Robo-Professor

Sita Dinanauth - Deputy News Editor 8 June 2009

A Cambridge University Scientist has designed the first ever robot researcher to independently make a scientific discovery that human researchers have failed to crack for decades.

Professor Steve Oliver from the department of Biochemistry at Cambridge University and Professor Ross King from Aberystwyth University designed two robot scientists called ‘Adam’ and ‘Eve’ to investigate yeast functional genomics and drug screening respectively.

Adam, one of two so-called “robot scientists” developed by the scientists has identified the genes that code for enzymes involved in yeast metabolism.

This discovery is the first of its kind aided by a robot, rather than human, experimenter.

Adam correctly identified that certain genes in baker’s yeast coded for specific enzymes which then catalyse specific biochemical reactions typical of the organism. The robot then independently devised experiments to test the specific predictions, carried out the experiments using laboratory robotics, interpreted the results and then repeated the cycle.

Professor Ross King, commented on the more general implications of the finding for all researchers. He told TCS: “I consider the trend to increased automation of science to be both inevitable and desirable. It is inevitable because it will be required to deal with the challenges of science in the twenty first century. “It is also desirable because it frees scientists to make the highlevel creative leaps at which they excel.”

Sita Dinanauth – Deputy News Editor