Introducing Albane Imbert

Meet Albane Imbert, the new head of our Making Lab, who recently joined us from the Institut Pasteur in Paris. We caught up with Albane, who tells us more about the Making Lab, how they collaborate with researchers at the Crick, and why integrating engineering into biomedical research is so important.

Where were you based before joining the Crick?

Albane Imbert

I was head of the Fab Lab and the mechanical workshop at Institut Pasteur in Paris. Before that, I worked as a research and development engineer and designer in a company focusing on ‘Internet of Things' systems (all things related to connected devices).

I am committed to innovation and have always been interested in how challenging the approach of engineering and industrial design can benefit scientific research.

Tell us about the Making Lab at the Crick.

In the Making Lab, we focus on integrating engineering approaches with biomedical research to design and manufacture cutting-edge devices for Crick researchers. When researchers come to us, we work in close collaboration with them to design and make devices, or we help them to make their own devices by training them to use our equipment.

Our main areas of expertise are electronics, mechanics, systems integration, and micro fabrication, but we’re certainly not limited to those areas!

Our main areas of expertise are electronics, mechanics, systems integration, and micro fabrication, but we’re certainly not limited to those areas! We also work closely with the Crick’s mechanical engineering workshop and rely on their expertise to produce fine-tuned mechanical parts. 

We adapt our approach according to a lab’s needs and always keep an open mind to new approaches and technologies that could enhance and broaden our expertise.

What attracted you to the Crick initially?

My work can be applied to many different scientific questions, so the Crick’s interdisciplinary research and impressive science technology platforms (STPs) were definitely an attraction for me. It makes the Crick an ideal place to develop new engineering approaches with biomedical research and bring it to the next level.

The Crick’s structure is also a real catalyst for crossing expertise and collaborating. It means we can explore completely new questions, making it a truly stimulating research environment.

I believe that the use of in-house, cutting-edge technologies offers an important advantage for biomedical research. A facility like the Making Lab is still young in the research world, so some of the technologies we wish to apply to live science are really promising, though not well established. But with the Crick’s enthusiasm, support and trust, I am very excited to do this work here.

The first weeks have been happily overwhelming, and I am eager to see what comes next!

Any projects you've started work on?

Over my career, there’s been a revolution in technology being adapted to a wide range of applications in the life sciences and a move towards low-cost instruments tailor-made for individual groups and experiments.

A good example is microfluidics, which allows researchers to study small quantities of fluid and is increasingly being used in biomedical devices. Radoslav Enchev's lab develops microfluidic devices with specific designs to observe biochemical processes in great detail in both space and time.

So together with the Enchev lab, the mechanical engineering workshop, and the support of the STPs Director, we are currently setting up a service for the whole institute, which we hope will benefit many of the labs.

We’re also working with Andrea Serio's lab, who are finding ways to model the nervous system more accurately using custom-made devices and advanced bioengineering. Together, we’re investigating how to process soft materials and biomaterials for computer-aided tissue engineering, and how we could provide a service like this at the Crick.

How have the first few months been?

Because of COVID restrictions, I was not able to come and visit the Crick prior to joining the Making Lab – everything has been handled through Zoom. So it was all new for me when I moved to London to join the Crick.

I was genuinely impressed by how easy it has been for me to settle in. The Making Lab team did an amazing job welcoming me and showing me the ropes, and so have the other STP leads, group leaders, and other teams at the Crick. The first weeks have been happily overwhelming, and I am eager to see what comes next!

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