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Organization and Productivity

How to Keep Track of Lab Orders

How often have you torn apart the lab looking for the reagent you need right now for some thawing samples?  That reagent which you (possibly) ordered a week ago and which (maybe) came in yesterday?  If your answer isn’t “just once in my entire career,” please read on!  I will outline four steps to setup…

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Top 10 Most Hated Lab Tasks

Following closely on the heels of Cristy’s article “How to Clean a Waterbath”, I’d like to take a moment to rant about a few other hated (and carefully avoided) lab tasks.  Here are my top ten LEAST favorite things to do in the lab: Cleaning out the vacuum trap – truly gag-worthy…you never know what…

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Save the Data! Your Computer May Be Dead, but Your Hard Drive’s Heart Still Beats!

You get that familiar blue screen or an application hangs, usually one that’s been tanking your memory. No keystroke response.  The deer-in-the-headlight look on your face prompts your colleagues to ask, ‘is everything ok?’ while they secretly laugh at you. Rebooting 27 times will not save you now. Your computer has breathed its last. Even…

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Making a List, Checking it Twice: 5 End-of-the-year Lab Tasks

A lot of effort is spent on running experiments…and occasionally it can feel like an almost equal amount of effort is spent on administrative tasks! Policy compliance is important for keeping everyone in the lab safe, but it can be difficult to keep track of it all when your primary duties are at the bench.…

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Who Else Wants to Save Money on Lab Supplies?

Everyone loves a bargain! These days, more and more labs need to stretch every dollar as far as it will go. So how do you keep your lab well-supplied on a tight budget? To get a better deal on products you might choose to shop around, buy in bulk or haggle with vendors. However, if…

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Make Your Excel Worksheets Database Ready

In a previous article (Tips for Constructing Lab Databases in Excel by Emily Crow), BitesizeBio readers began a brief, but spirited commentary on the application of using true databases (MySQL, Access, etc.) versus Excel “databases”. While Excel can be quite useful to organize information (for example, an inventory of reagents, plasmids, laboratory items – even…

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A Painless Way to Extract Data from Raw Text Files

These days, raw text data sets can be spat out at you from all manner of instrumentation. This automation is efficient, however it can give you a headache when it comes to extracting very specific information from reams of characters and numbers within a raw data file. Brute force (editing or extracting data from the…

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Tips for Constructing Lab Databases in Excel

Good organization is essential for keeping a lab in good running order.  Databases of strains, plasmids, primers, and stocks are useful for keeping track of your materials, and allow your work to be continued easily after you’ve left the lab.  In this article, I’ll talk about a few tools in Microsoft Excel that will make…

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Easily Organise Meetings with a Free Tool: Doodle

Organising lab meetings, journal clubs and even lab get-togethers can be a bit of a hassle, with emails flying about and spreadsheets coming out of your ears. Luckily, thanks to some nifty, free online tools you can remove the pain of being the resident meeting organiser forever. The best of these at I’ve seen is…

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What’s Your Idea of Project Management?

Many PhD students conducting their research are not aware of the fact that conducting autonomous research is project management. This assumption is realized by most students only after graduation or in the last year of their studies (a webinar discussing project management will be held this coming May). Because being a technician and a project…

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Your No.1 Time Management Lesson: Just Say No

Research is a challenging field that demands a tremendous amount of skill and dedication.  We are required to be creative but logical, independent but team players, innovative but grounded, proliferative but focused.  This balancing act requires not only a very broad set of skills and talents, but also the ability to manage it all with…

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Will the iPad Replace Your Lab Notebook?

The release of the iPad this week may bring the long-expected replacement of the paper-bound lab notebook by electronic notebooks one step closer. But are scientists, particularly PIs, comfortable with electronic lab notebooks? The rise of the tablets The concept of an electronic lab notebook isn’t anything new, and even the idea of implementing it…

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How To Prevent Other People’s Mistakes from Affecting Your Work

Chances are, in the course of your scientific career, you will encounter a common problem in research: losing time due to someone else’s mistake. Whether the problem is an incorrect strain or plasmid given to you by another lab, incorrectly made buffers or media from within your own lab, or, in the most extreme case,…

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Why All Bioscientists Should Use Linux

A couple of weeks ago, Nick tried to convince us that we should all be using Macs. But why would you want to use a Mac (or a PC) when you could have an operating system that: Is free Does not slow down after a while and limit your productivity Does not need extra antivirus…

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Why Bioscientists Should All Buy Macs

Macs are great and there are a lot of reasons I recommend them to anyone who asks my opinion on which computer they should buy. But for bioscientists, perhaps the best reason to buy a Mac is summed up by one word: Mekentosj. Mekentosj is dedicated to producing fantastic software that addresses the needs of…

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10 Things You Must Do Before Starting a New Project

Rushing and overloading yourself in science is common, even normal. Surprisingly it is considered as an admirable aspect of “scientific flair” in some quarters. And the sad fact is that it is an ingrained part of the scientific landscape. But is this the best way to do things? Should you allow yourself to succumb and…

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To-Do or Not To-Do. That is The Question.

The manner in which some people orchestrate their daily activities is sheer poetry. Unfortunately, I’m not one of those people. I need help…and lots of it. So I put a lot of thought into managing my To-Do Lists, and here I’ll share with you what I have learned. Most people I know in industry use…

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Help! Excel Transmogrified My Gene Names!

I love that word. Transmogrified. It sounds like something Rob Grant and Doug Naylor, the writers of the sci-fi comedy series, Red Dwarf, would make up. As in, “Kryten and I were transmogrified into another time dimension”. Anyway, enough of 80’s cult TV shows. If you are still with me after the last two articles…

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Finally, Useful Heatmaps in Excel

Heat maps are a useful way to represent certain types of data; the data are colored by coloring according to the values in them, (e.g. red for high values, yellow for medium and green for low values), providing a powerful visual representation of a data set. This allows you to quickly see results from DNA…

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Taming the Data Stampede with Wikis

Since you’re a Bitesize Bio reader, you’re well aware that there is an abundance of both broad and specialized bioinformatics tools freely available for researchers – if you know where and how to find them. Recently emerging is a push to combine or link some of the most important concept-related databases as well as create…

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Why You Should Use Gmail

Gmail is no longer just an email provider, but is now packed with loads of useful tools that can make your like easier. In this article, I will share some of the Gmail features I have made use of for my work and research. Search your mail and the WWW Google, being one of the…

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Project Planning Made Easy

Whatever field you work in, effective project planning can make your work much more efficient, and make your like much easier. Liquid planner is a unique, online project planning interface that is free as long as your project has three or less team members. Liquid Planner has a nice interface for defining tasks and constructing…

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A Simple Lab Notebook Admin System

As far as your lab work is concerned, your lab book is the source of all knowledge. Making it easy to find things in there will help. Here’s how to do it.

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Avoiding the Lure of The Internet

The internet is a great tool, but can also be a real source of distraction. Here are five ways to avoid it’s lure while working, and stay productive.

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Don’t Overdo The Multi-tasking

Multi-tasking used to be my favourite way to get ahead. During my PhD I saw others around me working extremely long hours in the lab and not really having much of a personal life and quite early on I made the decision that this was not for me. Although I enjoy my work, having a…

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How to: Keep your data organized

Talented, enthusiastic scientist required. Must have good organizational skills. Do you fit the bill? With the pace of molecular biology and biochemical research quickening year on year, the importance of good organization and planning skills for researchers is becoming increasingly important. Here are 5 ways to ensure that your data is organized and easily analyzed,…

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