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Equipment Mastery and Hacks

You Too Can be a MacGyver in the Lab!

A laboratory is a place where researchers spend the majority of their lives attempting to solve the mysteries of the universe; or at least the fraction dictated in their grants. However, working away at the lab bench day after day can result in tools being scattered about, samples disappearing, and even the occasional malfunction of…

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15 Laboratory Items You Can Buy In Any Store

A variety of lab supplies can be purchased off the shelf in your neighborhood, which can save you time and money* especially when compared to the added cost of shipping, handling, and markup of various items when ordering from lab vendors (*your mileage will vary). How to get reimbursed The method for procuring supplies on…

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My favorite laboratory Freebie

I love free stuff. Maybe it’s because I am from the former Soviet Union, where there wasn’t enough stuff around, let alone free. Or maybe a little happiness about getting something for nothing is universal, but I am still amazed that companies are giving away things – whether they are useful, not so useful and…

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10 Easy ways to wreck your autoclave

You know how to wreck your microscope (yes, we’ve done that ourselves), and how to repurpose them when they’re old and obsolete. We’re busy brainstorming ways to destroy our centrifuge without annihilating the laboratory, so we’ll get back to you on that… Here’s our least favorite techniques to ruin that larger-than-life-sized autoclave. (Please don’t try…

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10 Top Everyday Items Useful in the Lab

Every research lab is full of equipment specially designed for specific technical and experimental requirements, unfortunately this means said equipment is often expensive. Thankfully there are simple and cheap everyday items which can help you with your experiments and generally make life a lot easier. 1)  Perforated metal ladle – to fish out samples from…

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How to Care for Your pH Meter

Is there anything more tedious than pH-ing a solution? Standing there adjusting the pH of your buffer, adding acid or alkali drop by drop until you get to the right pH… With pH-ing being so boring, it’s in our best interests to keep the equipment in good working order so that we needn’t fuss over…

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How to Clean a Waterbath (When You Can’t Avoid it Any Longer)

There’s something disconcerting about going to incubate a sensitive and irreplaceable sample in a water bath, only to be confronted by the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Unfortunately, water baths are an inviting habitat for all kinds of life, are often shared by many users, and are a perennially unpopular item to clean.  To help…

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10 Tips for Pipetting Perfection

Several years ago as a freshman in a research lab, the very first project I received was to pipette incremental micro-volumes of H2O onto a piece of parafilm. Boring! Weighing the liquid on parafilm and comparing the weight between 10 replicates for each micro-volume continued for a week before I touched anything else in that…

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Infrared Thermometers as Infrared Laser Detectors

I recently read an article on WIRED about an optics experiment cooked up by the scientists at NIST to allow office workers to test for potentially dangerous infrared (IR) leakage by inexpensive laser pointers. Like many who read it, I wasted no time attempting to replicate their experiment on my desk. (I’m not sure why…

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Pimp your Microcentrifuge

Microcentrifuges are pretty much the epitome of efficiency, but I have a couple of suggestions that may make using this instrument even easier. Divide by Three Not only is the number of tubes a microcentrifuge can hold divisible by two, but almost always by three as well. How does this help you? If you have…

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Respect the Ultra

If a random sampling of my hallway is any indication, then half of you don’t think too much of using a ultracentrifuge, while the other half of you are scared to death of it. I think the best approach is right in between these two perspectives: have a healthy respect for the ultra. Here are…

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eBay – The other source of lab equipment

While almost all of you are probably familiar with the power of eBay to bring you everything from concert tickets to electronics to your very own Batmobile, you may not have realized that the world’s largest garage sale also has quite a collection of laboratory equipment. I’ve been turning to this source for equipment for…

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Lab Stuff I wish I could use in my kitchen

We recently had a feature from Jode on everyday equipment that you can use in the lab, but what about the other way around? Do you ever take a look at what you’re doing in the lab and think, “Wow, this would really come in handy at home?” Here are a few of the things…

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How to Build a Plate Centrifuge for $25

I recently visited a lab that had a salad spinner on their lab bench and at first I wondered if they were putting together a salad lunch there but when I took a peek I got a nice surprise. It turns out that the salad spinner was actually a bench top, “minifuge” version of a…

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Lab Hacks: Lab equipment from the hardware store

While almost every lab has a small toolbox with some screwdrivers, pliers, and such, here are some tools that may not have obvious utility at the bench, but could make your life easier. A Butane Torch If your OCD is as bad as mine, then watching a bubble flow out of the flask onto the…

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RPM Does Not Equal RCF

RPM and RCF are two units that can be used to describe the speed of a centrifuge. Although they may look similar, they are oh-so-different and confusing them has resulted a disastrous end to many an experiment. So let’s set it out in black and white to make sure you don’t succumb to the same…

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Low-Tech lab gadgets and solutions: My All Time Favs

For the record, as well as loving Red Dwarf, I’m a huge fan of MacGyver, the TV secret agent who could build any device from everyday items found in the room. You name it…he could build it in 60 seconds or less using only the chewing gum and dental floss found in his pocket, escape…

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