Background: More and more, modern engineers design miniature devices that integrate complex activities involving many steps, people and equipment--- a micro-fluidic ‘lab-on-a-chip ’ device being a good example. The design of such devices is cognitively demanding, and requires the generation of multiple model representations, which are used, in an iterative fashion, to analyze and improve prototype designs. Purpose: The study reported here addressed two questions: How are various representations and prototypes used in the iterative design and building of a micro-fluidic ‘lab-on-a-chip ’ device in a systems biology laboratory? In this design process, what cognitive functions did the representations serve? Design/Method: This case study was build using mixed methods. We utilized the standard ethnographic methods of participant observation, open-ended interviewing of participants and artifact collection in an integrated systems biology research lab. Data were analyzed using open and axial coding. In addition, we used cognitive historical analysis in which we collect and analyze data from traditional historical sources (publications, grant proposals, laborator
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