Hardware, Software & the Internet of Things
June 23–25, 2015 • San Francisco, CA

Robots doing biology

Peter Sand (Modular Science)
1:15pm–1:55pm Wednesday, 06/24/2015
Location: Generals Residence

Prerequisite Knowledge

No special knowledge required.


Reproducibility is a key component of the scientific process. As labs move to increasingly complex and specialized experiments, they frequently rely on expensive, proprietary hardware and software. A biology experiment that uses a $100k robot is difficult to reproduce by anyone who doesn’t already have the same robot. The DIY biology movement recognizes these issues and is working on low-cost open hardware; but a gap remains between DIY hardware and equipment that is robust enough for day-to-day lab use.

This talk will describe new tools for biology labs, ranging from robots to modular microfluidics to data platforms, built by a number of labs and startups. The systems are designed to be interoperable, well-documented, and easy to modify. The talk will discuss who is using these systems and what new structures of research they support.

Ultimately we hope that science lab procedures will be designed, implemented, and published in machine-readable formats. A single experiment could be run across multiple platforms, from Science Exchange to Transcriptic to a modular lab-bench robot. Interchangeable parts for science would improve validation, reuse, and remixing of results and ideas.

Photo of Peter Sand

Peter Sand

Modular Science

Peter has a Ph.D. in Computer Science from MIT. He is the founder of Manylabs, a nonprofit focused on tools for science. Peter also founded Modular Science, a company working on hardware and software tools for science labs. He has given talks at Science Hack Day, Launch Edu, and multiple academic conferences, including SIGGRAPH.