Jason Dyck in his lab

Jason Dyck's cardiovascular research lab

Jason Dyck's cardiovascular research lab made waves this summer when it acquired a new piece of equipment that will help make experiments a whole lot greener. The machine is named Wes, and its technology will eliminate the need for traditional western blotting, a common and resource-intensive procedure.

The lab started participating in the Green Labs program three years ago, and it was the university's first medical research lab to get a Green Spaces gold certification. In honour of these ongoing sustainability efforts, the team was granted a Campus Sustainability Leadership Award in 2015.

Read more about Wes

A short interview with Jamie Boisvenue, former cardiovascular research technician in Jason Dyck's lab

Why did you apply for the model green labs project?

The way we do things in Jason’s lab, is it’s all or nothing. So we really went in anticipating to apply and get the full amount of funding to purchase this instrument, which is a little ambitious, but I think it’s really going to change the way we do research at the university.

In applying for the grant, I took a step back and said to myself, "What is something that will benefit our research the most and what is a mainstay or what is the most used scientific technique in our laboratory?" We run a lot of western blots. When I first started working for Dr. Dyck, that was all I did every day for two or three years. I thought, "Is there a way that we can innovate on this technique — this western blotting technique that we’re already doing?" And that’s where Wes came up.

When you look back and compare the conventional technique to this instrument, it’s quite drastic how much resources we’re saving and how much waste reduction there is involved.

What are the top three sustainable features in this lab?

The Green Labs gold certification gave us a lot of ideas of ways that we can improve our research and how we’re doing things. We’ve really created a mindset around recycling and how materials can be recycled, which plastics in the lab can be recycled, because a lot of what we do now is with plastic because it’s easier.

We’ve also turned people away from single-sided printing. We do more double-sided printing now. We share solutions now when we make them in the lab, so we're being more mindful about planning experiments. We also make sure our distilled water apparatus is off when we’re not using it — completely off. We shut the sashes in our labs.

The Green Labs gold certification checklist really helped us find easy ways to improve how we practice sustainable research. It’s very easy — like unplugging things. Because it may not be running at the moment, but the fact that it’s plugged in to keep that little green light on means that it’s still drawing power. So if you have 50 or 60 pieces of equipment in your lab, all with little green lights, each one is drawing power.

Do you have advice for people who want to make their labs more sustainable?

Embracing change is important. Practicing sustainable research is actually easy. There’s no reason not to, really. If a lab is really looking to participate in more sustainable research, they need to assign an individual who will spearhead the initiative to empower others.

My other advice would be to attend and maintain the lines of communication with the Office of Sustainability if you’re going to participate in the Green Labs program. Maintaining that line of communication allows new opportunities, like funding or seminars or webinars or conferences that they’re planning to host — all kinds of different activities.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Take a tour of this lab

See Wes in person and find out more about the sustainable features of Jason Dyck's research lab.

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Why Green Labs? 

Research activities are resource intensive compared to the needs of traditional classrooms. At the University of Alberta, buildings with labs currently use 43 per cent more energy than others. Some of this impact can be mitigated by greening the university's labs.

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