discussion throughout the conference.

The Midwest Association of Core Directors may cover only one region of the United States, but the variety of sizes, service offerings, financial models, and solutions that work for a many different organizations and universities is invaluable to hear about.

I can’t recommend the core tours enough. The opportunity to learn about other institution’s service contracts, relationships with vendors, most-used equipment, interactions with customers, is invaluable. The openness and collaboration between members is what you’d expect from passionate professionals focused on research and knowledge. Everyone seems to enjoy hearing about one another’s experience, and more importantly, everyone wants to share and help others succeed.2016_10_CC_BMR_Facility

I had the great fortune of touring multiple facilities at Cincinnati Children’s, including:

  • Confocal Microscopy Core (a Nikon Center of Excellence),
  • Flow Cytometry Core,
  • DNA Sequencing and Genotyping Facility,
  • NMR-Based Metabolomics Core, and
  • Transgenic Animal and Genome Editing Core Facility.

Oftentimes, it can feel like core facilities are isolated and on their own at their home institutions. We aren’t like other departments or centers or units. We don’t have the same goals as administrators for faculty or student-focused groups, or corporations. ABRF and its chapter organizations serve as the best reminder that we are not alone, and the unique research and business of cores can be found across the world.


Claudius Mundoma, Ph.D., Director of the Physical Biochemistry Facility, at Florida State University, gives the keynote Friday morning on establishing core facilities in Africa, another highlight of the conference for me.

You can see more photos from MWACD 2016 on the ABRF Facebook page. Fellow MWACD attendees, what was your favorite part? Share your story in the comments, or email

Expanding the Impact ABRF Members Have in Promoting Scientific Rigor and Transparency

The difference between a valuable scientific observation that stands the test of time and one that is only seen in the original lab lies squarely in the ability of others to reproduce the experiments supporting it. Unfortunately, scientific experiments cannot always be replicated outside the authors groups. With more complex experimental approaches and inadequately detailed experimental methods in journal articles, the challenge of critically evaluating and reproducing supporting data and critically becomes increasingly harder. Alarm has been raised over this issue in dramatic ways, not only within the scientific community but also in the public media. Many groups have discussed the broad spectrum of potential sources leading to irreproducible data, one category being poorly characterized input materials such as cell lines and antibodies. Some have taken definitive and tangible steps to change the state of affairs. Just last month, the NIH established new grant application requirements designed to promote reproducibility through rigor and transparency.

Those who focus on technologies, in particular core facilities, is in a relatively strong position to help researchers understand sources of variability within the approaches they employ. ABRF members have been promoting the execution of rigorous experimental designs for more than 25 years. They have developed standards, performed benchmarking studies, established standard operating procedures (SOPs), and provided educational workshops to the greater scientific community. Last week, ABRF kicked off a new initiative to revitalize the association’s commitment to rigorous and transparent experiments. During this online meeting, members shared some very recent efforts within ABRF, including efforts from the:

  • Light Microscopy Research Group – is working with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to create reference standards
  • Metagenomics Research Group – created a standard which will be distributed by ATCC in the near future
  • Workflow Research Group – a newly formed group to establish technology focused workflows which improve reproducibility across research groups

ABRF members and others interested in making tangible contributions to solutions also began to identify other ways ABRF members can continue to focus their efforts or expand our contributions to accurate and repeatable data, for example:

  • Create a searchable database on the ABRF website for people to find standards, guidelines, SOPs and necessary quality control for technologies/techniques
  • Collaborate with other organizations and groups with overlapping goals, such as Biotechniques, Center for Open Science, FASEB, GBSI, NIST as well as companies
  • Develop webinars and/or publish papers in the Journal of Biomolecular Techniques addressing the key points for reproducibility within a technique/technology, among which are:
    • Critical variables, metrics and controls
    • Inherent caveats
    • Enumerating questions a technology/technique can answer and cannot answer
  • Blend guidelines across similar cores to create one master document, publish and make available to the general scientific community on an ABRF reproducibility webpage
  • Work with journals to review how the technology is employed and documented in manuscripts as well as providing a listing of potential ABRF member reviewers
  • Develop “antibody fingerprints” and other ways to confirm the right reagent is being used

Everyone interested in continuing this discussion at ABRF 2016 are encouraged to come to the Floridian Ballroom C during lunch on Tuesday for an active discussion and engaging members with actionable items.

An Interview with Peter Lopez: Using centrifugal elutriation and flow cytometry to answer biological questions

ABRF Executive Board Member Peter Lopez was interviewed by as part of their “Thought Leaders” series.

In the article, Peter discusses Beckman Coulter applications, how cell sorting compares to magnetic bead separation and centrifugal elutriation, the future of flow cytometry, potential applications, and more.

Read the full interview here.