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Working in a Cold Room Without a Parka?

Have you ever needed to work in a cold room for a long period of time? For example, if you need to dialyze or purify a protein of interest that is temperature sensitive, working in a 4°C cold room might be the only way to accomplish the work.

Well, you are in luck. I dislike being cold. Especially after having worked at a fruit factory where I froze, inspected, and packaged fruit for almost a year in what you could call a giant cold room with a freezer warehouse.

With my fruit and lab experience, I have some tips and tricks for working quickly and efficiently in a cold room. Plus, it really isn’t as bad as it sounds.

Be Prepared

First of all, start by making a list of everything you will need while working in the cold room. This will minimize going in and out of the cold room, which could lead to a fluctuation in temperature and wouldn’t be good overall. But it will also help keep track of how much time you have to be physically in the cold room and will ultimately help you reduce it as much as possible.

My List Includes:

  1. Complete everything you can in the nice, warm lab before moving them to the cold room.
  1. Tubes with labels (markers don’t always work in the cold room)
  1. Pre-made and pre-chilled buffers
  1. Fresh waste container
  1. Pipettes or other manipulation tools, plus tips. Always bring extra!
  1. Razor blades/scissors for opening things
  1. Any required equipment if you don’t have cold-room specific equipment (remember to equilibrate going both in and out of room)
  1. Warm Clothes- Jacket and/or Lab coat along with warm pants
  1. Gloves- I used to double glove my hands to help keep my fingers warm, but still allow dexterity

Once I have everything on my list, I grit my teeth and bear the cold—with a jacket of course.

While You Are Working in the Cold Room

  • Claim some space for yourself. Cold rooms tend to be crowded and stuff tends to be shoved in there and forgotten. It will be a lot more pleasant if you have a work area that is cleared of clutter.
  • Work out your protocol, so you know when you can take breaks from the room. When purifying my protein, I knew I could leave the column for approximately 55 minutes before my protein would start to elute.
  • Keep a running list of items you may have forgotten, so you can leave, collect them, and bring them all in at once.
  • Watch out for condensation, spills, and any faulty equipment. Clean up or remove these items before beginning your experiment, if possible.
  • Music can help pass the time, but again be careful because your electronics may become damaged if they get wet.
  • If you get really cold, think of a warm place (silly idea, but sometimes it really works). One of the times you exit the cold room, add more lab coats to your attire. And also remember to bring extra warmer clothes next time.
  • Bring something warm to drink and eat for lunch when taking a break from the cold room.
  • If possible, space out the days of having to work in the cold room. For example, I would try and get all my work done in 1 or 2 days if that’s all the work I had. If the work were continuous, then maybe every other day or every other week.  That way there would be  trade-off for a warm days for me.

Hopefully, after learning some of the tips and tricks of working in a cold room, you can minimize the amount of time spent in the cold. And hey, on really hot days, the cold room isn’t a bad place to be.

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