Thermo Fisher Scientific:
Developing new tools to speed up and simplify protein science.
The ChallengeSuccessfully launch products within an organization new to both physical or digital products before.
Improve a 50-year old lab experiment that demanded far too much valuable time from scientists and lab technicians.
My RoleI was a client facing design consultant for PDT, working with various levels of stakeholders and subject matter experts.
For the development projects, I led experience design as a UX team of one. I collaborated with industrial designers, mechanical and electrical engineers. I worked with my Ukrainian development team.
For the discovery effort, I co-lead the US research and lead the synthesis and concepting work.
Thermo Fisher Scientific is a massive science tech organization. Their core business supports protein science, focusing on general experiments that protein labs run frequently. I worked with them for several years to develop products supporting the Western Blot—the most common protein science experiment that determines the molecular weight, and quantity of proteins, in a compound.
The customer experience was a knotty problem. The experiment in question hadn’t changed in decades. It bears a likeness to darkroom photography, being a long, laborious process of finicky steps. A robust solution to this problem would require some deep thinking, and was investigated during a 6-week field discovery effort which I describe below.
We needed to expand the definition of product for the client. Formerly, their business focused primarily on experiment chemicals and other consumables. They were dominant in this area, but their brand was exposed to competitors developing physical and digital products.
First, we focused on what we could improve, not disrupt. We aimed to launch some “starter” products to make specific procedures easier and more connected. We identified three areas where a better product could help. There are numerous significant steps in the Western Blot process; We focused on three where we felt improvements would have an impact. We began work on the following:
Pierce Power Station: A small device that transfers a wet experiment gel to film. This replaced another container device while removed the need for a separate power supply product.
myECL Imager: A countertop kiosk that captures an image of the film from the previous step. Both of these physical products were designed to be used as communal devices within the lab, while still allowing lab workers the ability to save and customize their work and methods.
myImageAnalsis: PC software that converts the image into data for analysis. The white blots in this image are the actual experiment data. The software allowed for the “art” of manual analysis, while also providing “easy” computer vision by algorithm.
A product conceptualization phase followed the field efforts. We were using generative research to plot a course for the future. The design team (chiefly the industrial designer and myself) worked in a war room, generating numerous ideas to navigating the problem space and competitive products. These sketches coalesced into themes, each an area for future product exploration.