What is a GPT? Our breakdown of how and why GPTs are getting chatty in labs

GPT’s potential to sift through vast scientific literature and predict experimental outcomes is not just innovative; it might transform the very fabric of research but, what is a GPT and how does it work?

A cute visualisation of GPT scientist made by DALL·E

It is inescapable that the landscape of scientific research and laboratory work is on the cusp of a major transformation, thanks to the integration of advanced artificial intelligence (AI) technologies. These AI technologies come in many shapes and sizes but one that has hit the headlines and captured the public eye is GPTs or Generative Pre-trained Transformers (the most famous of which being ChatGPT).

Generative Pre-trained Transformers, or GPT, is a form of AI developed to comprehend and generate human-like text. It’s built upon the foundation of machine learning and natural language processing technologies, leveraging vast amounts of data to learn patterns, nuances, and the intricacies of language. This enables GPT to perform a wide array of tasks, from writing coherent and contextually relevant text to answering questions and even generating new ideas based on its training.

A GPT is created by initially training on a vast dataset of text from the internet, including books, articles, and websites, to learn the patterns of language. This process, known as pre-training, involves the GPT model learning to predict the next word in a sentence given the words that precede it, thus understanding context, grammar, and information. Once pre-trained, GPT can be fine-tuned with specific datasets to perform various tasks, such as answering questions, writing content, translating languages, or generating creative stories. Users interact with GPT by inputting text prompts, to which GPT responds to produce the response based on its training.

But how does this relate to laboratories, often seen as bastions of empirical research and data-driven science? The answer lies in the versatility and adaptability of GPT technology. In laboratory settings, GPT can be harnessed to interpret complex datasets, automate mundane tasks, and even assist in writing research papers or grant proposals. It can sift through extensive scientific literature to identify relevant studies, predict experimental outcomes, and propose novel research avenues.

One of the most compelling applications of GPT in laboratories is in the field of bioinformatics, where it can analyse vast datasets of genetic sequences to identify patterns or anomalies. This capability is invaluable for research into genetic diseases, drug discovery, and personalised medicine, making GPT a potent tool in the arsenal of biomedical researchers.

Moreover, GPT’s ability to generate understandable explanations of complex scientific phenomena democratises knowledge, making it more accessible to non-specialists. This aspect is particularly beneficial for interdisciplinary research teams and educational purposes, bridging the gap between experts in different fields and fostering a collaborative research environment.

The integration of GPT into laboratory equipment and services also opens up new avenues for efficiency and innovation. For instance, laboratory information management systems (LIMS) powered by GPT can offer more intuitive interfaces and predictive analytics, enhancing the overall efficiency of laboratory operations.

Generative Pre-trained Transformers are not just reshaping the landscape of natural language processing but are also poised to revolutionise laboratory practices and scientific research. Although not without some security caveats and the need for careful peer review of their use and accuracy. Their potential is undeniable but as we explore GPTs they should be put under the same scientific rigor we would apply to any new technique or system in research.

Matthew

Matthew has been writing and cartooning since 2005 and working in science communication his whole career. Matthew has a BSc in Biochemistry and a PhD in Fibre Optic Molecular Sensors and has spent around 16 years working in research, 5 of which were in industry and 12 in the ever-wonderful academia.

One thought on “What is a GPT? Our breakdown of how and why GPTs are getting chatty in labs

  1. What a fantastic read! Your ability to present ideas in a clear and concise manner is impressive. This post not only provided great insights but also sparked some new ideas for me. Thank you for putting in the effort to share this!

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