Friday, December 7, 2007

Portable PH meter

After the HCl fume incident, I decided to get a portable PH meter for our research group. After explaining what is going on in the labs to a Primary Investigator, I got a permission to purchase one. (He offered to get one for the entire group!!)

So, here is what it looks like. The pH meter is Denver Instrument UltraBasic Portable Meters.
We found a small box and placed all the calibration buffers as well as manual.

One step closer to a safer laboratory practice!!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Phenol and Chloroform

I have been wondering for years about this but apparently what I have been worrying about has been happening everywhere.

Yet again I came across to someone using PHENOL: CHLOROFORM: ISOAMYL ALCOHOL 25:2 outside the chemical hood. PHENOL: CHLOROFORM: ISOAMYL ALCOHOL is a pretty toxic substance even if you just inhale. I mean mixture of phenol + chloroform is in no way good for you.

So I took a quick survey to people I know and it tuned out A LOT OF THEM deal with it outside the hood. One of them even told me "back then (when he was still a student), we had to purify one of the component and the lab would stunk of phenol and chloroform. I remember it heart our eyes a little bit.

Come on!!!! It's toxic and possibly carcinogenic!!!!

Can you believe this?! I know the amount they use is probably not a big deal but think about people who work around you. If you are planning to spend the rest of your life being a scientist, how much will you breath in?

I hope people who read this will rethink the way they deal with dangerous chemicals.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Deleting a gene may make you live longer!

Scientists have found a gene that might be responsible for aging. They have created mice lacking this gene and the mice seem to live longer despite eating more and weight less.

The gene encode for a protein called type 5 adenylyl cyclase (AC5) and scientists are already developing drugs to inhibit the protein.

For more detail report please click here.

Labeling water tank

Recently our lab had the annul lab inspection. I still remember the first time I went through it and it was not a very present experience.
One thing I found very interesting was that the inspector wanted us to label the water tank. It was very obvious the water tank was only used for water in our lab (we only had one water tank and it is essential in every lab so if you only have one, for sure it contains water), yet the inspector wanted us to label it.

I understood the importance of labeling everything in the lab because many solutions are clear and there is no way to tell what the solution is by just looking at it.

This incident reminded me of TV programs such as CSI, X-file or any programs that has something to do with labs. If you pay attention, none of the bottle or tubes are labeled in their labs. It is amazing how they can even get results and solve crimes or mysteries.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Training new lab members

Having worked in labs for sometime, I came to realize that a lot of people read a resume, hire a new lab personnel, and assume the new member can perform without almost any training because the new member's resume indicated he/she had done it before.
A lot of time hiring decision is done solely by a primary investigator (PI) and for some reason they tend to think

"This person has a MS degree and some experience in research so he/she should know how to do XYZ protocol"


" This person has done this protocol/experiment before, he/she should be able to do what we do here".

What these PIs tend to forget is that every lab do the same experiment differently and every person has his/her way of doing things. It is wrong to assume the new lab member will do exactly the way the PI wanted without any proper training.

This is also true for experienced lab members. I have seen so many times, existing lab members assume a new lab member can complete an experiment the second day he/she joined the lab just because the new member has a MS degree.

So what is a good way to train a new lab member?

1)Explain and demonstrate the procedure.
Just let the new members to watch and point out what is important as well as to remind them to take notes.

2)Let the new member to carry out the procedure once with your supervision.
This will give the new members a chance to feel what it feels like to actually do it.

3)Let the new member to carry out the procedure without your supervision, BUT be sure to stay near by in case they have questions.
This will make the new members to really think about what they are doing. Be prepare to answer a lot of questions. If there is no questions, be sure to peak and check on what is going on because most of the time they are doing something wrong.
Additionally, This step will also give the new member an impression that you trust him/her and think he/she is capable enough to carry out the procedure by themselves.

Note: If you feel the new member is not ready for step 3), make sure to repeat step 2) several times. This happens commonly when training volunteers because they may not have science background.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

How to mix centrifuge tubes fast, gently and efficiently?

Have you ever got so frustrated while mixing those small centrifuge tubes? Especially when you cannot mix them with a Vortex Genie mixer because the protocol needs you to mix the samples gently!

Imagine if you have to mix 20 tubes of such samples!!! Instead of tapping the tubes with your index finger (maybe you are using middle finger by now), try using an empty tip box. You can hold two to three centrifuge tubes at once and mix the samples fast, gently, and efficiently!!