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Jason Erk

Jason has a BS in biochemistry and runs experiments in a behavioral neuroscience laboratory at the Oregon Health & Science University and Portland VA Medical Center. His goal is to help make your research easier and more efficient by finding ways to meld science and technology to automate and streamline everyday labor-intensive tasks. His wheelhouse also includes all things data, image acquisition, behavioral and molecular assays, equipment troubleshooting and support, training, programming, project management, and laboratory safety. He created Greenbooks, a custom information system that makes decades of in-house research center project and sample sets instantly accessible with just a few clicks.

He believes that scientific discovery does not always need to be made complicated, it just needs to begin well organized. His writings are that of his own. Connect together on LinkedIn.

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Articles by Jason Erk

People sharing food around a table showing benefits of sharing resources

Share Your Samples at a Reagent Repository

By Jason Erk | March 26, 2020

Have you got a plasmid that others are begging to use? Perhaps your cell line is in high demand? We’ll show how using a repository can take the hassle out of sharing your reagents.

Happy Lab Mice

Reduce, Reuse, Refine Your Animal Model Resources with the ‘3Rs’

By Jason Erk | February 6, 2019

Russell and Burch first described the ‘3Rs’ concept in 1959. It acknowledges that animals are a valuable resource through which great discoveries can be made, but it is up to you to use them ethically and judiciously. The ultimate benefit is that people and animals will be able to live longer, happier, healthier lives! So…

From Cells to Scope: Chamber Slide Immunochemistry

From Cells to Scope: Chamber Slide Immunochemistry

By Jason Erk | November 1, 2017

Immunolabeling is the tried-and-true immunochemistry method of getting the stain you want onto the molecular target you want. Whether that target is contained within a large region of tissue (immunohistochemistry) or inside a single cell (immunocytochemistry), the ability to accurately label large numbers of samples will simplify your workflow and help you to achieve excellent…

Amplify Your PCR Success with the Right PCR Instrument!

Amplify Your PCR Success with the Right PCR Instrument!

By Jason Erk | September 21, 2017

Here is a rundown of our top features to look out for when you are shopping for a new PCR instrument.

scientific leader

How to be an Excellent Scientific Leader

By Jason Erk | September 21, 2016

It’s often said that great leaders have a knack for bringing out the best in those that follow. In turn, followers enjoy the work they do and will take the initiative to soar far above and beyond what is asked of them. A less effective scientific leader may unknowingly squander potential that might have flourished…

Strengths and limitations of your Nanodrop

Strengths and limitations of your Nanodrop

By Jason Erk | July 9, 2016

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…

5 Funny Things I Have Seen in the Lab

5 Funny Things I Have Seen in the Lab

By Jason Erk | October 12, 2015

Given enough time, even the worst rookie research disasters seem amusing. It’s a comedy of errors that test our wit and our patience, but ultimately leave a lifelong impression on how to try experimentation a little bit differently the second time around. With that said, here are 5 brief stories of amusing things I’ve witnessed…

12 Top Tips for Working in Your Cell Culture Hood

12 Top Tips for Working in Your Cell Culture Hood

By Jason Erk | March 11, 2015

Whether you’re about to become keeper of the cells, or are just passing through to run a pilot study, knowing how to use the biosafety cabinet is just as essential as knowing how to use the fume hood when working with non-crawling, chemical reagents. We’ve seen a brief protocol for how to use the biosafety…

10 Top Tips When Working With Your Fume Hood

10 Top Tips When Working With Your Fume Hood

By Jason Erk | February 25, 2015

Little chemical, BIG SMELL: Leave it to a pinch of beta-mercaptoethanol to overpower the lab. While not every chemical has such a pungent reminder about where it should be handled (hint: not at the bench), a good rule of thumb is to make use of your chemical fume hood whenever possible! We looked recently at…

Beginners Guide to Fume Hoods and Safety Cabinets

Beginners Guide to Fume Hoods and Safety Cabinets

By Jason Erk | January 28, 2015

As with any experiment, choosing the right personal protective equipment is essential. In this series we’ll take a look at what different types of hoods add to your arsenal of PPE, what they do and how you can benefit by using them. First, why do I even need a hood? It’s common to run a…

Deciphering your Materials Safety Data Sheet

Deciphering your Materials Safety Data Sheet

By Jason Erk | November 12, 2014

For all the chemical reagents that we may use on a daily basis, there are many for which we still need to learn how they work and what they can do. Thankfully, for a good majority of chemicals (especially the ones in our lab!) there IS a lot that we can understand because of the…

The Dos and Don'ts of Weighing Dangerous Chemicals

The Dos and Don’ts of Weighing Dangerous Chemicals

By Jason Erk | November 12, 2014

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…

Safe and sound: Gloves, goggles, gowns (and more lab safety basics)

Safe and sound: Gloves, goggles, gowns (and more lab safety basics)

By Jason Erk | November 5, 2014

The longer you work in research, the greater chance you have of witnessing – or experiencing first hand – a hazardous situation that can lead to an accident. These are the moments that are passed down to future scientists as scary, funny, or “I can’t believe how bad that situation could have been!” stories with…

Starters and Finishers: Who are the Most Valuable in the Lab?

Starters and Finishers: Who are the Most Valuable in the Lab?

By Jason Erk | September 3, 2014

Life seems to smile often on the work of the Starters. They pitch one idea after another and get to claim all the credit, whilst depending on others – namely the Finishers – to complete the job. Starters: Of course you’re ready. Let’s go! A Starter is the kind of person who jumps at the…

An image of a fun ride to depict easy ways to wreck a centrifuge.

5 Ways to Wreck Your Centrifuge

By Jason Erk | June 2, 2014

Here are five unfortunately easy ways to wreck a centrifuge, and how to make sure it never happens in the first place!

Why You Should Talk to Sales Reps

Why You Should Talk to Sales Reps

By Jason Erk | May 12, 2014

People often joke about hiding from sales reps, but the fact of the matter is that valuable opportunities are lost when scientists disappear into thin air. Think twice before attempting your own vanishing act; a brief chat could reward you with amazing deals, introduce you to faster, better technology and keep you in the loop…

15 Laboratory Items You Can Buy In Any Store

15 Laboratory Items You Can Buy In Any Store

By Jason Erk | March 26, 2014

A variety of lab supplies can be purchased off the shelf in your neighborhood, which can save you time and money. Here is a grocery list of items that you can stock your lab with today!

My Fifteen Favorite Things To Do In The Lab

My Fifteen Favorite Things To Do In The Lab

By Jason Erk | February 5, 2014

What is my most favorite task to do in the lab? Good question; it’s difficult to pick just one, so here are (quite) a few of my favorite things: 1. Working in a team This is what makes research great: in teams, numerous projects can be completed more quickly than what a single person may…

DIY method for isolating yeast

5 Digital Photomicroscopy Competitions

By Jason Erk | January 20, 2014

Have you ever considered that your data is a work of art in the making? In particular, microscopy has the potential to capture the clearest, most stunning moments in life. And when a scientist accomplishes that, it’s a feat to share with everyone.  Why not share it through a photomicroscopy competition? Photomicroscopy competitions quickly help…

How to Make Sure You Never Lose a Lab Sample Again

How to Make Sure You Never Lose a Lab Sample Again

By Jason Erk | January 13, 2014

It’s 11 PM…do you know where your samples are? If you dread the thought of having to hack through ice, snow and the bone-chilling depths of every freezer to locate them, flirt with frostbite only once. Better yet, never hunt for missing lab samples again! Here are some useful ways to keep track of every…

An image of lab furniture to depict how not to wreck your autoclave.

10 Easy Ways to Wreck your Autoclave

By Jason Erk | October 9, 2013

Here are our top 10 least favorite ways to ruin that larger-than-life-sized autoclave. Don’t try these—your lab manager won’t be pleased!

Common Reasons for Nightmare PhDs

By Jason Erk | September 11, 2013

From pre-doc to postdoc, there are many instances that can transform a perfectly good PhD program into a nightmarish one. Here are the most common scenarios to watch out for in graduate school – and some ideas about how to deal with them when they pop up. I wanted to get my PhD but didn’t…

An image of cells to depict free PCR

8 more helpings of free PC Software for biological scientists

By Jason Erk | August 19, 2013

It’s been while since we talked about free PC software for biologists. So we thought we’d treat you to 8 more ideas that can turn you PC in to a super-bio-research-enabling-machine….. 1. Silvernote Standard Electronic note taking effectively clears the desktop of ideas scribbled on bar napkins, backs of envelopes and sticky notes. Silvernote is whitespace…

So You Want To Become A Digital Microscopist? Here's Our Five Minute Guide.

So You Want To Become A Digital Microscopist? Here’s Our Five Minute Guide.

By Jason Erk | July 16, 2013

If you’ve dreamed of becoming a life science photographer (and you know how to use a microscope and a digital camera), then you’re already halfway there. Put those two skills together and read on. Digital microscopists shoot photos of the very small, exotic things in life. You might think of such images as just more…

Image of someone filling vials with pipettes to represent successful postdoctoral interview preparation

6 Ways to Maximize the Lifetime of Your Reagents

By Jason Erk | June 19, 2013

Reagents are expensive and are a significant cost to your lab. You know what to do to keep others from stealing your reagents. But contamination, improper storage and “lost” batches will all eat into your stock of reagents, bump up your consumables costs and waste your precious time. Unless you take steps to prevent them, that…

An image of test tubes to depicts how to clean a water bath.

10 Easy Ways To Wreck Your Microscope

By Jason Erk | June 4, 2013

Do you see what I see?  Maybe not, if the microscope is wrecked in one of these ten ways when you… 1. Carry the microscope incorrectly. A death-grip on anything but the arm and the base almost guarantees that it will slip away, crashing onto the floor to break in pieces. You don’t want a microscope which…

An image of cells to depict free PCR

5 Misunderstood Chemicals That you are Using in the Lab

By Jason Erk | May 22, 2013

Common lab reagents may appear innocuous, but don’t be fooled! Sometimes even the most-used lab chemicals are hazardous to your health. It is important to make sure you have an understanding of the dangers a reagent can present before you use it. Which common chemicals should you look out for? Here is a brief look…

Sharing and Transferring Gigabytes of Data

Sharing and Transferring Gigabytes of Data

By Jason Erk | March 11, 2013

Great Scott! 1.21 gigabytes of data!!! The conundrum is not ‘Where can I store massive amounts of information’, but ‘How can I quickly share massive amounts of information all at once?!’ I’m certain this is a topic we have all wrestled with before, so here are 5 quick ways to send research data out to…

Why You Should Be Tweeting About Science

Why You Should Be Tweeting About Science

By Jason Erk | February 11, 2013

Scientists publish with the expectation that others will take their work on board to discuss it, validate it and build upon it in future publications. Unfortunately, a common mindset is that once a paper is out the door and printed, the hard work is finally done. Only the hard work is actually just beginning. To…

5 More iOS Apps for Scientists

5 More iOS Apps for Scientists

By Jason Erk | January 9, 2013

Recently we’ve seen some great apps (here and here) that can be added to a scientist’s iPhone/iPad toolbox. In this next installment of iOS Apps for Scientists, let’s take a look at 5 free apps, including a couple which bring dozens of useful references under one “umbrella”, some tools to use while in the lab…

How to Make the Most Out of a Lab Internship

How to Make the Most Out of a Lab Internship

By Jason Erk | December 10, 2012

It takes some time to complete any professional education beyond a bachelors degree. So what to do if you’re not absolutely sure about spending the roughly sixty-or-so-months it takes to achieve a PhD? A hands-on internship or lab rotation is an excellent way to investigate science as a career. In a few short months an…

Don't Wave Goodbye to Your Tissue Slices

Don’t Wave Goodbye to Your Tissue Slices

By Jason Erk | November 13, 2012

Coating (or ‘subbing’) slides for immunohistochemistry can be the difference between having an organized set of tissue slices ready for microscopy- or watching them detach and float away during a wash. It takes a lot of time to place tissue slices in correct anatomical order, aligned right-side up and flat. To the naked eye, all…

An image of colors to depict care for your pH meter.

Five Reasons to Mentor an Intern

By Jason Erk | November 7, 2012

To become an expert in managing people and projects together, a scientist needs a variety of important skills to succeed. One way to add to an already impressive skill set is by mentoring others through internships. Students take internships to be exposed to new things. Mentors give internships to inspire others to do research. They…

Oops! How to Deal with Common Laboratory Spills

Oops! How to Deal with Common Laboratory Spills

By Jason Erk | September 21, 2012

Accidents happen. No matter how small or large, all materials spills demand immediate attention because they have the potential to contaminate, injure and create huge issues for more than just one lab if they’re not quickly addressed. Can you handle spills alone? So what happens if a common reagent is splashed onto the floor or…

14 Android Apps for Scientists

14 Android Apps for Scientists

By Jason Erk | July 25, 2012

If you regularly use an Android device, then you might be curious to learn about some useful apps for scientists. Make the most of your smartphone or tablet with these 14 interesting (and free!) apps: 1. LabTimer, by GrayWolf Mobile Carrying a big, bulky timer around campus (and scavenging the lab for fresh button batteries!)…

Image of someone filling vials with pipettes to represent successful postdoctoral interview preparation

10 Commonly Broken Good Laboratory Practices

By Jason Erk | June 18, 2012

What comes to mind when you think of good laboratory practices? To many, good laboratory practices describes the best conduct while working at the bench. The laboratory is a complex environment and understanding how small, seemingly innocuous, actions can have such a huge impact on the outcome of an experiment will help you to ensure…

Do YOU Want to Work in a Lab This Summer?

Do YOU Want to Work in a Lab This Summer?

By Jason Erk | April 30, 2012

Graduate programs in science can take an additional four to seven years beyond a Bachelor’s degree. That’s a lot of time to commit to advanced training! If you’re currently a high school or college student wondering if graduate school is the right path for you, perhaps an internship in a laboratory can help you decide.…

An image of lab furniture to depict how not to wreck your autoclave.

4 Great Websites for Bench Scientists

By Jason Erk | February 29, 2012

Friends and colleagues are excellent sources of scientific information. The Internet is too, because it is a virtual library at your fingertips. If you are looking for a great solution to a common problem (i.e. how to eliminate RNAse contamination in a laboratory), the information is waiting for you. For help with more difficult problems…

The Perfect Slice: Preparing Tissue Samples For IHC

The Perfect Slice: Preparing Tissue Samples For IHC

By Jason Erk | February 15, 2012

When you stop to think about it, tissue slices for immunohistochemistry (IHC) undergo quite a lot of handling. From chemical reactions to washes – even manipulations and transfers between baskets and microtubes – final analysis is often hours away from the initial step of taking a tissue slice. Properly fixed tissue has to be robust…

An image of colors to depict care for your pH meter.

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

By Jason Erk | December 15, 2011

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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