Let's talk about lab water
Let's talk about lab water
Welcome to Part 3 of our pure water blog series, where we discuss how science is a marathon, not a sprint (but you already knew that!) and so carefully planning and carrying out your daily experiments is essential to your long term success.
Baby steps in science are made through daily experiments that produce consistent, reliable results. They are the building blocks that lay the foundations for great scientific breakthroughs. As such, a large part of your time and focus in the lab is spent on getting these experiments functioning effectively.
For example, when Andrew Z. Fire and Craig C. Mello were working to understand the mechanism of RNA interference (research for which they shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2006) the day-to-day activities of their studies would have involved cloning, RNA synthesis and dsRNA injection to name but a few. It was their dedication and perseverance, diligently and accurately repeating all of these steps while carefully altering one variable at a time that ultimately led to the development of one of biology’s most powerful techniques. I expect that similar daily grind was behind the successful cloning of GFP from jellyfish, which is now the biologist’s favorite fluorescent marker protein.
One ‘simple’ technique behind such pioneering studies is PCR, an approach so routine and well understood, that you wouldn’t expect to have to troubleshoot it very often. However, the process can often take several hours to complete, so any time spent trying to identify problems with your reaction could take days or even weeks to fix. These are frustrating challenges to have when you are trying to make ground-breaking discoveries!
Like most reactions in the lab, PCR is sensitive to contamination by factors such as extraneous DNA, enzymes and ions, so it’s worth considering that the right level of water purity will be essential to your success. This is also true of almost all lab techniques you can imagine, from cloning, Western blot and mass spectrometry, through to chromatography, DNA extraction and in situ hybridization – even techniques on a much larger scale, such as histology, can be affected by water contamination. If you can get your daily experiments working correctly, then you’ll be well on your way to discovering something new about how the world works (and who knows, it may even land you a Nobel Prize in the future!).
The take home lesson? Being consistent and accurate with your everyday lab work is what makes great science, and achieving this requires high quality, reliable reagents. As such, water is no different.
In Part 4, we’ll talk about just how important accuracy can be when the results have real world consequences. Stay tuned!