Monday, February 15, 2010

Lab Training

Today I had a laboratory training session on three different instruments: total organic carbon and nitrogen analyzer, uv-visual light spectrophotometer, and a spectroflourophotometer, all of which were delivered and calibrated yesterday. There is beginning to be more activity in the labs as equipment, chemicals, and biological reagents come into the Kingdom. The equipment is making the KAUST labs look more like a real research university, but there is still quite a bit of work to be done.

Supply chain problems continue to plague biological researchers who cannot get restriction enzymes, microbial samples, and other products. The big problem is that there are lots of problems. Moving requests through the central ordering system has been a slow process and some things just never were ordered. Once things are ordered, Saudi Arabian customs has also been massively inefficient in letting materials across the border. In the shipments, some items have been misplaced for weeks before they are finally found in a random warehouse in Jeddah.

Weeks may not sound too bad to the casual observer, but high-tech biological researchers who have come to KAUST are used to one-day shipping. Many of the biological samples and reagents are ruined if they spend more than a few days in transit... three weeks in a customs office will totally destroy a shipment of enzymes or microbes.

But things are improving. My research team will start to reproduce some basic experiments next week (insh'allah) and we should be able to move in a forward direction by mid-semester.

How long will it take to move at full speed though? I don't know. Not until next fall at the earliest for chemical and biological sciences, insh'allah. The whole ordering and customs system has to be completely redone for research to really work here at KAUST.

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