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Equipment Mastery and Hacks

Becoming a Patch Clamping Pipette Wizard

Is patching clamping a problem? Struggling to get a good seal? There is no need to stress! We’ve got tips on picking and preparing the perfect pipette for your patch clamping experiment!

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DIY Centrifugation-Based Purification of cfDNA

There are many reasons you may want to study circulating, cell-free DNA (cfDNA) such as non-invasive prenatal testing to generate a molecular karyotype of an unborn fetus or for use in cancer to detect, diagnose and monitor the disease. Qiagen’s QIAamp circulating nucleic acids extraction kit is consistently cited in the scientific literature as the…

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Lab Hacks: Tips to Save You Money and Time

Not every lab has the cash to shell out on fancy equipment. And let’s face it, in today’s climate of budget cuts, even the baller labs are looking for ways to be more frugal. Years of lab work has taught me a thing or two on how to make ends meet. So, if you’ve found…

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How to Write a Flawless Methodology Section

Excellent research takes time and effort, and a publication is your chance to showcase your hard work. While your main motivation might be to share and discuss your results, your methodology section is key to the reproducibility of your work, acting as a foundation for other researchers to repeat and build upon your findings. In…

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Experimental Reproducibility: How to Get the Most “Bang” for Your Buck

As scientists, we are trained to design an experiment with the bigger picture in mind; the ultimate goals being to publish quality data and demonstrate scientific rigor. However, sometimes you need to focus on the little things, such as perfecting control and experimental samples, incubation times, and ordering reagents to truly ensure that you obtain…

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Ten Tips for Pipetting the 384-Well Plate

I was so excited to start using 384-well plates for my assays. With so many wells, these plates are useful for testing many conditions in parallel, as required in ELISAs, siRNA library screens, and drug treatment dilutions. However, I quickly learned that pipetting in these plates is more complicated than I thought. This article contains…

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Top 5 Errors in Pipetting

Pipettes are not just fancy handlebars for your tips, they are essential for precisely measuring and dispensing liquids. These standard ‘tools of your trade’ enable you to accurately repeat experiments, validate results, make important comparisons between projects and eventually publish that outstanding paper. But there are a few pipette pitfalls. And they don’t just trap…

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Advice for Working with Anaerobic Chambers

Working with anaerobic chambers is a unique skill set to have. It is only necessary if you are working with oxygen sensitive compounds. For example, some metallo-proteins require an oxygen free environment to stay in a reduced state, while others are sensitive and even reactive to oxygen. Sometimes working in anaerobic chambers requires a long…

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Drift in Measurements with Analytical Balances

Pharmaceutical laboratories and bioscience research institutes make extensive use of analytical balances that are highly sensitive. These analytical balances are greatly affected by their environment and also by the way they are installed and handled. This is why it is important to assess the lab environment to make the required on-site adjustments. The weighing equipment…

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How to Keep Your Centrifuge Alive

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, “the majority of all centrifuge accidents result from user error.” That’s right, it’s us. Many a machine has been destroyed by an unsuspecting scientist just in it for the pellet. The more expensive the machine, the more sensitive and the easier it is to break. Does your…

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Ergonomics: How To Make Friends With Your Lab Environment

Proper laboratory ergonomics is often overlooked, but it’s crucial to the longevity of your research career. Ergonomics refers to the study of human efficiency in the working environment. This includes limiting stress on the body because a sore body is a less efficient body. If you have ever had a backache from sitting at the…

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How to Choose the Right Pipette Tips for your Experiment

The precision and accuracy of even the best calibrated pipette can be wiped out if you choose the wrong kind of tips. Depending on the experiment you are doing, the wrong kind of tips can also make your pipette a source of contamination, lead to waste of precious samples or reagents—or even cause you physical…

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Wrangling Your Liquid Handler

Sometimes working with a liquid handling machine seems a bit like wrangling a wild mustang—I know what I want it to do, but the software doesn’t work that way. That’s particularly true when working with 96-well plates. So, sometimes you have to think “outside the box.” Don’t limit yourself to what the manufacturer intended (but…

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Anaerobic Tents: General Tips for Use in Molecular Biology

Interested in whether your protein uses oxygen to mediate reactions? Wondering if oxygen is keeping your enzyme from its duty? Then what you need as an anaerobic tent! These tips provide some basic knowledge to help you perform experiments using an anaerobic tent. What is an anaerobic tent? Most biologists who work in oxygen-free environments…

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What To Do About Rust in Your Incubator

Ideally, your tissue culture incubator should be polished stainless steel, gleaming and immaculate like a surgical theatre. And I am sure you keep it in order, like new. It’s just sometimes you start in a lab where the incubators already have brown spots – rust. There’s Rust in My Incubator! Usually rust occurs because of…

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Strengths and limitations of your Nanodrop

Quantifying a DNA, RNA or protein sample concentration is now as easy as a click of the pipette, a push of a button and a dab of tissue to clean up. Here’s what you need to know about a few of the strengths and limitations of your Nanodrop – before you set up. Take a…

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Basic Care for Your Liquid Handler

Liquid handlers, such as the Eppendorf 5075 I use to prepare DNA libraries, can be an immense help in the lab. Not only can they provide “lights-out” automation, freeing you to do something else, but they can make your work more reproducible. Here are some ideas to make your liquid handling robot perform at its…

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10 Tips for Working at the Bench in Developing Countries

Working in a lab in a developing country can be a unique and exciting opportunity for any scientist. It can be very rewarding, but also challenging as you navigate foreign settings to conduct your research. Here are ten tips for working at the bench in developing countries. 1.  Expect cultural differences Everyone approaches science differently…

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