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Superstitions And Habits At The Bench: Sensible, Or Just A Little Bit Odd?

Posted in: Organization and Productivity
Superstitions And Habits At The Bench: Sensible, Or Just A Little Bit Odd?

Everybody is different when it comes to how they like to run their work space.  Some people just find a space in the lab and work wherever there’s room, sharing their tips and pipettes, while others like to have a designated area to do their lab work in, with their own equipment.

Personally, I much prefer the latter, as I’m a bit of a control freak!  I like to have my own working area where I know exactly what’s been on it and what’s been used.  I hate the idea of contamination and do everything I can to stop it!

Here is a list of the top ten crazy things I do at the bench purely out of habit and superstition:

  1. I like to keep tabs on how many times my pipette tips have been opened and closed and what DNA has been around them.  That way I can pinpoint where any contamination has come from.
  2. I currently have about 3 bottles of RNase/DNase free water open my bench all with different labels on and each one is for a particular experiment!
  3. I NEVER touch anything without gloves on. I think this one is going too far, but I just don’t know what other people have touched and then touched other equipment, so my motto is: better safe than sorry!
  4. I hate ethidium bromide with a passion and have a designated lab area with pipettes and tips specifically reserved for using it. I always give new people talks about ethidium bromide safety and how not to spread it around.  I think this is quite sensible; however, my colleagues always roll their eyes when I launch into my safety speech!
  5. I always change my tip after I’ve used it once, even if it hasn’t touched anything, purely as a precaution.
  6. Unused PCR tubes, once tipped out of the bag, get discarded – you don’t know what’s got on them while out of the bag that might later contaminate your experiment!
  7. I cover PCR plates in between pipetting to ensure that no aerosols drop in to the reaction.
  8. I have specific lab stationary that does not leave my bench, that way if people have borrowed it to label things in the ethidium bromide/formamide areas, it’s not being spread all over my desk!
  9. I always label tubes with the hinges pointing upwards, that way if you can’t tell the difference between a 6 and a 9 then you know which way you labelled it and the problem is sorted!
  10. I always put tubes in the centrifuge with the hinges facing outwards, that way if you have an invisible pellet then you will always know where it is in the tube and don’t risk tipping it away or not re-suspending it properly.

The rest of my colleagues think I take it a bit too far, but it’s how I feel the most comfortable doing science!  What do you think?  Is all this necessary or just OCD?  What are your habits at the bench … do you have any that are weirder than mine?!

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  1. sonal mundhra on May 8, 2012 at 4:25 pm

    I dont think any of the things you mentioned above are signs of OCD. Because I follow those myself and almost everyone in our lab does. Except the 1st and the 6th one, I think they are just too much. But I agree with you – better safe than sorry.

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