ABRF through the Eyes of a Greenhorn

ABRF through the Eyes of a Greenhorn

An interview by Nicole White


Tim Hunter with students, Diana Cardero and Sandra Davis and at ABRCMS 2015 (Left to Right)

 It was November 2015 and Sandra Davis had no idea what a core facility was, that is until she met Tim Hunter. The chance meeting took place when Sandra, an undergraduate student at Jarvis Christian College in Hawkins, Texas, attended the 2015 Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS) in Seattle, Washington to present her current research at a poster session. Tim, who is the warmest, most hospitable individual a person can meet, was participating in the ABRCMS meeting as an ambassador for the ABRF / FASEB MARC Travel Award recipients. It was during the ABRCMS meeting that Tim invited Sandra to attend the 2016 ABRF Annual Meeting in Ft. Lauderdale, which Sandra had never heard of nor did she know anything about ABRF.

“It was awesome.” said Sandra as I was interviewing her on the phone. “My school is small so I didn’t know a lot or have a lot of experience with cores before ABRF.”  Sandra is set to graduate from Jarvis Christian College this May, and following graduation she will be pursuing a Master’s degree in the Fall. However, she is leaving all doors and options open to her career path for medical school or even in pursuing a PhD after her Masters.  “I’m not sure which avenue to choose, but seeing all of the core facility information opened my eyes as to how cores help research,” said Sandra.

Sandra and Diana teaching Tim how to do the ‘Water Sprinkler’.

Selected as a 2015 ABRCMS ABRF Best Poster Award / 2016 FASEB MARC Travel Award winner, along with Diana Cardero,  Sandra’s research was on the drug compound Benzofuan-2-barvoxylic acid and its effects on cancer Tk6 cells, and  she was excited to see that this compound in her research shows promise on the compounds abilities to target cancer cells while keep the healthy cells around it viable. Though her research sounds exciting and promising, Sandra stated the most impressionable memory of her experience at ABRF was teaching Tim how to do the ‘Water Sprinkler’. I guess we’ll have to try to find some video or images of that for our next blog post!

In all seriousness, Sandra was impressed with the ABRF 2016 Annual Meeting. Despite a relatively few number of undergraduate students in attendance, Tim made sure to introduce her to many of the attendees, and from these introductions, Sandra now has a network of professionals working  in cores, which has allowed her to  develop more connections and access to research. Overall, the ABRF 2016 Annual Meeting met Sandra’s expectations; however, she would like to see more undergraduate and early graduate level students in attendance, and suggests that the ABRF Mentoring Program would be a great fit for individuals like her who are just getting familiar with ABRF. Sandra plans to attend future ABRF meetings, and I certainly look forward to seeing her in the future as well.

ABRF Partners with GenomeWeb to Host 2016 Webinar Series

GW_ABRF_NEB_logoABRF and GenomeWeb are partnering on a series of online seminars highlighting methods, techniques, and instrumentation that support life science research.

The GenomeWeb/ABRF Webinar Series will feature eight webinar series held over the span of the next 12 months on the topics of: Genome Editing, Metagenomics, Proteomics, Core Lab/Admin Management, Imaging, and Single Cell Genomics. Content for each of the webinars is both based on and will expand on topics originating at the ABRF 2016 Annual Meeting, which was held in February in Ft. Lauderdale.

According to ABRF President, William Hendrickson, “The decision to partner with GenomeWeb provides ABRF with a unique opportunity to increase awareness of our activities and initiatives, while also providing GenomeWeb access to expanded educational and scientific content for GenomeWeb’s readership.”

The inaugural seminar, Three Lean Management Tools for the Life Science Lab, is scheduled for May 17 at 1:00 pm US Eastern Daylight Time.

This online seminar will provide a practical approach to implementing lean management tools in the life science laboratory. Unlike some management trends and tools, the scientific method is deeply engrained in lean management, making it an effective strategy for lab workflows. In this webinar, Robert Carnahan, associate professor of cancer biology at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, outlines three simple lean techniques that his team has implemented for project management, inventory and ordering, and equipment maintenance.  Attendees of this webinar will learn about specific tools to begin implementation in their own working environment.

ABRF thanks New England BioLabs for sponsoring the GenomeWeb/ABRF 2016 webinar series!

ABRF 2016 Annual Meeting featured in Instrument Business Outlook (IBO)



Press coverage of the ABRF 2016 Annual Meeting drew accolades from the Instrument Business Outlook (IBO) in their February 29, 2016 issue (see page 7). The intent behind the article was for IBO to report on the growing attendance at the meeting, as well as the sessions and conversations among attendees from the lab manager perspective.

In summary, attendance increased for the third year in a row with 559 attendees and 237 exhibitors. Over the course of three days, 45 presentations and workshops were offered to attendees that addressed 5 topic areas: imaging, core administration, genomics, proteomics, and trending topics.

“ABRF 2016 provided an expanded program and the perfect venue for bringing together core facility professionals to get cutting edge information from vendors, scientific sessions and workshops,” says ABRF President William Hendrickson.  “We continue to update the meeting every year to make sure attendees have ample opportunity to interact with scientists, company representatives and core managers. ABRF 2016 epitomized the meeting tagline: Innovative Technologies Accelerating Discoveries.”

The February 29, 2016 issue of IBO is provided on a one-time complimentary basis for ABRF members and the ABRF community. To subscribe to IBO, please send an email to IBO@Strategic-Directions.com.



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.

Interested in the ABRF Mentorship Program?

Hands Holding Mentor

Interested in the ABRF Mentorship program? Now’s your chance to help shape it! 

The ABRF Career Development Committee (ABRF CDC) is pleased to announce a new mentorship program in the works for the ABRF community.

Why join an ABRF mentoring network?

A formal Mentoring Network within the ABRF can afford increased opportunity for career development, networking, problem-solving, sharing of expertise, and more.

Our current vision for this program is as follows:

  •        The Mentoring Network would be accessible as a link after logging in to the ABRF website
  •        ABRF members who are interested in Mentoring would appear in a searchable list accompanied by a thumbnail photo, brief profile of their professional interests, and field of expertise
  •        A Mentee would contact a potential Mentor and, if both parties agree, a Mentoring Partnership can be established
  •        An ABRF member can be both a Mentor and a Mentee

Formal guidelines would be put in place to help ensure success:

  1.      A formal commitment to monthly meeting for an hour (phone, Skype, etc)
  2.      A confidentiality statement and a Mentoring Partnership agreement would be filed with the ABRF CDC.

Please help the ABRF to define and establish this program by taking the brief survey that can be found at this link….


Results will be presented at the Mentoring Booth in the exhibit hall at ABRF 2016

6 months until ABRF! Plenary Speakers Announced

Only 6 months to go until ABRF 2016! The program for the meeting is taking shape. There will be four tracks with plenary speakers that focus on Administration, Genomics, Imaging and Proteomics, along with a fifth track for other technologies and sessions of general interest.  For continued updates on speakers, sessions, workshops, and more visit the conference website.

Plenary Speakers


 Cancer Genomics: Discovery to Clinical Translation

 Elaine R. Mardis, PhD
Robert E. and Louise F. Dunn Distinguished Professor of Medicine
Professor of Genetic and Molecular Microbiology
Co-director, The Genome Institute at Washington University School of Medicine

 Elaine Mardis graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Oklahoma with a B.S. degree in zoology.  She then  completed her Ph.D. in Chemistry and Biochemistry in 1989, also at Oklahoma.  Following graduation, Dr. Mardi was a  senior research scientist for four years at BioRad Laboratories in Hercules, CA.

In 1993, Dr. Mardis joined The Genome Institute at Washington University School of Medicine.  As Director of Technology Department, she helped create methods and automation pipelines for sequencing the Human Genome.  She now serves as Co-director of The Genome Institute.

Dr. Mardis has research interests in the application of next-generation sequencing to characterize cancer genomes and transcriptomes, and using these data to support therapeutic decision-making.  She also is interested in facilitating the translation of basic science discoveries about human disease into the clinical setting.

Dr. Mardis serves as an editorial board member of Molecular Cancer Research, Disease Models and Mechanisms and Annals of Oncology, and acts as a reviewer for Nature, the New England Journal of Medicine, Cell and Gnome Research.  She is the Editor-in-Chief of Molecular Case Studies.  In 2014, Dr. Mardis was named as th Robert E. and Louise F. Dunn Distinguished Professor of Medicine.  She serves on the scientific advisory boards of Qiagen Ingenuity, DNA Nexus, and ZS Genetics, and is a member of the Supervisory Board of Qiagen N.V.  Dr. Mardis received the Scripps Translational Research award for her work on cancer genomics in 2010, and was named a Distinguished Alumni of the University of Oklahoma College of Arts and Sciences for 2011.  Discover Magazine featured her work in cancer genomics as one of their top 100 sciene stories in 2013.

FreedmanKnow Thy Cells: Improving Biomedical Research Reproducibility

 Leonard P. Freedman, PhD
Global Biological Standards Institute

 Dr. Freedman is the founding President of GBSI.  He has over 30 years of research, management, and program  development experience in molecular and cell biology, biomedical research, and drug discovery in both the private  sector and academia.  Dr. Freedman is a recognized leader in the field of nuclear hormone receptors.

 Prior to joining GBSI, Dr. Freedman served as Vice Dean for Research and Professor of Biochemistry and  Molecular Biology at Jefferson Medical College, Thomas Jefferson University.  Prior to his leadership role at  Jefferson, Dr. Freedman led discovery research efforts in the pharmaceutical industry as a Vice President at Wyeth and Executive Director at Merck.  Before moving to industry, Dr. Freedman was a Member and Professor of Cell Biology & Genetics at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and Weil Cornell Medical College.

Dr. Freedman has received several research awards, including the Boyer Research Award for Biomedical Research, and a MERIT award from the NIH.  He was also the 2002 recipient of the Ernst Oppenheimer Award from The Endocrine Society.  Dr. Freedman has published extensively and served on numerous scientific review panels and editorial boards.  He was an editor of Molecular and Cell Biology for ten years.  In addition, Dr. Freedman has served on the Board of Directors of the American Type Culture Collection (ATCC).

Dr. Freedman earned a B.A. degree in Biology from Kalamazoo College, and a Ph.D. in Molecular Genetics from the University of Rochester.  He completed his post-doctoral fellowship in the laboratory of Dr. Keith Yamamoto at the University of California, San Francisco.


Exporting Top Down Mass Spectrometry to become a Robust Option for Efficient Characterization of Protein Primary and Quaternary Structure

Neil L. Kelleher, Ph.D.
Professor of Chemistry, Molecular Biosciences and the Feinberg School of Medicine Northwestern University

Dr. Kelleher’s laboratory has three main sub-groups working in the areas of Top Down Proteomics, Natural Products Biosynthesis/Discovery, and Cancer Epigenetics.  The Kelleher group has been successful in driving both technology development and applications of high performance mass spectrometry at the interface of chemistry and biology.  Since 2011, Dr. Kelleher has served as the director of the Proteomics Center of Excellence at Northwestern University, where dozens of Northwestern laboratories are supported and beyond state-of-the-art in Top Down proteomics is developed.  Dr. Kelleher was elected Treasurer of the American Society of Mass Spectrometry in 2012 and established the Consortium for Top Down Proteomics that same year.  In September 2012 Dr. Kelleher gave the keynote address at World HUPO (Human Proteome Organization), where he described a “Top Down” version of the Human Proteome Project viewable at this URL (http://www.kelleher.northwestern.edu/human-proteome-project/the-talk).  With more than 200 papers published over the course of his career and teaching duties in two departments, Dr. Kelleher is a trans-disciplinary investigator with visible streaks of international impact in mass spectrometry-based proteomics and the discovery of new natural products from the microbial world.  Validation of protein-based biomarkers in organ transplantation and cancers of the blood are among the focused areas currently being pursued in clinical research at Northwestern.


The Chemistry of Color: Illuminating Biological Systems with Fluorescence

Luke D. Lavis, Ph.D.
Group Leader HHMI Janelia Research Campus

Luke D. Lavis was born and raised in the Applegate Valley area outside Jacksonville, Oregon.  He received his B.S. in Chemistry at Oregon State University in 2000, where he performed undergraduate research in synthetic organic chemistry with James D. White.

Uncertain about whether to pursue a research career or go to medical school, he took a four-year hiatus and worked in the biotechnology industry, first at Molecular Probes in Eugene Oregon (now a part of Thermo Fisher) and later at Molecular Devices in Sunnyvale, California.  While in industry, Lavis got a chance to make molecules with real-world uses, developing new fluorescent labels for imaging and creating drug discovery kits to measure such things as calcium ion flux and membrane potential.  Ultimately he decided that research, not medicine, was the path for him.

Luke entered graduate school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and worked with Ronald T. Raines to develop strategies to trace the path of anticancer proteins in living cells.  As part of his thesis work he developed a fluorescent dye that could be attached to ribonuclease A variants.  The protein-dye pairing remained dark outside of the cell.  When the tagged protein entered the cell, natural cell enzymes called esterases automatically snipped a bit of the dye off and made the molecule fluoresce.  He received his Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry in 2008.

Luke started his independent career as a Group Leader at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Research Campus.  At Janelia, Dr. Lavis works at the interface of chemistry and biology, developing labels for single-molecule imaging, strategies for targeted molecular delivery, and probes to map cellular activity in intact brain tissue.  Building on existing fluorescent dyes, his lab develops strategies to synthesize, target, and modulate chemical probes for experiments in complex cellular environments, with a particular focus on fluorescent and fluorogenic molecules.  His efforts to modernize dye chemistry have resulted in the discovery of novel bright fluorophores.  These “Janelia Fluor” dyes are also being used in labs around the world for a variety of imaging applications.

ABRF 2016 Satellite Survey – Voting Available

The ABRF Education Committee is in the process of planning the Satellite Educational Workshops for the ABRF 2016 Annual meeting in Ft. Lauderdale.  The Educational Workshops are designed to provide learning and training opportunities to current and future scientists and core managers and administrators, and are typically all-day events that occur on the Saturday prior to the opening reception.

We invite you to participate in a short survey to help us to provide a slate of workshops with the most impact for and broadest interest from our community.

Please take a moment to express your thoughts and preferences.  We will be able to consider responses received before September 1, 2015.  The survey is available here: http://bit.ly/1Ltwzxs.

Thank you for your consideration!


Natalia Reyero Vinas
Chair, ABRF Education Committee
Sridar Chittur
Co-chair, ABRF Education Committee
BCCC Front Day fish fountain_crop

ABRF 2016 Site Visit

Sun Sand Science banner

We had the incredible opportunity to visit Fort Lauderdale, Florida and preview the Hilton Marina (host hotel) and the Broward County Convention Center, as well as all that Fort Lauderdale has to offer once the sun goes down!

The Hilton Marina is an easy 10 minute ride from the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. For those arriving by car, there is plenty of parking but dailycharges will apply. For those traveling from the airport, while the hotel does not offer a complimentary shuttle service, there are plenty of commercial shuttles available. All rooms boast floor-to-ceiling windows, many with incredible views of the intracoastal waterway.

The Broward County Convention Center is conveniently located next door to the Hilton Marina. As you walk out the front door of the hotel, there is an access path taking you directly to the Convention Center. For those wishing to drive over, there is plenty of on-site parking available.

The hotel features a 24-hour fitness center, as well as a heated outdoor swimming pool and poolside lounge that serves both lunch and dinner. There are also two additional restaurants, one serving breakfast and one serving dinner. For those traveling with family members, rest assured that they would have plenty to do while you are attending the conference.

With direct access to the Water Taxi (Hilton Marina is Stop #5A), an all-day ticket will provide ticket holders with unlimited boarding all day! From a day trip to the beach, shopping at the Galleria Mall, or a waterfront restaurant along the intracoastal waterway for lunch, there will still be plenty of time to hop back on in the evening and head to Las Olas Boulevard for dinner and a moonlight cruise back down the waterway where you’ll see celebrity mansions and yachts along the way. For those attending the conference all day, the Water Taxi has a special evening ticket that goes into effect at 5:00 pm.

We are sure that with all Fort Lauderdale has to offer from sun up to sun down, ABRF’s 2016 Annual Meeting will be a great time for all! Hope to see you there!

Nicholas Ambulos (program committee chair)
Anoja Perera (Executive Board liaison to the program committee)