Thursday, July 24, 2008

Do they do this on purpose or.....?

Take a look at these pictures. What do you think they are?

Don't they look like........ Well, I am going to leave it to your imagination.

Picture source

Thursday, July 17, 2008

IT (Incompetent Technical) support

This is probably a common problem in any kind of industry. It does not matter what company or organization you work for, for some reason, IT personnel are almost always "the target" of everyone. (at least that's the impression I get from watching TV, talking to people, and hearing stories from other people)
After our previous Mac specialist was fired mysteriously (he was doing a really good job from our perspective but for some reason the IT department fired him anyways), we haven't had a good experience with the IT department.

Here are few of the problems that I can think of right off my head:
1) They have two different numbers, one for the central (entire hospital complex) and the other one for the local (the hospital building that our lab is located). A work number is assigned after calling the IT department and they would forward to the right person. This process alone takes weeks sometimes.

2) Once the person in charge gets the query, he/she sometimes has to search for contact information of the person who requested the problem. Apparently, the operators who answer the phone don't forward that (or forget to ask) sometimes.

3) There is no way for us to check the status of our request. The only way to find out is call the support center, then they check the computer to see if the IT person in charge has left a note or not.

I wonder if this happens everywhere too.......

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Are we going "Green" the lab?

Thanks to global warming and Al Gore?! Everyone is going "Green" these days. Even here at our hospital (our research institution share the hospital building that is split between clinical wing and research wing) is starting to change lighting to more environmental friendly ones and putting up light switches in rooms where there was no light switch before!!

Yes, that's right, the room had no light switch so the light was CONSTANTLY ON!!

On the other hand, recycling in the US has been and I think still is way behind may other developed counties. There still are not as many recycling centers (I lived in the UK for sometime and they had facilities where people can bring stuff to for recycling) and not as many regulations for the waste (I lived in Japan for sometime and they had an excellent waste recycling instruction from the local government/authorities) .

You may wonder what all these have to do with the lab.

I was cleaning our 4 degree fridge today and had to throw away almost 20 bottles of old media. The bottles that I threw away were all plastics and I had no way to recycle them. I also started to notice the amount of plastics that we produce everyday (pipets, plastic bottles, plastic tubes). It is true that some of them are biohazard (contaminated with cells, blood etc) but what if we could at least separate the ones we know that are recyclable? such as the media bottles that I thew away?

I wonder how much hassle it will casue to set up a policy within the hospital to start recycle plastic? It may not be practical and potentially dangerous (due to potential contamination) but it is maybe worth at least bring it up and talk about it?

I wonder........

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

You can cook your brain with cell phones

Just watch these video clips........ Scary!!!
Microwaves from cell phones are real!!

Thermolyne Benchtop Liquid Nitrogen Transfer Vessels

At last, found a replacement for the Benchtop Liquid Nitrogen Transfer Vessels that was broken.

It is called "Thermoflask Thermolyne" Benchtop Liquid Nitrogen Transfer Vessels. It comes with a secured lid (there are locks to ensure the lid is closed when transporting liquid nitrogen) and there is a Vent on the top so no worry about building up pressure inside.

So far so good. I am happy with the purchase.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Exploded liquid nitrogen transfer vessel

Did you know the inner glass of liquid nitrogen transfer vessel can actually explode?!

I was not there when this happened but according to the witnesses (A post-Doc and a Volunteer student), it JUST HAPPENED!!! They were getting ready to get some liquid nitrogen and fortunately they had not even opened the tab of liquid nitrogen tank.

All they did was put the liquid nitrogen transfer vessel on the floor and "BAM" the glassed inside just shattered.

Fortunately they were dressed up with goggles and gloves and were not standing too too close (I assume since they did not get hurt)......

The warning did say "it could shatter unexpectedly".....

Well, time to shop for a new liquid nitrogen transfer vessel.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The smell of Seleno-L-Methionine

"We need to do this by incorporating Selenium into the protein complex to get the crystal structure of the complex"

My boss was telling me one of the three strategy to incorporate metal into the complex so that we could get a better crystal structure.

"Oh no, not selenium again" I thought. Back in school, I spent two years working in a lab that was dealing with Arsenic and Selenium on daily bases and I cannot say I enjoyed the smell and exposure. I was young and naive.....all I wanted was getting my degree back then.

Since it has been some years from my last encounter with selenium, I decided to do some toxicity check on it. The Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) of Seleno-L-Methionine did not say too much, only the obvious "touching, breathing, and swallowing are not good for you" warnings.

What I am concerning the most is the smell. I am not sure if the smell of Seleno-L-Methionine could be considered as "Fume"..... in the case of Hydrochloric acid, if you can smell it then you are breathing in the Hydrochloric acid.
The same goes for Beta-Mercaptoethanol and TEMED (Tetramethylethylenediamine). If you can smell it, you are practically inhaling the chemical.

Some seasoned scientists may tell me the amount that we are getting exposed is so small that it cannot harm.... or is it? Just because nobody has not proven that it is not dangerous yet does not mean it is not!!!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Where do all the collected Hazardous Chemical Waste go?

Have you ever wondered where all the chemical waste goes?

Once a month, we have to bring all the hazardous chemical waste to the loading doc where the Environmental Health and Safety Officer takes them over and mysteriously make them disappear from the building.

One day, I had an opportunity to talk to one of the officer and asked where all the hazardous chemical waste would go to. The answer was Hazardous Waste Incinerators. Apparently they get burned slowly and in a controlled way so that the fumes do not leak from the facility and contaminate the environment. Here are couple video clips about Hazardous Waste Incinerators.

Sounds great!! But does it work that beautifully? Here is another video clip to answer that. Interesting..... Very Interesting.....

More resources links

Friday, May 16, 2008

Bio-Rad PCR commercial video clip

A student in my lab showed me this video clip. I told her that it's a little nerdy to find this video clip to be funny..... Well, now that I watch it again by myself, I find it funny. I guess I am a science nerd too........

Friday, February 22, 2008

"Think Like a Cockroach" or "Live like a Cockroach"?

National Institute of Health (NIH) grants are getting more and more difficult to get. Here at my institution, even seasoned scientists who had been getting grants for 10 years continuously are now faced with difficulty of getting funding.

I recently read an article on "The Scientist" magazine that I started subscribing when I joined my current lab. (It was free back then but they started charging couple years ago. I some how still manage to get free subscription by replying to the renewal notice.) The article titled "Think Like a Cockroach" is a very practical yet none humiliating advice. The key is to be creative and accept changes to get funded. There is nothing wrong to think like a cockroach as long as you don't live like one.

I have been taking some business related classes for the last couple of years and realized how much easier life would be if we (scientists) think a little bit more like business people.
For instance, when a project goes wrong we tend to stick on the course and tries to get somewhere by dumping more resources and time into that bad project.
In business world, when a project goes wrong and you realize it is going no where, you simply STOP and change course. Whatever is gone is gone (so called "sunk cost"). You do not make decision based on how much money and time you have already invested, but rather you determine what the out come will be.

I know grants are intended for specific projects and should be spent on those projects, but that does not mean we should waste more good money into projects.

Maybe it's time we start thinking about how we spend money?

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Is "NanoVue" our solution?

"Dame it!! Not again"

Once again I am shouting in front of our lovely spectrophotometer. It just keeps giving me different measurement no matter how well I pipet the samples. You can imagine how much samples I waste by repeating the measurements.

Other lab members in my lab also experience the same phenomenon. Even if you just take out the cuvette and put it back in, the lovely spectrophotometer gives a different reading from the one before.

So, yesterday one of the senior researcher in my lab found an advertising on "Nature methods" about a new spectrophotometer from GE Healthcare called "NanoVue". Apparently you can accurately assays low volume of samples around 0.5-5 ยตl!!!

Interesting..... very interesting........
It maybe time for us to say goodbye to our lovely

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

A solution to sonicate small amount of samples!!

Have you ever given a task to sonicate a puny tiny amount of cells/samples?

Well, here is a tool that can really help you!! A cup horn made by Sonics & Materials, Inc can sonicate samples in 1.6ml eppendorf tubes.

Here are the links to the product description

Friday, January 11, 2008

Some people just can't serve

As a lab tech, I have opportunities to talk to so many people over the phone since I have to place orders, renew service contracts, and coordinate research with other labs etc ( you get the idea).

Through out these phone calls, at least once a month I would come across to a customer service or a sales personnel who just don't give a Sh*@t about anything you say. It does not matter how polite or sincere you are, they would just treat you like a crap.

I used to get angry at these people but recently, I started using this "re-frame" technique that helps me to calm down. Here is an example on how to use it.

For instance, your colleague asks you to do a favor for him/her right before 5PM when you are getting ready to leave. You feel furious, it's Friday and you have so much in your mind about what you are going to do once you get home. Then, here comes this request that will requires you to stay back for another 30 minutes.

What you do is to re-frame, think about why your colleague asked you to do something for him/her. Maybe your colleague has to go pick up his/her kids? Maybe your colleague is not feeling well and has been trying to hung in there all day? Maybe they know you could finish the task in 30 minute but it would take them hours to do?
The best way is to communicate and find out. You may ended up not only helping them and feeling good about it, but also you make them owe you one!!

Now, when it comes to phone conversation with a stranger, it is impossible to ask what is wrong with them. In this case you would try to understand why they do what they do. Maybe they don't get paid well enough? Maybe they had a fight with their significant other or kids? Maybe it is just the way they are and they need some help?

You know if they keep doing what they do they will probably loss their job anyways (they record the conversation remember?) so maybe we should feel sorry for those rude, unkind, unfriendly people on the other end of the phone.

In any case, why should we get angry and potentially get stomach ulcer for someone we don't even know?

Life is too short for that.