Zach Bjornson's resume and projects.

Portola Valley, CA

Zach Bjornson's site.


Robotics Platform

Upon joining the Nolan Lab, I inherited a large assortment of instruments that were going unused. I expanded the collection and assembled everything into a highly versatile system capable of performing delicate cellular assays. This multi-month project included spec'ing-out instruments and parts, designing and producing my own components, programming control software, writing hardware drivers and conducting extensive validation.

Modeling envelopes for robotic arms interacting with instruments

Modeling envelopes for robotic arms interacting with instruments

The system is comprised of a pipetting robot (Agilent Bravo), liquid handlers (BioTek MultiFlo FX, several BioTek ELx405s, several Thermo MultiDrops), robotic arms (Agilent BenchBot, Peak KiNEDx), a CO2 incubator (Thermo Cytomat), plate hotels, plate shakers and a specialized non-contact dispenser. The system is akin to what would be found in a pharmaceutical or biotechnology company, enabling techniques and results from the lab to be quickly escalated to facilities geared toward advancing research findings to licensed medical tools.

The system is currently being used to generate some 115 billion data points comprising the FDA Cross-Species Immune Atlas (read: my thesis). Other notable protocols performed so far include screening antibodies for reactivity and specificity in different species.

In building this system, I became one of the (probably very) few people to use the VWorks API to create instrument drivers. Getting the drivers to work took a lot of reverse-engineering of existing drivers. I posted some of the drivers that I made (Q.Instruments BioShake and BioTek Liquid Handlers) to github. Both are simple enough that they can be used as templates if anyone else wants to make plugins.

One of the hardware components I designed is the negative-pressure biosafety enclosure using extruded aluminum profiles and a custom fan-filter unit. The enclosure has consistently passed biosafety certification.

Design for negative-pressure biosafety enclosure.

I also designed several parts for controlling the temperature of reagents, pictured below. All of these designs are freely available here; anyone can have them milled by a company such as ProtoTek.

SolidWorks design for interchangeable plate chiller

Milled components

Final assembly

SolidWorks design for tube chiller

Final assembly

The robots also tweet via a plugin I wrote when significant events (read: crashes) happen, so we can monitor the robots remotely.

Above: part of the whole blood stimulation, barcoding and staining protocol.


PS: They can do the Harlem Shake.