2021 JoVE Researcher Innovation Award Winner: Charles Clark ‘Live streaming the unseen: How to use real-time video streaming in the lab.’

Raveena Khatri
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Single Cell Analysis Project

This blog post highlights the 2021 JoVE Researcher Innovation Award winner Charles Clark’s winning entry in which he reveals how to use real-time video streaming in the lab and its benefits. Charles’ current research project involves single-cell analysis that requires sampling individual HepG2 cells under a 40X microscope. When training students on this sampling technique, he demonstrated how he framed the cells appropriately, manipulating the sampling capillary over the plate allowing each student to swap places with him at the microscope and try out the controls themselves. This method involved challenging trial and error due to the density of cells and their adherence to the plate. Unsurprisingly, this approach to training was impossible due to COVID-19 restrictions, during lockdown restrictions even applied to his lab.  

Transitioning Laboratory Techniques that require microscopic precision 

Laboratory techniques are usually taught in-person out of habit or convenience but can ultimately be conducted virtually with a minor issue. Methods like weighing on a balance,  diluting standards for a calibration curve, or proper lab safety instruction can all be recorded and viewed at the student’s convenience. Have you ever wondered how you can conduct virtual training for a method that requires microscopic precision, rapid adjustment to changing conditions, and close-quarters between the student and instructor? 

Achieving the Key Criteria

Charles highlights how he developed virtual training for methods that require microscopic precision. He developed a virtual, safe and efficient training approach that retained all the aspects necessary for this method. This criterion was met by live-streaming the training, along with a video of the magnified view and micromanipulator controls. One of the microscope eyepieces had a  USB  camera attached to receive a reading of the cells. The footage was then live-streamed through Microsoft Teams for students who had the same view through the microscope in real-time. He filmed external hand controls (stage positioning,  objective focusing, and capillary positioning) through a laptop camera accessible on Microsoft Teams. He recorded all the steps of sampling individual cells with students observing safely and in isolation and answered the students’ questions. Similarly, when students had to try the sampling method themselves, he could view them in real-time through the same setup. While doing that, he also provided feedback as they sampled cells and honed their skills. 

Charles’ live-streaming training approach has completely changed how practical instruction works in lab groups. His students were receptive and had already been in distance learning classes for several months when he implemented it. Based on his opinion, students grasped experiments better through virtual training than in-person training. Charles believes that this project has helped increase students’ comprehension and preparedness after a virtual lab before going back to in-person lab sessions.

Charles fully expects to implement this training method for other techniques as he is pleased with the success of this virtual training approach. To see how he conducted this training, watch the video here.

In the annotated image, the USB camera is over the left eyepiece of the microscope. The video file is a recording of one of the sampling sessions viewed through the USB camera. The glass capillary tip is gradually brought into focus, positioned over a cell of interest, sampled via negative pressure into the capillary tip. 

“Initially, a hassle to set up, this live streaming training approach has completely changed how practical instruction works in my lab group. Our research team is quite large and spread out over several cities surrounding our university, so any way to minimize exposure yet still receive quality instruction is paramount,” said Charles Clark. 

To hear actionable insights directly from him, request a complete recording of a webinar session led by him.

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