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The A-Z List of Things that go “Missing” in the Lab

Posted in: Organization and Productivity
An image of cells to depict free PCR

Here is a fun list of things that you are most likely to lose to light-fingered colleagues or nocturnal ghosts of academia. The emphasis here is on fun, so as disclaimers often go, if your experience proved somewhat different, this list “does not represent the actions of every individual or ghost who you might encounter in the lab.”

A: Autoclave tape – Seriously, why would you use autoclave tape for anything else? It’s not a glow-in-the dark tape, it’s not a crime scene tape. Why, just why would someone steal my autoclave tape?

B: Brushes – Test tube brushes. It just does not matter how many you start with, after some time, none of them remain. It’s as if some deviant person with a serious dental problem attempts to remedy their health situation by using very harsh and bristly brushes designed for scrubbing chemical goo from labwares.

C: Common sense – Never seems to be in abundance and often goes missing as soon as a person puts on their lab coat. True story.

D: Dress code – The first thing to go missing after you accept the fact that you will not be interacting with other people outside your lab is your sense of fashion. Let’s be frank, the cells you will split don’t care, your PCR reaction will still amplify, your colleagues are already used to your bohemian looks. You can just wake up, blindly reach into your closet and pullout something at random.

E: Efficiency – This little gem gets lost to the everyday drudgery of graduate life. What’s the point of being efficient if you’re going to spend another five to six years there?

F: Friends – Science is a cruel and jealous mistress and friends and significant others have been known to be lost to labwork.

G: Glove Boxes – Sometimes it seems that you are a centipede, especially if your hand size is medium, as there never seems to be enough glove boxes.

H: Hemocytometer – Lost, broken, left someplace random, just very rarely where it is supposed to be.

I: iPhone, iPad, iPod – I told you so!

J: Jive – As in “I speak Jive because I forgot how to construct real sentences.” See “Writing skills” under “W” for more.

K: Kimwipes – They double for classy tissue paper when you have a cold or another hysterical breakdown precipitated by a talk with your boss. I once saw a box of kimwipes proudly displayed on a car’s dashboard. Stay classy, nerds!

L: Lunch – Labmates are often solitary creatures with a penchant for scavenging for food, which includes occasional re-appropriation of other peoples’ lunches.

M: Milk – For blocking western blots, not eating your cereal!

N: Nitrogen gloves – As in gloves for handling containers that go into liquid nitrogen tanks. The crime most likely perpetrated by students leaving on a trip to Alaska … or the North Pole.

O: Operating manual – Not stolen, most likely trashed the moment a new piece of equipment was unwrapped. Who reads manuals nowadays when there are so many buttons to just push and see what happens.

P: Pipettors – It doesn’t matter how many layers of tape with your initiates you paste on your pipette set, one of them always goes missing. So you guard your precious with a watchful eye. My precious! They stole it from us!

Q: qPCR sign-up sheet –  How nice, you also set up a 96-well reaction plate, but I signed up last night to use the machine today, at this time. Here, let me show you, eh, the sign-up sheet that was here … wait, I swear, it WAS here!

R: Restriction Enzymes –  Ok, these are normally a shared resource so others are allowed to partake, but using the last of the enzyme and putting the tube back in the box without reordering is as bad as stealing in my book!

S: Sharpies –  Everybody loves a sharpie – especially when it belongs to someone else.

T: Tips – You fill your tip box, your colleagues use them. How nice.

U: Utensils – Really? Was my fork and spoon so rare that someone decided to claim them? Perhaps another “Shawshank redemption” in the making.

V: Vortex adapters – As in those benchtop mini centrifuges that have a gazillion of different adapters to spin things in.

W: Writing skills – Period, my forgotten friend, where did you go? But now I have you, the unending sentence that lists five hundred different ways of using X without any regard for the fact that the human lungs can hold only so much air and I already forgot what the beginning of this sentence was saying as long as I get to say everything I need here in this one huge paragraph-sentence because my communication skills have deteriorated and I no longer speak to people who use punctuation.

X: as in exercise – No longer to be found in my life as I never see daylight and am chained to my lab bench. But the stuff I do in the lab can be considered exercise, right? Today, I set up six 96-well qPCR plates. Yea, look at those thumb flexors!

Y: Years of my life – Lost forever in the lab, never to be found again …

Z: Zeds – The lab is a well-known stealer of sleep. Our advice: don’t stay in the lab too long after hours, it is not productive or fun!

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  1. Mourad on July 11, 2016 at 7:04 am

    That’s just describe my lab life…

  2. user-96364 on May 9, 2013 at 1:47 pm

    Autoclave tape is extremely useful – strong, water-resistant, long lasting. I used it to keep my car’s rear-view mirror from falling off. Probably pinched yours…?

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