Virtual Collaborative Environment (VCE)

Virtual Collaborative Environment Login

    The Center for Cell Control's Administrative Office manages and supports a Virtual Collaborative Environment (VCE) to enable convenient connectivity between multidisciplinary research groups regardless of their physical locations for facilitating seamless collaborations among researchers. This is a flexible environment based on the Marcomedia Breeze Live software tool, which can provide connectivity to 200 users simultaneously for participation in any number of separate meetings; this is all done through simple, secure, access-coded logins via a website. A simple and familiar interface provides access to brainstorming sessions (writing on the same virtual whiteboard) and attendance at seminars (viewing the same presentation slides and hearing the speaker simultaneously). In addition of using VCE for conferences, the Center for Cell Control has further developed VCE into a Virtual Long Distance Laboratory.
Virtual Long Distance Laboratory

    Our experience through many collaboration activities amongst investigators in the past decade has demonstrated that effective means of communication is crucial for success and productivity of an interdisciplinary team. The laboratories of the PIs most likely located at different places on campus or even on different campuses separated by far distances. The physical separation of the research team often deters research discussions and laboratory exchanges. The Virtual Collaboration Environment (VCE) provides an existing and tested solution to facilitate collaborative experiment throughout the relevant research communities, including the center's members and members of the other Nanomedicine Development Centers, in spite of long distance separation.

Figure (a) The left screen (blue background) capturing the real time optical image of the HeLa cells in the Berkeley laboratory. The cells are shown as bright spots and are found in random positions initially. The right screen in the VCE is an electronic board that allows UCLA researchers to define the exact pattern that they wish the OET at Berkeley to position the cells. In this case, the pattern is the word “LA” (written inverted for a technical reason specific to the instrument software). (b) Four minutes later, OET at Berkeley captures cells and forms the pattern of “LA”, specified by UCLA researcher.

     To illustrate this capability, we demonstrated an experiment where the researcher at Los Angeles is using the OET located at campus of the University of California , Berkeley to form a desired pattern by a collection of cells. Professor Ming Wu's group developed an innovative Optoelectronic Tweezers instrument capable of manipulating live cells. In this demonstration, the UCLA researchers requested that a line of live HeLa cells be positioned according to a specific pattern. To do this, the researchers at Berkeley prepare the sample and place it onto the Optoelectronic Tweezers. They then connect their OET onto the Virtual Collaboration Environment through the internet. At Los Angeles , the UCLA researchers also connect to the VCE from their computers. Figure (a) shows the view visible at the VCE, the left screen capturing the optical images of the HeLa cells as seen through the Berkeley and LA laboratory computers. The cells are shown as bright spots and found in random positions initially. The right screen in the VCE is an electronic board that allows UCLA researchers to define the exact pattern that they wish to position the cells, located at Berkeley . In this case, the pattern is the word “LA” (written inverted for a technical reason specific to the instrument software). The UC Berkeley computer converts the image to a light pattern that is capable of grabbing the cells through a microscope and moves the cells in the fluid. Figure (b) shows the VCE four minutes later, where the cells at Berkeley is positioned to the pattern of “LA”, defined by researchers located at UCLA . UCLA researchers can also move the cells at Berkeley by using the mouse pointer on their computer to grab the cells shown in the VCE screen and then physically manipulating the cells located at Berkeley . VCE makes the UCLA researchers as if they were in the UC Berkeley laboratory. This experiment illustrates the power of Virtual Long Distance Laboratory via VCE. The type of instrument used in this Virtual Laboratory obviously not only limited to OET. In fact, a large variety of experiments can be performed among research groups separated by thousands of miles.

Virtual Meeting Room

    Typically, the VCE serves as virtual meeting rooms for researchers to discuss and brainstorm by entering a website. Participants can simply visit a website to attend or provide technical seminars between collaborators or share research progress. It is also our experience that the success of a virtual collaboration environment entirely depends on the ease of access. In contrast to traditional video conferencing facility, which requires all participating parties to meet at specialized conference rooms that are compatible to each other, the VCE connects participants through a webpage and a standard telephone. This web-base virtual conference allows all participating on-line users to view power point slides, chat and draw on whiteboard simultaneously. No special software or any other special equipment is needed by the users aside from a capability to enter a website. See Example (below).

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