Saturday, 27 June 2009

More tales from the lab

Hoods, microscopes, the centrifuge and incubators
Last week in the lab ended badly - there wasn't really enough time to run the whole experiment on Friday, and H and I were trying to double up and share the tasks, and I kept getting confused and I didn't put the right amounts of things in the right tubes, or I got distracted so I couldn't remember which ones I'd pipetted and which ones I hadn't. Centrifuging produced a waxy solid between the layers which shouldn't have been there, and in the end H sent me home and said she'd deal with it. She probably did it quicker without me, but I felt a bit guilty - except I'm not being paid so I don't feel too bad about it.

The samples hadn't completely evaporated over the weekend so I couldn't start the chromatography straight away, but I thought that would be OK because the hood wasn't booked for our experiment until 10.30. I went to check on the cells we'd prepared for this week - disaster! They had been contaminated, perhaps during our messy Friday afternoon session, and were all dead. So we had to rethink the schedule. It was further complicated because H wasn't in on Tuesday, so I had to be given something I could work on independently.

Going back to finish the experiment we'd started on Friday, things continued to deteriorate. I had trouble with my spotting on the chromatography plates, and the Prof turned up midway, criticised my technique (quite rightly), but then I couldn't remember where I'd got up to. I knocked over two of the scintillation tubes... and so it went on. We won't be using those results.

All my equipment in a sterile hood
On my own on Tuesday I got on quite well, if slowly, because I had to check at least twice before doing anything at all, which doesn't half slow you down. The very hardest thing of all, above everything else, is when you have to do something a number of times, one after another - say, add 10┬Ál of substrate to each of ten wells in a plate that already contain cells. After six wells, the little capsule of substrate is empty, so you open another capsule that you remembered to bring, but had I done six wells? or was I just about to do the sixth? I'll never know.

I had to leave it all to dry overnight, so I finished it on Wednesday, with better chromatography technique and without knocking anything over. The results weren't too bad, so we'll be repeating the technique with slightly different materials next week.


Anonymous said...

You won't be choosing a lab project next year then!

Lola said...

You never know - my technique's improving all the time!