The Virtual Laboratory

Lynn Mercer


With increasing access to a computer, the scientific researcher is confronted with the task of utilizing this new tool efficiently and effectively. Although a broad range of software is available, from word processing packages to specialized simulation programs, the full potential of the computer can only be realized when this software is supported by an organized, easy-to-use computing environment. The virtual laboratory is such an environment designed specifically for conducting research. Based on an analogy with a "real" scientific laboratory, the virtual laboratory contains elements similar of its physical counterpart: objects and tools which may be assembled into experiments, plus reference material, and a notebook for recording thoughts, inspirations, results and conclusions.

This thesis presents the concept and design of a virtual laboratory. Technically, it may be viewed as a microworld of simulated experiments, guided by hypertext documents. It is an open system, capable of incorporating any available software. Data is organized into objects that are easily accessed and manipulated, and efficiently stored. Links with the hypertext documents access individual objects for experimentation purposes, and synchronize data between the text and the experiments. An example of a virtual laboratory in biology illustrates the operation of such an integrated environment.


Lynn Mercer. The Virtual Laboratory. M.Sc. thesis, University of Regina, August, 1991.

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