Who Uses eCAT

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Paul Plummer, Assistant Professor Veterinary Diagnostic and Production Animal Medicine and Veterinary Microbiology and Prev. Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine, Iowa State University

Tell us about your work

My faculty position at the College of Veterinary Medicine has two primary components. Roughly 60% of my time is spent doing research with the remainder being focused on clinical medicine and teaching veterinary students. My clinical practice focuses on Large Animal Internal Medicine and more specifically internal medicine of ruminants. I am particularly interested in infectious disease and food safety issues associated with cattle, sheep and goats. My primary research focus is Campylobacter jejuni molecular microbiology. C. jejuni is the number one cause of food borne bacterial enteritis in the United States and abroad. We work on the environmental adaptation, antimicrobial resistance and pathogenicity of this organism. I also have active research projects in Papillomatous Digital Dermatitis of cattle,Coxiella infection of ruminants, metagenomics of culture negative mastitis and functional genomics of Bibersteinia trehalosi, a respiratory pathogen in ruminants.

How do you use eCAT?

My lab has used eCAT since the start of the lab – about 1 year ago.  Everyone in the lab uses eCAT as their exclusive laboratory notebook.  That includes one research associate/lab manager, 3 graduate students, 2 undergrad students, 3 collaborators and myself.  We recently upgraded from 10 to 25 licenses to accommodate growth in the lab.

The lab members have adapted well to eCAT.  Most of them have not every known anything different, so this is their only experience with a lab notebook.  Obviously some have used paper notebooks before starting in the lab and for them it is a little more of a transition.  That being said all of us appreciate the search option functions, the linking to files and the consistent collection of data.

How are you finding eCAT?

As a PI I like the ability to monitor experiments and make sure that the students are keeping up to date with their bookkeeping.  Using the dashboard I can see what has been added every day by each student.  I can easily access that information and provide ready input back to the students even mid-stream.  This has in some cases saved me a significant amount of money in terms of following “red herrings” and in other cases has saved me significant time by stopping or modifying an experiment in progress that was destined for failure.  It also helps me minimize the pile of “paper towel notes” that the students have buried on their desk and note put into a proper record.

I like to be able to have real-time access to any of my data – worldwide.  Last fall I was in Japan to give a talk, wanted a picture I had not brought but could easily retrieve it and the data off eCAT.

The search function is a life-saver.  It might be nice to have an auto-fill for “field name” in the advanced search but that is the primary thing I would modify.  It also has a function called “record table” in the advanced search that gives you a very nice summary of particular data (i.e. sample data or strain data etc).

I like being able to modify fields in given templates to what I desire to collect for information.  By doing this I can tell the students to fill in every field and make sure I have a complete record.

I run eCAT on my own server and have the data backed up at two remote sites.  A colleague that had a lab fire lost 4 lab notebooks of data – not a fear that I have with eCAT and backups (beyond obvious desire not to have a fire).

I like the ability to have collaborators have access to the data while not downloading it to their computer.  I had considered dropbox as a file sharing system – but don’t want all of my data in a given folder downloaded onto the students’ hard drives.  Admittedly they can print it off eCAT or download it if desired which is not a concern since they are a collaborator.  I am more concerned about “eating up their hard drive space” with dropbox downloads of unneeded material.

How do you find the people at Axiope?

The group at Axiope is great to work with and very helpful.  They respond quickly when there are questions regarding the use or management of eCAT.

What else would you like to see in eCAT?

We do a lot of field sampling – by using eCAT and iPADs we can access data through remote servers and input data quickly.  Axiope I believe is working on an iPAD app specific for eCAT AND I CANNOT WAIT TO SEE IT!



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