A ‘New Nerds’ Insight on NERLSCD

Written by Jeffery A. Nelson, Instrumentation Specialist
Harvard University, Bauer Flow Cytometry Core Facility

Although I’ve been in the field of Flow Cytometry for a while, I am new to the Boston area and for the first time, had the opportunity to attend the Northeast Regional Life Sciences Core Directors meeting (NERLSCD or NERD). Unlike most of the meetings I attend, which focus mainly on flow cytometry and imaging, the NERLSCD meeting was multidisciplinary, covering a wide range of specialties, including; Flow Cytometry, Imaging, Genomics, Proteomics,14615825_1199490510114686_6519811918853205566_o  Bioinformatics, High Throughput Screening, Antibodies and Administration. The meeting format consisted of; numerous pre-meeting satellite events prior to the opening reception (various meetings and tours of local core facilities), excellent daily keynote speakers, followed by break-out sessions covering a wide variety of ‘Technical Tracks’ and finally a poster session and vendor / colleague networking opportunity to finish out the evening.
Prior to the opening reception, since our core facility was one of the host facilities giving the tour, I attended the New England Cytometry Users Group meeting (another local scientific meeting that coincided perfectly with the NERD meeting schedule). Once the NERLSCD meeting started, I particularly thought the keynote speakers were very good each day and I loved the 14753444_1199487126781691_5931631331088966043_odiverse Technical Track sessions! Since I work in a flow cytometry core facility helping researchers optimize their flow experiments, I thought it was extremely cool to see how the cells I sort for someone could be used in the latest downstream technologies. I also like keeping current with some of the new administrative and regulatory challenges that face various core facilities so enjoyed hearing from core leaders and administrators. I also really enjoyed the poster session where I got to see a wide variety of research, both within and outside my primary field of interest. Lastly, I always enjoy visiting the vendor booths to keep current with the latest technology. Specifically, I loved the vendor booth experience at the NERD meeting, because I learned about some of the technologies that researchers are looking to use in conjunction with flow cytometry and learned a lot!

Overall, I think the NERD meeting was awesome! I think the wonderfully diverse, but correlated technologies represented at the NERD meeting allowed me to see the whole picture. Not only did I get to see how flow cytometry fits in with the newest downstream technologies but also administratively within an institution. By seeing what users are doing downstream of sorting, I am able to better optimize their sorting experience and to provide suggestions for their sort to better accommodate their downstream goals.
Finally, I want to end with a funny meeting experience. On the first day, I arrived at the hotel and was immediately greeted by a nice lady. I was so impressed with the personal greeting and was wondering how she knew my name. I thought then she would give me my name tag and direct me to the meeting, but instead, she said; “The bus is waiting for you, so whenever you are ready you can start the tour” – I guess some other guy with my name was giving a Boston tour. Things were more realistic when I found the NERD staff, who were also very friendly but not as overwhelmingly excited as the first lady I met and I had to give them my name-LOL. So, if I wasn’t so new to Boston, the NERD meeting could have also given me the opportunity to add ‘giving a Boston tour’ to my resume!

Executive Board adds Two New Representatives: A Brief Interview with Allis and Peter

Allis Chen and Peter Lopez roll onto the Executive Board as our newly elected representatives after our annual meeting this month. Given their new roles in our community, we thought this blog would be a great place to help us get to know them better and even post some comments and questions for them.   Both, Peter and Allis will be attending the 2015 ABRF meeting in St. Louis this weekend.  Feel free to introduce yourself and welcome them.  Both Allis, Peter, and the rest of our Executive Board are interested in hearing more about your hopes and ideas for our association.



Allis Chien earned her Ph.D. from Stanford University — where she remains, fifteen years later.  (Some bonus trivia provided by Allis is that Stanford is the single largest employer of Stanford graduates!)

How did you come to be involved with cores?

I went through graduate school expecting to end up as a chemist in industry. Just as I was finishing up my thesis, Stanford needed someone to run a newly acquired ion trap mass spectrometer. Working with the instrument sounded like something fun to do while I searched for a “real” job. Setting up the core was merely necessary bookkeeping. Fortunately, I had a mentor and model in Al Smith and his Protein and Nucleic Acid Facility, just across campus. Al immediately introduced me to the ABRF, and the temporary job developed into a career. What I love most about my core career: 1) Helping people. 2) The variety — rather than delving deeply into one research project, I get to see such a breadth of research in so many fields. 3) Continuous growth and learning opportunities — in technology, research needs, and administration skills, as well as in unexpected areas such as lab construction, event planning, and even filming for TV. The job constantly changes along with the core’s expansion, and keeps life interesting.

What do you do when you are not working?

Life off campus is about spending time with my chemist husband and kindergartener son, who share an obsession with Legos. We’ve recently discovered geocaching as a fun (and free!) fresh air activity. As David grows up, I’m gradually scavenging time to reinstate lifelong interests and hobbies, including knitting, crocheting, reading, and supplying piano and/or vocals on our church’s worship team. Having a young child is also a great excuse to learn new skills like riding a scooter and sculpting balloon animals, and to enjoy picture books and silly songs.

What are your ideas for the future of ABRF?

In the current climate of funding fears and interdisciplinary science, cores are more relevant than ever. Increasingly, institutions are turning to cores as an efficient and cost-effective way to support research. With research projects standing on the legs of numerous technologies, it is essential to be conversant with technologies outside one’s own field. The combination of the ABRF’s administrative and many technological constituents makes it the premier place to learn and network. The ABRF serves a different — and more holistic — purpose than individual technology-based societies and meetings.

My vision of the ABRF is a thriving, “doing” society, active in what ABRF folk do best — helping. The strength and heart of the ABRF is in its members. In helping its members and cores and thereby their respective users and institutions, the ABRF will simultaneously publicize its activities, grow its membership, and maintain healthy relationships with its sponsors.


peter-lopez Peter Lopez has been involved in shared research facility leadership for most of his 38 year career in flow cytometry, managing core facilities at Fox Chase Cancer Center, Dana Farber Cancer Institute, The Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center (including imaging and sequencing cores) and currently at the NYU Langone Medical Center. He has been intimately involved in flow cytometric application and instrument development, the latter while at Cytomation, the company who developed the MoFlo high-speed cell sorter. He formed the Boston User Group (BUG) in 1994, is currently the President of the MetroFLow (NY/NJ) flow cytometry user group, as well as President of NERLSCD.

How did you come to be involved with cores?

I started out with core labs when my second job took me to Fox Chase Cancer Institute in 1982, working with immunologist Dr. Donald Mosier. I learned the importance of well-run cores as a facilitator of basic research, and Don gave me a lot of latitude in the lab to learn the art. During this time I started (in 1986) a then-informal gathering at the ISAC annual conference (CYTO) to discuss “core” related issues. This meeting continues  to this day as the SRL Manager’s Forum , which occurs as a well-attended event within the ISAC meeting and draws almost 300 attendees . I thank Sheenah Mische who I work with at NYULMC for pointing me in the direction of ABRF, and I’ve been a member since 2010.

What do you do when you are not working?

My wife would probably say “Too much! ”. I always have some home improvement project underway (well, maybe more than one) , but try to  fit in time to enjoy good meals home or out. I usually cook at home since I’ve cooked professionally. I also enjoy wine, and keep a small cellar. My wife and I enjoy bicycling, and well, we both like to shop. I am always in search of our next best house cocktail. I garden every year with underwhelming results. I’ve always built all of our home computers for the last 20 years. I have a 1983 convertible that I like to drive when it’s nice outside. I have been known to enjoy playing squash, downhill skiing, camping, and High-Powered Rocketry (don’t worry– it’s a legal and licensed activity), and hope to get back to active status with some of these past interests before I forget how to participate.

What are your ideas for the future of ABRF?

Towards the goal of better experimental reproducibility (and solidifying the important role of cores in scientific research), I would be interested in exploring the following questions:

  • Can ABRF propose a best practices policy where journals would require authors to indicate at time of submission if institutional core facilities were used in generating data for a manuscript (or not)?
  • Can ABRF market itself as the source for SRL-technology experts which would serve the community by providing ad hoc review of the technical aspects of a manuscript?
  • Can ABRF become involved at some level in acknowledging cores that adhere to best practices for their respective core technology?

As I have a strong commitment to the educational component of cores, I am in favor of the ABRF expanding its educational mission:

  • Can ABRF members generate ABRF-branded educational material for delivery either in a classroom setting, at meetings, or via the Web?
  • Can ABRF generate material to be used as a reference for academic HR groups to better define career tracks for core facility professionals?

I would be interested in seeing enhanced interaction between ABRF and its Chapters. The affiliates and chapters can be a great source for maintaining or increasing ABRF membership.  I would be in favor of offering an ABRF membership discount to attendees of regional chapter meetings.

The ABRF should continue to investigate membership demographics at both the regional and international meeting levels to note trends, new or underrepresented core technologies, and respond to this information with new initiatives, both at the regional and international settings.

Shared Facility/Core Acknowledgement Importance Recognized by Editor in Attendance at NERLSCD

A recent article written by Nathan Blow, PhD and Editor of Biotechniqes was inspired by his attendance and discussion with attendees at the NERLSCD 2014 ABRF Chapter meeting this past year that was held in Albany, New York.   BioTechniques: The International Journal of Life Science Methods is now employing a new policy regarding shared facilities in publications.  Leading this effort is important since acknowledgement of Shared/Core Facilities can be commonly overlooked by Investigators that use these centralized facilities to conduct their research. The importance of recognizing work that has been completed within these facilities provides reference to the individuals within the facilities that performed the work, adds value to the Institutions in which the work was performed, and can have an impact on grant funding for the respective Institution, its researchers, and Shared/Core facilities.

Increasing Acknowledgement Awareness

Some facilities have been successful with implementing steps to increase acknowledgements or attributions of their hard work within publications.  For most Investigators it is not a matter of excluding a facility on purpose but rather a mere oversight.  Gentle reminders from Shared/Core Facilities directly to Investigators that utilize their shared facilities can be helpful in gaining traction and cultivating an understanding of importance to reference Shared/Core Facilities within their publications.  Ryan Duggan, Technical Director of the Flow Cytometry Facility at the University of Chicago recently stated that in his facility:

I have filters set up on PubMed and other scientific publication search engines that send me notifications when various keywords associated with my core (cytometry, flow cytometry, FACS, etc…) and my institution (University of Chicago) pop up in a publication. A summary of all publications come to me weekly (as needed). I go through the publications to ensure the work was done in my core according to the person who published the paper and the methods described. Next I send an email congratulating the first author and copying his/her PI on their publication. If they did acknowledge the core, I thank them and tell them how much it means to the core to be recognized in this way. If they did not acknowledge the core, I ask them to remember to do so in the future as it means a lot to the core to be acknowledged. You pretty much have to do this only once per PI and then they get the message loud and clear.

Many Institutions are taking a closer glance at how to implement better awareness and in some cases, policies, around the importance of acknowledging Shared/Core Facilities in Publications.  However, the leading applause in this effort goes to Nathan Blow for setting such precedence with his journal Biotechniques by implementing a new procedure for article submissions.  Lets hope that this effort continues to proliferate through journals alike!