What is my most favorite task to do in the lab? Good question; it’s difficult to pick just one, so here are (quite) a few of my favorite things:
This is what makes research great: in teams, numerous projects can be completed more quickly than what a single person may be able to accomplish in the same amount of time. In every lab I’ve worked, it’s how we’ve built a friendly rapport together.
Labs combine forces to attack challenging research problems with an army of scientists! And on a more personal note, it opens the door for exciting future opportunities. Like when budgets begin to shrink, a collaborative lab may not have a position available now, but they may be able to point you in the direction of someone who does.
Let’s begin our day by brewing a cup of coffee and end it by mixing up fresh DMEM and other common reagents for all my cells and yours. A traditional task, but an important one nonetheless to keep a consistent media supply available for happy, healthy cells.
Cells grow lightning-fast! With an appropriate cell type, anyone can test, retest and refine experimental conditions to lay the foundation for successful projects in vivo.
A 100 piece puzzle for me to paste tissue slices onto microscope slides, right side up, flat, all lined up in correct anatomical order. I find it to be more art than science, but even with a steep learning curve, it is a relaxing change of pace after high-intensity experimentation.
Computers record data in predictable formats. With Excel we can program a macro to analyze datasets in mere seconds, finishing with the creation of a pivottable that summarizes final results (our PI loves this).
Here’s where I decide my own fate. In addition to shaping the conditions of an experiment, are there weekends, holidays or break-of-dawn hours that I want to put on the schedule? Maybe just a few this round, but the mileage will vary.
Beginning with the simplest component and working toward the most complex, immersion into the inner workings of an assay, a piece of equipment, or tool helps to develop a huge appreciation for how stuff works. If it’s broke, try and fix it. I always learn something new.
An exercise in writing “how-to” guides, BitesizeBio style. Bench methods need to be concise, easy-to-use and include the tips and tricks learned over years from trial and error. Now that’s a healthy challenge to ensure that knowledge is preserved throughout the lab’s existence.
Locating group data is a task when there is no central location in which it is stored. I create databases to solve this problem. One file, one location and I can find what we need every time.
Science communication in its clearest form. A graph summarizes a soup of numerical data so anyone can review the plot, deduce trends and make comparisons among experimental groups.
Today we’re attempting to solve a novel problem that no one else has attempted before. It’s exciting if this data gets included in a grant application, and then blossoms into a full-fledged lab project.
The lab has run an assay the same way for decades, based upon handwritten methods. Can it be improved upon? Let’s review literature – and other labs’ methods – to see how it compares. Maybe we can make it more efficient by incorporating cutting-edge biotechnologies.
“Santa” brings joy to labmates up to 365 days a year – no, not socks and thermal underwear…smocks, tubes, tips and restriction enzymes!
Individual experimentation shuffles our schedules so that the times we come together as a group are at lab meetings. So, a fun thing to do to brighten each other’s day in-between, is to doodle on the whiteboard. Sometimes it’s science, sometimes it’s goofy, but it always develops into a work of art that would make Michelangelo proud.
Those are 15 things I love to do. What about you?Photo Credits