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Failed Experiments OR What I learned today in Lab

January 13, 2010
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I’ve been working at the lab now for three months. And I feel that I have yet to actually do anything. But my ‘boss’ tells me that I have not ‘broken science’. She said, “Perseverance really is the key to science….that and stubbornness…..and maybe also skillful procrastination.”

I have not successfully completed one (1) experiment, but that does not mean that I have not learned anything. Par exemple:

1) Have someone else check your math. And someone else check that someone else’s math.

2) Ethanol does in fact kill cells.

3) Cells that grow strangly will likely not magically recover overnight– you are doing something wrong.

4) Check your calculations to be sure that you have enough cells for the experiment BEFORE you throw away extra cells.

5) Check to see if there are more flasks/plates/tubes etc. BEFORE you throw away old ones.

6) If you can’t read a paper online because you don’t have a subscription, email the authors and they will likely send you a copy! Free!

7) Don’t believe everything you read in scientific papers. Even if you get it for free.

8) Tyrpan blue dye–besides providing an assay for live vs dead cells– does in fact stain the (dead) skin on your hand BLUE. And does not wash off.

9) Ethidium Bromide is NOT ‘tasty’. Do not drink it.

10) Paperwork and red tape are annoying and take forever. This is not just something you were told to discourage you from becoming an adult.

11) Watching someone do a procedure is VERY different from doing it yourself. Particularly if said procedure involves live mice. Or live cells. Biology is tricksy. And alive.

12) Mice can smell you. They can smell your fear. FEAR THE MICE. But do not let them know. This may be difficult.

13) 7 hours in the tissue culture hood will give you a back ache.

14) The first experiment will not go as planned. Neither will the third, or the fourth. In fact, you may never see the results you expected. You may never see results.

15) Hard to believe, but 14) is NOT A BAD THING (I do not think I have learned this yet).

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