Tuesday, November 30, 2010

No Smurfs allowed!

"When I first joined my lab, I saw the 'No Smurfs!' sign on the lab microwave (the microwave used for experiments, not food). I thought it was kind of lame, in a hipster-kitsch kind of way. But then I opened it for the first time a few weeks later, and I understood:

(BTW, the blue is coomassie stain, for staining protein gels)."

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Are they mocking me?

"After watching me kill 100 billion E. coli by micro-fluidization, the surviving bacteria said, 'we love you.' Are they mocking me?"

Thursday, September 30, 2010

No, I am not a giantess.

"I have a long and storied history of failing amazingly at acrylamide gels. Usually it's only the sequence-length ones that do creative things; the little protein gels generally treat me pretty well. At first, the gel appears fine. However, [given perspective], you will see that I have, once again, succeeded in creatively failing. No, I am not some giantess of extremely large proportions. Yes, my PI was less than thrilled. On the plus side, this is likely the cutest thing I ever will accomplish in lab. And, if I could reliably reproduce it (but what scientist can reliably reproduce results, right?), I could probably quit my day job and make and sell them as little science-nerd pins or something. Alas, attempts to reproduce this have, of course, failed. Yay, science!"

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

What is this shit?

"I was taking a sequence of photographs of a slow reaction in several wells on a spot plate and inserted a time point by writing the time (2:45) on a piece of tape and photographing that as a part of the sequence. The camera was mounted such that the image was inverted, a fact I didn't notice until I was reviewing the sequence with my group."

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Happy pellet is happy.

"I have no idea why, but all four of my bacterial pellets spontaneously formed happy faces of some random dark material. I have no idea how this happened, but I'm taking it as a good omen!"

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

"Rotor incident"

"This is the current state of an ultracentrifuge down the hall. I have no idea how it happened, but I guess it's a reminder to always balance your tubes. I also like how the tape says "do not use," as if otherwise someone would just brush aside the debris, put in their rotor, and proceed. "

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

We didn't start the fire! Oh wait...we did.



"I believe the heat block was turned on (instead of the spin function) and in the process of setting up, transfer buffer spilled over. Due to the methanol in the buffer, it's flammable, poof, fire. There was some damage to the cold room, where the overnight transfers are done. This was a few years ago before I joined the lab, but serves as a constant reminder to NEVER turn the heat block on, only the spinning function. Because when your PI is awakened in the middle of the night because there was a fire, they are never happy in the morning."

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The universe in a DNA gel...

"I exposed my ethidium bromide-stained gel to UV light, only to discover a galaxy of speckles (still not sure why...) and no PCR products. :(.  But on the bright side, I think I can see Orion's belt!"

Monday, May 3, 2010

When there's nothing left to burn, you have to set your radioactive acrylamide electrophoresis apparatus on fire!

**Note: this is photographic re-enactment, and does not represent the actual event described.

"During my Master's research a few years ago, I was running many acrylamide gels, to examine small differences in sequence length of some DNA markers. To visualize the results on X-ray film, I was labelling the DNA fragments with radioactive 32P. The gels themselves are made of a lovely mixture of acrylamide, urea, and formamide. Urea isn't so bad, but formamide is toxic and flammable, and acrylamide is my favourite chemical because it's a known neurotoxin and suspected carcinogen, which translates to "the brain lesions kill you before the cancer has a chance to metastasize". When running, the gels, loaded with radioactive material, run at about 2000 volts for a couple of hours.

One day I came into the lab, set up everything as usual, then departed to do something else while the gel was running. I came back to an empty lab to find smoke emerging from the electrode terminals on the top of the gel rig. Buffer and some gel material had leaked out, reducing the electrical contact area to a tiny droplet of buffer, which overheated and started the plastic structure smoldering.

Cleaning up that mess was almost as much fun as the time my thermal cycler crapped out all of its coolant fluid (ethylene glycol) onto the bench top while running radio-labelled PCR."

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Radioactive footprints

"A grad student in a lab down the hall attempted to snap freeze a tube containing radioactive protein. Some of the liquid nitrogen leaked into the tube, and it exploded. Shortly thereafter, a series of radioactive footprints (from at least two people) was discovered that trailed down the hall and into a common room. The entire hallway and freezer area for ten labs were blocked for days while cleanup crews worked. Months later, this single spot of radiation remains, somehow impervious to countoff."

Friday, January 29, 2010

Spinning out of control.

"So I had grown bacteria in 2.5 L LB in preparation for a maxi prep and needed to centrifuge them down to a pellet so I could begin. I transferred my solution to centrifuge tubes and placed them in the centrifuge. I didn't remember the exact speed necessary to pellet bacteria (which I have since learned is 6000 xg), but I knew the maximum speed of the centrifuge must be above the necessary speed to pellet bacteria (the maximum speed of the centrifuge being 38,400 xg), so I used that speed. I didn't really worry about the bacteria dying under the pressure since I thought things like that only happened to erythrocytes. Anyway, when I was finally done centrifuging, I noticed that my centrifuge tubes were deformed and stuck in the rotor. Afraid to ask for help, I picked up the rotor and brought it back to my lab bench and pried the tubes out of the rotor with a 5 mL pipet. After successfully retrieving my tubes I realized because they were so deformed, I was unable to take off the cap. Refusing to start over and grow another culture, I used a razor blade to cut through the plastic of the tube so I could remove the top portion (I took a picture of the results). After all this to access the bacterial pellet in the tube, my maxi prep ended up yielding low amounts of DNA, thus forcing me to redo it anyways."

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

I hope the lab coat was clean...

"My labmate was in lab one weekend and thought the Geiger counter was acting funny, so he called EH&S (Office of Environment, Health, and Safety) to see if he could get a replacement, forgetting that on the weekends, calls to EH&S are automatically rerouted to the police. He told them, "Yeah, I think the Geiger counter we have is broken and I just wanted to do a sweep of the area to make sure there weren't any spills..." And they were all, "We're coming in!" They stormed the building in hazmat suits and made him take off all his clothes to check for contamination. They wouldn't let people onto the floor. By the time I came in, there were 2 police cars, 1 firetruck, and an ambulance COMPLETE WITH PARAMEDICS STANDING AT THE READY WITH A STRETCHER outside. A hazmat suited guy finally let me into lab and there was my labmate, rocking back and forth in the corner... wearing nothing but a lab coat."