I use spreadsheets to organize just about everything. Who's writing what for a certain magazine we all know and love? Spreadsheet. Planning a vacation in Hawaii? Spreadsheet. Personal finances? Spreadsheet. I'd be lost, wandering around an airport with half a magazine and little money, without Microsoft Excel or Google Docs. It turns out I am not alone. As Christie Rizk reports in this month's cover story, many lab managers also turn to spreadsheets to keep track of what's going on in their groups.
Of course, Christie writes, there is more to running a lab well than using charts and tables. There are also personalities to balance and instrumentation to maintain. Patience, she writes, is a key virtue (as is a handy can of WD-40). Those and other tips for running an efficient lab can be found starting on page 26.
Elsewhere in the issue, Tracy Vence writes that while Linnaean classification approaches have long been used to suss out the relationships among species, researchers are increasingly turning to next-generation sequencing as a tool to help draw the tree of life. For example, Tracy says, adding genetic information to what was already known about the genus Psiguria helped researchers determine the number of species it actually contains. It does, however, add another layer of information — information that is only increasing as more species are sequenced — for researchers to contend with, making it that much more difficult to construct phylogenetic trees.
And this month's Brute Force column looks at the overlap of genomics and gaming. Beginning with Foldit, researchers have started to examine how games — and the people that play them — can be put to work to answer biological questions. Foldit has already provided answers to questions regarding a protease structure, reports Matt Dublin, and other games like Phylo and EteRNA are following in its footsteps. And such games are also starting to be put to use to help clinicians diagnose patients. However, Matt notes, there is still some skepticism as to the usefulness of such games.