Robots Toil Round The Clock In Today's Science Laboratories

It is 2:30 in the morning at Steve Metzner's lab at Monsanto Co. in St. Louis, and lab workers are busy preparing samples for an experiment to be run that day. These workers aren't diligent technicians, however--they're robots, and they're freeing the laboratory's human workers to do more complicated and challenging tasks when they arrive. To the functioning of Metzner's lab, and many others around the United States, robotics has become integral. While most prevalent in labs that perform highly

Rebecca Andrews
May 12, 1991
It is 2:30 in the morning at Steve Metzner's lab at Monsanto Co. in St. Louis, and lab workers are busy preparing samples for an experiment to be run that day. These workers aren't diligent technicians, however--they're robots, and they're freeing the laboratory's human workers to do more complicated and challenging tasks when they arrive. To the functioning of Metzner's lab, and many others around the United States, robotics has become integral. While most prevalent in labs that perform highly routinized processes--repetitive analyses associated with quality assurance, for example, or environmental testing-- robotic systems increasingly are being used for other, more complex research functions as well.

To paraphrase Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart's description of pornography, robotics is tough to define, but people know it when they see it. As Craig Muir, research associate at Genentech Inc. in South San Francisco, Calif., says, if you put a bunch of people...

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