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Basic Lab Skills & Know-how

Shaky, Steady, Go! Give Tremors the Shake

Performing a surgery or extracting tissue from your experimental animal, when you are a beginner, can set you off with involuntary trembling. Strong dyskinesia symptoms appear out of nowhere. The shaking can hinder your otherwise flawless execution of the task. And yes, it’s irritating that it occurs precisely at the moment when you need your…

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Hot, Frozen, Sublimed and Blown: Biological Sample Storage Methods Summarized – Part One

I’ve recently been doing some lyophilization of biological extracts. While I was preparing for the experiment, I became interested in the number of different methods there are for drying, concentrating and storing samples: freezing, freeze-drying, rotary evaporation, centrifugal evaporation and blow down drying. Here is a brief description of each technique for biological sample storage…

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The Five Essentials of Organizing Laboratory Samples

If you look closely, there’s a scenario that plays out frequently in labs across the world: A scientist sits hunched over dry ice searching exhaustedly through frozen boxes for one sample that has disappeared into the abyss. The tube or specimen in question was likely catalogued at some point in time. But, between then and…

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How to Clean and Maintain Scales

Spring time means spring cleaning! Baby birds are hatching, the days are getting longer, there are butterflies everywhere and you feel inspired to do a good deep clean of your lab scales. We can’t help you sing like Snow White so that animals come help you clean but we can help you get your scales…

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Get To Know Your Common Reaction Reagents

When I first started out in the lab, I used to follow all protocols to the letter. Now, this is fine as long as your reactions run smoothly. However, there came the day when I had a new protocol and I just couldn’t get it to work. My supervisor told me to just “play around”…

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How to Minimize Variation and Achieve Reproducibility

Ever wonder why your data isn’t the same after repeating an experiment? Well part of science’s beauty lies in the difficulty of achieving reproducibility. Heraclitus first said that no mans steps in the same river twice and the same can be applied to experiments. It is literally impossible to control for everything because the second…

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6 Common Lab Uses of Detergents

Detergents are all around us in the lab – and that’s a good thing! Thanks to their chemical structure, detergents can solubilize and interact with many types of molecules, making them vital to research. To show you why detergents are such a good thing for scientists, we’ll go through six examples in molecular biology where…

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The 10 Unspoken Rules of Working in a Lab

There are so many unspoken rules to working in a lab! It’s unnerving what will cause frayed nerves to snap, people not to trust you and a good relationship to turn sour. Here are some of the rules I’ve learned. Feel free to add more in the comments section below. 1. Thou Shalt Not Touch…

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A Quick Guide to pH, pKa and pI

They’re easy numbers to take for granted, so it’s a good exercise once in a while to remind ourselves what pH, pKa and pI stand for: pH—the measure of acidity. It’s the negative logarithm of the proton concentration. pKa—an association constant. It’s the negative logarithm of the ratio of dissociated acid and conjugated base, over…

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The Dos and Don’ts of Weighing Dangerous Chemicals

A lot of chemical reagents are relatively nonhazardous. But there are just as many that are extremely hazardous, which means you’ll want to take precautions to reduce any risk of exposure, repeated exposure and of course, accidental contamination of anything – or anyone – that walks out of the lab at the end of the…

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Let’s Dish About Soaps: A General Overview of Detergents

What do cell lysis, clean dishes, and gallbladders all have in common? Answer: detergents! These useful chemicals can solubilize fats and other proteins in water. They are the key to applications as varied as lysing cell membranes, extracting DNA, and solubilizing proteins for gel electrophoresis. To help you understand these important chemicals, we provide a…

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How to Clean a Tissue Culture Incubator

  A few years ago, I was doing research in a lab in Ireland. Our lab, among many others, was moving to a new building. Everything was chaotic. Half our equipment was in the old building and the new lab was creepishly empty. The fire alarm went off every few days. There was a constant…

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Protocols: Where Do You Get Yours?

Trying a new protocol is always a little daunting, especially if no one else in your lab is doing it. So it’s always good to find a tried and tested protocol from a reputable source before getting your hands dirty. Or at least one that can start you off in the right direction. It is…

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