Novel use of TIBCO Spotfire® unveiled for ELN-based reaction search

 Photo courtesy of Flickr user Horia Varlan.

Since partnering with TIBCO Software Inc. in 2012 to bring data visualization and analysis to scientific industries, the PerkinElmer Informatics team has been working to develop add-ons and methodologies to accelerate scientific research using the TIBCO Spotfire® software platform.

Our team has devised a new way of using the TIBCO Spotfire software platform to dynamically mine reaction data contained within ELN. When reaction data is entered into an ELN, the stoichiometry is calculated and linked to an autotext feature that automatically updates as reagent or product amounts are changed. Solvent, temperature, pressure, atom economy and conditional information are also captured and stored in ELN. But with all of the complex reaction data contained in an ELN system, traditional reaction searching methods can omit relevant information in search results.

In a typical query form, scientists describe a reaction and its parameters which generates a list of search results, ranked in the order in which the system calculates its relevance. The results show experiment name, the reaction, and other metadata for each entry, and by clicking on an entry, a user can go to it and view it in detail.

But using this traditional search method, scientists are dependent on the system’s “best-result” ranking system. The search list doesn’t update when criteria - such as percentage yield – is changed, meaning to modify results, the entire search must be re-run. Furthermore, this list reflects the type of information inherent to an ELN by generating a list of experiments, when reaction information might be more useful when populated in a table of structured data. Finally, there may be data relevant to a reaction search that is housed in other sources, such as an Inventory, Registration, or another ELN. Traditional search methods simply can’t access and compile these various sets of data.

By integrating the TIBCO Spotfire software platform with ELN, reaction searches use dynamic filters to yield interactive visualizations of data presented in hierarchical data tables. Results can be drawn from multiple databases and merged using Information Links or Datalytix. The TIBCO Spotfire software platform is already widely used across chemical and pharmaceutical industries, but it has not yet been used to dynamically mine ELN-based reaction data in this novel manner.

The PerkinElmer Informatics team has tested this reaction-searching method using sample datasets and has proven that TIBCO Spotfire successfully achieves improved search results. Our team is now seeking a partner interested in being an early adopter of this methodology to implement the first real-use case of dynamic reaction searching in ELN using data visualization software.

If you are interested in learning more about whether your laboratory would make a good candidate for the first implementation of this methodology, contact us for more information here.

E-Notebook 2014, extended TIBCO Spotfire® deal announced at 2013 UGM

Clive Higgins, PKI VP of Marketing, Informatics, kicks off the 2013 User Group Meeting with product announcements

BOSTON, Mass. - The PerkinElmer Informatics 2013 User Group Meeting kicked off at 9:30am EST in Waltham, Mass., with the launch of PKI Informatics' newest electronic laboratory notebook version, E-Notebook 2014. In addition, it was announced that PKI Informatics has extended its strategic partnership agreement with TIBCO Software Inc. to offer the TIBCO Spotfire® data visualization software platform to Clinical and Translational/Personal medicine markets.

The announcements were delivered to a global informatics community during the User Group Meeting’s opening talk, given by PKI Vice President of Marketing, Clive Higgins, to an audience of over 200 conference attendees representing 130 organizations from 16 countries. Clive’s presentation, titled “A Year of Transformation”, discussed the sense of momentum felt across the informatics industry, and especially amongst the PKI Informatics team.

The world bioinformatics market will exceed $7.5 billion by 2017, up from less than $2.5 billion in 2011, Clive noted. The important thing, he urged, is that we remember to look at informatics in the context of improving human health.

Informatics plays many roles in the process of progressing global health and medicine, such as accelerating and protecting the discovery process, fostering collaboration, and increasing efficiencies, Clive said. “Our portfolio of informatics solutions spans from personal scientific applications through to data creation, acquisition, storage, management and analytics.”

Improving informatics

The new ELN version, E-Notebook 2014, has a range of improvements that include full integration with Inventory and Registration, canned protocols for numerous biological applications, drastically increased processing speed especially in search functions, and comes as a radically improved upgrade process that greatly reduces the time and cost of upgrading.

The expanded offering of the TIBCO Spotfire software platform comes one year after PKI Informatics first signed an exclusive deal with TIBCO Software to represent Spotfire in the Research market. Over the last 12 months, the Informatics team has invested in developing add-on applications like Lead Discovery and Datalytix, and to create modules that handle Omics and High Content Screening.

Today, the extended partnership allows PKI Informatics to offer TIBCO Spotfire not only to the Research market but also to Clinical and Translational/Personal medicine markets. Additional add-ons will be developed for TIBCO Spotfire that will merge Clinical data with Omics research data coming directly from clinical patients.

“There is tremendous market need for this, and Spotfire is the perfect platform on which to blend this data together,” Clive said. “A key aspect to the extension goes beyond traditional clinical applications to the emerging fields of Translational and Personal medicine.”

Working with a partner, PKI Informatics has already created an application tracking physical clinical samples, routing them for research and then merging together the clinical data with the subsequently gathered Omics research data, which allows for the segmentation of clinical populations based on genotypic and phenotypic research data.

Conference attendees and PKI Informatics team members will celebrate today’s news with a cocktail hour and launch party held this evening, immediately following today’s scheduled presentations at the Westin Boston in Waltham, Mass.

User Group Meeting “Sneak Peek”: Advancing translational research, high content imaging and screening, mobile applications for science

Next week’s 2013 User Group Meeting in Waltham, Mass., will set the stage for scientists to learn about and hear proof cases on the most advanced informatics software available to the scientific market.

The two-day conference, to be held Tuesday –Wednesday, October 1-2, will focus on how informatics can be applied to create end-to-end workflow solutions that benefit laboratory operations and processes. On Day 1, themed “End to End Solutions”, emphasis will be placed on how scientists can move past the era of silo-ed scientific informatics with integrated, holistic software solutions. Day 2, themed, “Every step of the process, every person involved” will feature presentation tracks that focus on users, applications and solutions.

Key highlights will include:

High Content Imaging for Drug Discovery Against Emerging and Re-Emerging Infectious Diseases, presented by Gianluca Pegoraro, Integrated Toxicology Division, United State Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases.

Gianluca will present how the Integrated Toxicology Division uses High-Content Imaging to discover and characterize novel small molecules capable of inhibiting the replication of multiple viral pathogens.

Advancing Translational Research with Web-Portal Analytics, presented by Adam Asare, Immune Tolerance Network.

Adam will demonstrate that the use of web-portal analytics combined with powerful data visualization software serves as a potential paradigm shift in how clinical trials translational research is performed.

Integration of ChemDraw® for iPad® in the Organic Chemistry Classroom, by Layne Morsch, University of Illinois-Springfield.

Layne will share how his organic chemistry classroom experienced an obvious increase in class participation and in students’ engagement with the  curriculum material as a result of implementing ChemDraw for iPad as a learning tool.

The User Group Meeting kicks off next week – sign up today to reserve your spot to hear from 25 speakers on real-life applications and advantages of advanced scientific informatics. Register now by clicking here.

QA/QC Insight: Improving environmental monitoring of cleanrooms

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Cleanrooms, whether they are part of Biopharmaceutical, Pharmaceutical, or Semiconductor industries, are designed to ensure that the concentration of contaminants is maintained within a tightly controlled range.  Companies employ numerous technologies to ensure that cleanroom environments are maintained; however, the most significant challenge is the assurance that these controls are functioning properly.  In order to verify that EM controls are operational and contaminants are not being introduced into cleanrooms, companies rely on comprehensive environmental monitoring (EM) programs.

The key to any EM program is its ability to efficiently identify outlier results in order to allow for prompt investigation and implementation of corrective and preventive actions as required.  Traditional monitoring programs rely on manual documentation of test sites and corresponding results, followed by review of these results on a quarterly or annual basis.  Regulatory agencies such as the FDA, EMA and Health Canada routinely issue warnings to companies for failing to identify atypical values and trends in a timely manner.

Companies must decide on not only the location of monitoring sites but also on the frequency with which to conduct reviews of the data.  By transitioning from a paper-based system to a fully electronic software solution, QC and Manufacturing departments are able to access data in real-time and respond to outliers immediately.

PerkinElmer’s iLAB™ Laboratory Execution System (LES), combined with the data visualization capabilities of the TIBCO Spotfire® platform, provide QA/QC managers with insight into all aspects of their environmental monitoring program. 

Procedures and results are captured within the iLAB LES system.  Cleanroom diagrams and maps are incorporated directly into electronic procedures and instrument results are automatically entered using PerkinElmers’ industry-leading LimsLink™ integration platform. Managers are then able to view all results dynamically using the advanced graphical visualization techniques of the TIBCO Spotfire software platform. 

Results may be plotted using traditional trending techniques or through advanced integration with TIBCO Spotfire’s mapping functionality.  EM results are able to be plotted on a map of the cleanroom in order to provide visual identification of problem areas.  Additionally, all data are fully interactive and allow for real-time filtering and analysis to easily see trends and patterns and identify unanticipated relationships in the results.

Through a combination of iLAB and the TIBCO Spotfire software platform, companies now have access to solutions that not only address the underlying regulatory and compliance issues, but also provide greater insight and understanding of the cleanrooms that are vital to the manufacturing of critical medicines and hardware used by consumers worldwide.

Click here to watch a video presentation showing how the iLAB™ Laboratory Execution System (LES) and TIBCO Spotfire® data visualization and analysis platform team up to deliver a new level of insight and understanding into Environmental Monitoring (EM) programs.

Beyond big data: Visualization reveals smart data

Data can both empower and overwhelm scientists. The 3 V’s encapsulate big data challenges: volume, velocity, and variety. Demands for storing data, making data accessible, ensuring high quality of information, and providing the appropriate means to collaborate have made a new science out of pursuing the integration of data and exploration of new tools.

Scientists collect an exorbitant amount of data. Data is now being collected in real time: High sequencing data, high throughput data, high content screening data, imaging data. Effective research requires sophisticated data analysis methods that are capable of managing the increasing complexity of information.

The diversity of the data is a major challenge especially when researchers relate it back to scientifically meaningful results. These types of data span from the fields of genomics and pharmacogenomics to proteomics and screening. Even the simplest of experiments can generate large amounts of data, which require not only appropriate storage but also computational power to tackle multiple databases, file formats, workflows and software tools.

To further complicate the challenge, manipulating and analyzing large data sets requires an appreciation of data exploration that has been identified as a new and important skill.  Not only do scientists require tools for analyzing data, but the tools need to be flexible enough to accommodate scientists' evolving needs.

Data visualization emerging as the new standard for powerful analytics

TIBCO Spotfire® data visualization software enables discovery, analysis and reporting. The TIBCO Spotfire software platform’s dimension-free data exploration capabilities enable scientists to interactively visualize data without requiring predefined dimensions or constraints.  The in-memory data engine and data-on-demand capability uniquely enable users to dynamically filter and drill down to micro-level details. Data mashup permits researchers to combine different sources of data without custom scripting and to dynamically insert tables, rows, and columns into a single visual analysis without IT support.

Collaboration and sharing capabilities through the Library or Webplayer allow researchers to instantly capture and securely share moments of insight across internal and external teams to drive collaborative decisions. Lastly, the TIBCO Spotfire software platform’s performance and scalability, coupled with PerkinElmer’s expertise and focus on life sciences, help find solutions tailored specifically to the needs of researchers.

The TIBCO Spotfire software platform provides enterprises with a powerful yet easy-to-use environment where flexible data visualization tools allow users to interact freely with their information. Not only can they easily see their data in a variety of visualizations, they can query it and see results immediately. Where other analytic and intelligence applications require significant time or expertise to customize reports and queries, the TIBCO Spotfire platform allows even novice users to ask and answer any question quickly. This capability, along with the insights gained through data visualization; make it an important tool for operational managers and other decision-makers who rely on information to make decisions very quickly. And it can be used with any information source— theTIBCO Spotfire platform easily imports and integrates information from diverse sources throughout the enterprise.

The platform’s interactive, visual capabilities for data analysis empower individuals to easily see trends, patterns outliers and unanticipated relationships in data with unprecedented speed and adaptability, such as the ability to:

    - Access corporate and local data sources and spreadsheets

    - Analyze and explore data with intuitive, interactive visualizations

    - Capture and collaborate around analysis workflows

    - Distribute analyses to colleagues

Beyond the obvious issues around scalability and reproducibility, science is all about coming up with questions we never thought to ask, finding new things to explore, and getting new insights out of our data. Starting out from known unknowns and discovering the unknown unknowns which lead to new discoveries, new sciences and new solutions. The partnership between TIBCO Software and PerkinElmer Informatics will focus on innovative, new ways of interacting with complex scientific data.

Learn more about powerful analytics software being used by industry leaders and peers: sign up to attend the 2013 User Group Meeting in Waltham, Mass, to be held October 1-2, 2013.

UGM Featured Speaker Preview: Defending data from field collection to final reporting

With two weeks to go until our 2013 User Group Meeting in Waltham, Mass., we spoke with UGM presenter Kathy Smith, Senior Database Administrator and LIMS Administrator for the Narragansett Bay Commission, about her plans to share insights gained in its laboratory using the wireless, automated iLAB® Laboratory Execution System.

Narragansett Bay Commission is a non-profit public corporation that owns and operates the two largest waste treatment facilities in Rhode Island. The commission regularly tests wastewater samples from industrial sites and needs to be able to defend chain of custody of its samples in the event that a sample’s accuracy and authenticity were to be challenged in a court of law. 

When Kathy joined NBC in 2003, the laboratory had a LIMS but it wasn’t able to collect instrument data directly into the database, and was using paper logs and paper chain of custody.  The paper trail in the laboratory reduced the lab productivity and allowed transcription and calculation errors.

“If you have to go to court to defend when, where and by whom a sample was collected, in what refrigerators it was stored in the lab, and how many different people touched that sample, it becomes very difficult to defend your data using a manual recording system,” Kathy said. “It’s easy for lawyers to poke holes in data recorded with pen and paper.” 

Kathy played a key role in the recommendation that NBC adopt the iLAB integrated solution. Instead of pen and paper, field collectors bring an iPad into the field and electronically record sample collection information that is then instantly transmitted to NBC’s database through the iLAB Portal.

“To document chain of custody, the field collectors collecting a sample simply use a wireless device to scan his or her employee badge, along with the barcode associated with the container” Kathy said. “When a field sample arrives at the laboratory, the receipt person scans his or her employee badge and each container’s barcode to log in each sample. Samples can easily be received and we have the ability to track samples marked in-transit along with the other pertinent statuses using an all-in-one touchscreen computer mounted on the wall in our facility’s receiving area.”

Each time a sample enters or exits a refrigerator, laboratory area, or passes through a chemist’s hands, scanners are used to record building location and employee information.

“Our data is completely defendable, and almost entirely automated,” Kathy said. “I’m really excited about the mobile solutions that allow our field collectors to go out into the field with an electronic device and to also use the device as a scanner. There’s no double entry, no chance of error. When it comes to documenting a sample’s chain of custody, we could absolutely defend our data if we were questioned.”

The laboratory has also embraced the use of iLAB LES in the microbiology lab where it has eliminated the need for paper logs. Each paper log, ie. inventory log, dilution log, reagent log, etc., has been converted to an LES worksheet. Data that needs to be sent to the database is automatically driven in through the process, and copies of the worksheets are stored as PDF’s in SharePoint. This is a huge benefit that reduces errors and cuts down on costs.

When Kathy attended the National Environmental Monitoring Conference in San Antonio last month, she noted that many of her colleagues in the environmental industry were extremely impressed by what NBC had accomplished by implementing iLAB. It became clear that “we are ahead of the curve” in terms of adopting automated technology, Kathy said.

The final deployed LES at Narragansett Bay offers higher quality data with less effort and includes the following: Automated Sample Tracking, Implementation of Mobile Devices, Wireless Scanners, Embedded SOP Links, Automated COA generation, Instrument and System Integration, Integration with SHAREPOINT, Inventory Management, Touch Screen Receipting, Electronic Lab Notebooks, Instrument Calibration and Maintenance Management, Automated Electronic Chain of Custody, Total Traceability and Data Defensibility.

Kathy will present “Enabling Data Defensibility and Laboratory Productivity Using a Laboratory Execution System” on Day Two of our two-day UGM, held October 1 and 2. You can sign up to attend this exclusive gathering of experts and peers right here.

Read more about the products NBC implemented by clicking here.

From the laboratory to the classroom: Mobile apps create new niche in education for ChemDraw

Our 2013 User Group Meeting, to be held October 1-2 in Waltham, Mass., will not only highlight the growth of scientific informatics to support end-to-end laboratory solutions, but will share a special story of how a mobile chemical drawing application has changed the way chemistry educators are approaching classroom learning.

When PerkinElmer Informatics innovators first started discussing the idea of bringing the popular ChemDraw® software program to a mobile application, the app was designed with the professional scientist in mind. Since ChemDraw’s creation in 1986, the program has been adopted by chemists across the board as the go-to software program for drawing chemical structures, writing patents, and publishing papers.

But with the 2013 launch of ChemDraw for iPad® and the related program Chem3D® for iPad, PerkinElmer Informatics has found itself catering to a new niche of customers in education.

Traditionally, chemistry students did not come into contact with ChemDraw until the end of their undergraduate careers or during graduate school, when the program was used to help publish academic papers. The mobile application of ChemDraw has now transformed the program into a learning tool through the invention of a novel sharing function, Flick-To-Share™, that was divined and designed by the Informatics mobile development team.

Hans Keil, business leader for Informatics’ desktop and mobile applications, explains in a recent interview with Boston “Tech Talk” radio show host Craig Peterson that the iPad applications have suddenly launched Informatics in a new direction that our team has not previously played a big role in.

“Now, all of a sudden, it could be a first-year college chemistry classroom where students are using this program,” Hans said. The cost of the ChemDraw app is $9.99, which is much more affordable than the desktop version. “It is really distilled down to the basics around chemical structure drawing to be able to render chemical structures in a very basic way, in a very quick way, in a very intuitive way.”

Having partnered with McGraw-Hill education, Informatics was able to see ChemDraw for iPad in action through two pilot programs held during summer 2013 chemistry classes at Saint Louis University and University of Illinois-Springfield.

The Flick-To-Share capability allowed organic chemistry students to instantaneously share drawings with their professors, who could then make any necessary corrections and send it right back to their students. “It turned out to be a real positive thing, in terms of engagement levels. That was the big take-away from those two pilots,” Hans said.

Flick-To-Share, which uses a novel, patent-pending simple finger swipe to send and share drawings with colleagues instantly, was created when Informatics’ head of R&D wondered aloud, “Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just flick that molecule across the room to somebody else?”

“Our head of R&D then said, ‘Yes, we can make that happen’. He worked with the mobile development team,” Hans said. “In very short order, the team came up with a prototype where we were ‘flicking’ drawings to each other.”

“I just think it’s a testament to what can happen when you rethink a product that’s been locked in the desktop world for so many years,” Hans said. “A tablet really helps you unlock potential and think about new directions in which you can move.”

To meet Hans and hear more about how he envisions chemistry apps will evolve science classrooms, sign up to attend our October 1-2, 2013 User Group Meeting in Waltham, Mass.

Listen to Hans’ full interview on “Tech Talk” in this YouTube video.

Building an integrated platform to support Merck's biologics R&D

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As a long-time provider of workflow management software for chemical research, and the established worldwide leader in number of ELN enterprise seats, the past year has been an especially exciting time of research and development at PerkinElmer Informatics as we have collaborated with Merck & Co. Inc. to devise workflow solutions tailored for biologics research.

Over the better part of the last decade, opportunities in biologics have been rapidly expanding as drug discovery researchers have worked to create a new class of drug therapies using large biological molecules as vehicles to deliver anti-disease proteins. These molecules can specifically target certain types of diseases, and can be purified from animal sources or can be gathered from human blood donation. Through a fermentation process very similar to the way beer is produced, these molecules can then be sterilized, bottled and sold as drug therapies used intravenously or through vaccination.

With a worldwide presence as a leader in providing health solutions in over 140 countries, it was during 2009 and 2010 that Merck began to focus on the further development of a biologics R&D program.  

Leader in biologics

Merck was one of the first corporations to take a deep dive into biologics production, and the company embarked on experimenting in biologics drug therapies several years ago. But their experimental data was being captured the old-fashioned way on pen and paper and in Excel spreadsheets, making it difficult for Merck’s scientists to truly capitalize on the wealth of information their research was generating.

It was at that realization that Merck turned to PerkinElmer Informatics. Based on its experience as a long-time satisfied user of our workflow management solutions for their chemical pharmaceutics R&D activities, Merck hoped to build on its existing investment in the PerkinElmer Informatics E-Notebook BioAssay structured results management module to achieve a successful biologics workflow management system.

Merck identified required expansions to the BioAssay program and our team set to work to further develop BioAssay to support structured data, results and sample tracking in biologics R&D. Not only did Merck desire a workflow management program that could organize the complex biologics R&D process, Merck wanted an integrated solution that would allow users to collaborate throughout all workflow stages using search, access and sharing functionalities on a platform that included standard data structure, taxonomy and data models.

Developing an integrated platform

Beginning in 2011, our team started production on the expansion of our BioAssay module that would suit Merck’s needs in biologics R&D. Once a working model of the program was completed and tried true, production pilot deployment testing began in August 2012.

With the pilot deployment successfully completed, our team is now implementing the sample tracking, workflow management solutions, and enhanced biologics functionality for the BioAssay to end users within Merck’s Vaccines Development, Biologics Discovery, Biologics Development and certain In Vivo data management groups.

Merck expects to benefit from this deployment through improved data capture that will use context to allow for sequential and comparative analysis through a product’s life cycle, and through the ability for managers to quickly assess productivity, cycle time and capacity understanding and perform full product life cycle analyses.

Additional reading

Case Study: Collaboration Adds Biologics Capabilities to Ensemble for Biology

Bio-IT World: Merck Finds Commercial Solution in Collaboration 

QA/QC Insight: Reduce data review time without compromising quality

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One of the key challenges we see QA/QC laboratories facing is the need to increase sample throughput and improve turnaround times without increasing the cost of analysis.

An effective way to meet this challenge is to reduce the amount of time spent on data review. Lab personnel that spend less time on data review have more time to spend on sample analysis. Reducing data review time also reduces turnaround time, getting results out to clients and end users faster.

However, reducing data review time cannot in any way reduce confidence in the quality, accuracy and consistency of reported results.

Let’s look at two steps that a lab can take to reduce data review time without compromising data quality.

Step 1 – Eliminate Paper

The first step to reducing data review times is to eliminate paper based processes for data collection, test execution, reporting of results and management of laboratory resources.

Every time a manual entry needs to be made in a paper based system, it creates a potential source of error that needs to be reviewed – recording sample information, recording test results, performing calculations to arrive at final results, recording instruments that are used or lot numbers of reagents and materials  – the list goes on and on. A thorough data review process requires taking the time to review and confirm the accuracy of each of these manual entries.

The review process can be further delayed by the reviewer having to:

- Resolve illegible entries “Is that an 8 or a 3?”

- Locate lost or misplaced records “Where is the second page for this test?”

- Verify the testing process “Was that reagent still within its expiry date? I better go and check the inventory log. “

Moving away from paper based systems reduces the potential points of error that reviewers need to focus on and provides faster access to the information they need to carry out a thorough review.

Step 2 – Bench Level Control over Test Execution

Most laboratories have recognized the drawbacks of paper and have taken steps to move away from paper-based processes. Spreadsheets are used for recording test results and performing calibrations. Applications for inventory and calibration are seen as a step forward from paper log books.

However, every one of these stand-alone solutions shares a common problem. They don’t know anything about how the analysis is performed. Did the analyst record the data correctly, did they look up the expiry date for that reagent and did they check that instrument’s calibration before running the test? So the reviewer has to look through each of those different applications to answer all of those questions. And that takes time.

A better approach is to answer all of those questions at the time of analysis by integrating all of the different applications in a way that allows them to share information in real time and use that information to control test execution at the bench level. A Laboratory Execution System (LES) provides just that capability.

Within an LES, an electronic worksheet can automatically check with a calibration application to make sure that the instrument being used is calibrated before the sample is tested. It can check with the inventory application to make sure the reagent hasn’t expired before the analyst uses it. It can take control over execution of the SOP at the bench level, guiding your analyst through each step of the process.

Knowing that all of these checks take place as a test is run reduces the amount of time spent on data review without compromising the quality of the data that is being reported. 

More Information

Watch a short video demonstrating how iLAB LES and the Ensemble® for QA/QC platform help laboratories work more efficiently, driving productivity while maintaining accuracy and compliance

UGM Featured Speaker Preview: Q&A with McGraw-Hill analyst on mobile apps in education

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Amy Kallmerten, Programs Manager at PerkinElmer Informatics:

In anticipation of our upcoming Informatics User Group Meeting, which will be held October 1-2 in Waltham, Mass., we will be posting features on our speakers throughout the months of August and September. They will be in a variety of formats and will allow you to get to know the speakers before attending the event. 

I am thrilled to kick this off with a feature on someone I’ve had the pleasure of knowing for a little while now, and I am excited to share with you some of his unique know-how about the world of academia and the way mobile applications are shaping our students.

Patrick Diller has a degree in Management Marketing Information systems.  His career has moved from working in retail, to to being a pawnbroker, to being involved in the music industry, before finally moving into education.  He currently is the Digital Product Analyst for Chemistry with McGraw-Hill Education, where he was instrumental in developing ChemDraw Web, the first web-based software for ChemDraw®.  McGraw-Hill currently has over 120,000 chemistry students using its online homework and learning products, with Patrick at the forefront leading the way in the company's future software development.

His talk that he will present at our User Group Meeting is titled “Creating student-friendly learning resources for students who don’t feel they are as tech savvy as we believe.” It will focus on mobile and digital creations that bring students and teachers together. To learn more about Patrick and how he came to be an expert in innovative technology in education, I held a Q&A session with him.

AK: How did you get involved with education, science, and technology at McGraw-Hill?

PD: As the parent of two young children, when I saw a job posting for Digital Product Analyst at McGraw-Hill, I gravitated toward the position knowing I could help hundreds of thousands of students by creating learning environments that would help them succeed.  I didn’t know the position was based in the sciences until my second interview, when I talked to the chemistry PhDs on staff, which was an intimidating experience. They joked that they needed someone on the team with “common sense”, which turned out to be a joke that had some truth to it. With my limited knowledge of chemistry, I am able to look at McGraw-Hill's products from a student's point of view to help identify potential areas that might cause students to struggle.  My favorite email I have ever received was one from a student who participated in a product focus group who said I had helped her to get a better grade in her class. 

AK: How do you think mobile app technology fits into education?

PD: Mobile apps within education are a great way to measure and enhance engagement within the classroom.  This can be done by using apps as a classroom response system, or by using app technology to faciliate "flipped" teaching methods, in which students do learning exercises individually and use classroom time to apply learned knowledge to problems.

AK: How are students of today different than students of the past?

PD: The student attention span of today tends to be much short due to the fact that we have become accustomed to absorbing information in increasingly faster snippets through mediums like Twitter, Facebook and Instantgram, before moving on to the next bit of information.  While students are in lectures lasting longer than an hour, or are reading text for extended periods of time, it can be difficult for them to pick out which information is the most important.  Many times, I see students take notes of absolutely everything or of nothing at all, with not much variation in between those extremes. Neither way is efficient for them to learn.  This is where adaptive software programs can be of great assistance.

AK: What are the biggest challenges facing educators today?

PD: Especially in the sciences, retention rates are a pressing concern for educators. Nationally in the United States, the Drop/Fail/Withdraw rate for college-level General Chemistry students averages around 35 percent. As a result, one of our main focuses within all of McGraw-Hill projects is to find ways to help lower that rate.

AK: Can you explain the ChemDraw® for iPad® focus groups?

PD: McGraw-Hill often uses class tests, or focus groups, on new ideas and projects.  While we have to sell our product to the instructor for the class to use, our ultimate consumer is the student.  For the ChemDraw for iPad focus group, we identified two professors who were looking for technology to encourage student involvement and engagement during class time within their Organic Chemistry summer classes.  The students were given iPads to use during the summer class and the professor was trained on using ChemDraw for iPad with the program's novel Flick-To-Share technology.  Each professor then implemented the use of the app within the classroom in a manner that complemented each individual teaching style.  Both professors used the program directly in class to gauge students' understanding of the material at the point of lecture. By collecting that information using Flick-To-Share, they could identify and address common misconceptions or problems immediately instead of waiting for a hard assessment such as a quiz or test.  Both PerkinElmer and McGraw-Hill developers observed the classroom, talked to the professor, and held discussion with the students on the program to shape the final product.

AK: What do you hope attendees will take away from your talk at the User Group Meeting?

PD: If I can help energize professors to think creatively about using mobile products to encourage student engagement and learning, then I would be very happy.

AK: Thanks to Patrick for agreeing to participate both in this Q&A and also in our UGM. I’m looking forward to seeing him and all of you at the Westin in Waltham in October! Space is limited, so don’t forget to register, and also, don’t forget to check back here to see more features on all of the fabulous speakers we have lined up.