“It looked like a Medusa,” said Farah Mavandadi. “I was scared of it.”
Mavandadi, a senior product manager at Bio-Rad, was not describing a monster in a nightmare or a creature seen from a diving bell, but rather a research-scale chromatography system. Sprawling over a lab bench, instead of snakes the system had bunches of electronic cables and fluidic tubing that writhed and tangled around its various components.
Despite resembling an unholy mashup between Rube Goldberg and Jason and the Argonauts, this system was highly valued by the researcher who had wrangled it together, lovingly making each complex connection and hand-coding each component into the analytical software. The reason? Flexibility. Despite its messiness, the researcher could rearrange her system to get the most efficient fluidic path, to have right kind of detector in place, or make any other tweak in order to perform the best possible separation. Between having an “easy” instrument and having one she could change as her chromatography needs required, this researcher chose to face “Medusa.”