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Basic Lab Skills & Know-how

What Is Reproducible Research?

Once upon a time, I thought reproducible research meant if someone else showed X in a paper, then I should be able to get X in my experiment. However, this actually refers to replication, an important but separate concept. Reproducible research is data analysis that starts with the raw data and arrives at the same…

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What to Do During That Awkward One-Minute Spin

We’ve all been there. Twiddling our thumbs. Staring off into space. Pacing back and forth. This is the dreaded one-minute spin. If you’ve dabbled in molecular biology, you’ve likely encountered this awkward time. Not exactly enough time to actually do anything else, but when you’ve got nothing to do but wait, one minute seems like…

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Genetic Notation: Crack the Code!

Pop Quiz Time: You get a new bacterial strain from a culture collection, but you’re not quite sure what the genetic notation (i.e., all the letters and symbols) means. Do you: A. Cry? B. Ask around to see what your lab mates think? C. Cross your fingers that your friends at Bitesize Bio can help…

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Don’t Let Bubbles Burst Your Experimental Excitement

Bubbles isn’t just the name of my favorite cartoon character from Power Puff girls, or just the best activity for a kid to play with, in general. In my adult world, they stand for a whole lot more, but can still cause extreme emotions. At the lab bench, seeing bubbles brings happiness or sadness depending…

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Earn That Green Thumb! An Introduction to Working in a Greenhouse

If you have worked in a lab before, you probably think you are prepared to work anywhere. You’ve done the safety classes, know how to store the chemicals, even know how to work the chemical shower. Unfortunately, that doesn’t fully prepare you for greenhouse work. Greenhouses are a different kind of greenery-filled animal entirely, and…

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ChemDraw: a Versatile Molecule Sketching Tool for (Bio)Chemists

Have you ever wondered how to make professional, easy-to-understand figures of molecules for presentations or publications? While several programs exist for this purpose, ChemDraw is like the Swiss Army knife of chemical sketching programs that most chemists and journals use to prepare figures. Beyond the ability to create chemically accurate and legible figures, ChemDraw can…

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Water your choices? Understanding Types of Water in the Lab

If you are working in a scientific laboratory, it is very important to be aware of the various types of water available, because the purity may not be acceptable for your specific experimental application. In most labs, there are generally two types of water piped in to the sinks: Industrial Water Industrial water is non-potable…

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Running your Lab on a Shoestring Budget

We live in challenging times for academic biomedical research. The success rates for research grants have declined precipitously over the years. Under these circumstances, it is never too soon to take proactive measures to protect your research budget in the event of a funding lapse. We usually know months ahead of time when grant support…

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How to Pour Agar Plates in a Pinch

Every lab has a culture, a vibe of its own. Nowhere does the distinct character of the lab become most apparent than the way in which the lab chooses to pour agar plates. You may have heard or been told to pour plates at some point in your lab career. These “plates” could be called…

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Are Proteins Adsorbing to Your Labware?

One of my favorite things about being a biochemist is to imagine everything at the molecular level—sometimes, in very corny ways. I envision the proteins I pipet and mix as dynamic characters in a molecular soap opera that intermingle with each other in complex ways. The biomolecular characters in my soap opera interact and react,…

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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…

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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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Starting Up a New Lab: What you Need to Know

Here’s a few things to take into consideration when starting up a new lab. Starting anything new is understandably overwhelming, but let’s break it down and go through the main points of designing your own laboratory. Purpose of Your New Lab The purpose and function of your proposed lab sets the course for the tasks…

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Top Tips to Avoid Multi-sample Labeling Chaos

Imagine pipetting your publication experiment and then your favourite lab mate has an urgent question, which of course you helpfully answer. But when you finally turn back to your experiment you suddenly are not sure which pipetting step you were at. It’s happened to us all! Efficiently keeping track of your samples in a sometimes…

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