Quartzy: A Lesson in Organisation and Teamwork

Difficulty in locating items in the -80°C freezers was a problem in our lab long before I began my PhD. It was brought up almost every week at our lab meeting. To find something, several people would be searching for about 30 minutes. The question we’d often ask was, “Why can’t the locations of our items be available at the touch of a button?” The solution was Quartzy.

Before                                                   After

Quartzy is an online database that allows you to create an interactive map of your lab to help you keep track of everything. Items are tracked based on the: freezer, rack, box, position within box.  Items can be assigned to their owners and further organised by their “type”. Quartzy has some default types that will be useful to anyone working in a research laboratory; antibody, cell line, plasmids etc. Although custom types can also be created. Items can be added one at a time or in bulk using an excel template. Overall, Quartzy is easy to use and will improve even the messiest labs.

The main obstacle that puts many groups off is the idea of back-cataloguing mountains of poorly logged items. I rallied my enthusiastic lab to this noble cause and by sacrificing only 1-2 hours per day, we managed to catalogue all of our freezers (~76,800 cryovials logged) in just 2 months. The benefits were felt immediately. These days, if a member of our lab can’t remember where an item is kept, they simply open up Quartzy in their browser, use the search function, and voilà, the location appears. Quite a contrast to the way things used to work


Our Quartzy campaign taught me two important lessons:

1.       Spending a few minutes keeping things organised day-to-day will help everyone in the long term.

2.       Teamwork is the most important tool you have in a lab.

I’ll explain that last point in a little more detail. Initially, I thought I could accomplish all the cataloguing and implementation of Quartzy on my own. Fortunately, I was clever enough to realise that I was out of my depth. This was a huge project, and the only way to accomplish something as large as this was to work together. Since Quartzy became operational, group work across individual projects has improved, resulting in a considerably more efficient lab. 

The message for today is, if you want to be a more efficient scientist, stay organised and work with your colleagues.

Now if only they’d release Quartzy as a mobile app…

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