Several lab notebooks have gone missing from the lab of Associate Professor of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Bob Lane, which will delay the publication of some of the lab’s research. According to Lane and Dean of Natural Sciences and Mathematics David Bodznick, it is not clear whether the notebooks were stolen or otherwise misplaced.
Investigations by Public Safety (PSafe), including interviews of all students with access to the lab, have so far not resulted in any leads on how the notebooks may have disappeared, according to Lane. Director of Public Safety Dave Meyer declined to comment on the state of the investigations.
In certain circumstances, losing lab notebooks could have major consequences for a lab if there are no back-up records detailing research procedures. Lane said, however, that the loss of the notebooks in his lab amounts only to an inconvenience for the researchers involved—most of the missing data can be reproduced by redoing a few experiments during the next few weeks.
Lane’s research is on the molecular basis of the olfactory system—studying the sensory neurons that are involved with the detection of smells. In response to the loss of the notebooks, Lane said that his lab is looking forward and thinking about ways to prevent similar occurrences in the future.
An easy solution to the problem of notebook security, according to Lane, is to keep digital copies of records, as is common practice in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries, but less so in university settings.
“As a community, we’ve been relying too much on original documentation,” Lane said.
While in this case only notebooks were lost, Lane suggested that the incident brings attention to the ease of access to science labs at the University.
“Security in the science buildings could be improved,” he said.
Lane said he opposes the possibility of installing security cameras out of concerns for privacy. Other possible changes in security are limited, however, by the existing infrastructure and layout of laboratories. Plans to replace Hall-Atwater and Shanklin with a new science building were delayed two years ago due to budget concerns resulting from the economic recession.
Lane’s lab, located on the first floor of Hall-Atwater, experiences fairly heavy passerby traffic, including students headed to a nearby computer lab and science classrooms.
On the other hand, Lane suggested that there are also benefits to having a relatively open lab setting, as it allows students and others to see their peers and professors conducting research, as opposed to enclosing research behind locked doors.
“There’s a certain amount of transparency and interaction that results from an infrastructure like this,” Lane said.