Lab techs run the show. Researchers may not always see it that way when they’re busy running experiments, procrastinating on the computer or pretending to chat about the latest Nature publication in the tea room as the PI walks in – in reality, disturbing a fascinating chat about Thor, his hammer and transitive properties – but they really do.
They make everything work behind the scenes and work tirelessly, both assisting directly on research projects and enabling researchers to conduct their experiments quickly, accurately and with a minimum of fuss. However, even with all their virtues, sometimes lab techs get overlooked and their efforts go unappreciated.
So, to celebrate these unsung heroes of the lab, we caught up with some of our favourite lab techs to find out about their most common gripes (many of which just so happen to be common gripes across all lab users). Hands up if you’ve committed some of these before.
Top 10 lab gripes:
- The person who takes the last aliquot of something, leaves the box empty and tells nobody. Even worse is if he/she leaves one Eppendorf in which there is a vanishingly small quantity of the ‘something’ just to taunt you.
- The colleague who takes your precious, very expensive tissue culture-treated petri dishes and uses them to put dead butterflies in. Don’t do it.
- The person using tissue culture hood without bothering with gloves, lab coat or even ethanol to sterilise it. Hey, why not put a bacon sandwich in there while you are at it!
- Someone explaining a protocol to you using the word “Simply…” when you know full well this particular technique is going to be a nightmare. “Simply dissect these tiny imaginal discs out of this 1mm long larva. It’s easy!”
- Trawling painfully through frost-encrusted boxes of Eppendorfs in a -80oC freezer only to find that the little labels have fallen off, or that the ‘indelible’ pen is not living up to its name (again).
- The person who doesn’t realise that the bags for autoclave waste are not emptied by Laboratory Pixies every evening and will eventually need to be sorted out, no matter how carefully he/she tries to balance just one more pair of gloves on the pile.
- That one person that always fails to wipe the oil from the immersion lens on the microscope leaving you with a constant stream of grad students complaining that they can’t focus on anything, something must be broken and when will I fix it?!
- How about the person who warms up LB Agar in the microwave oven, it boils over and goes everywhere and… they just leave it!
- The person who uses the pipettes in the tissue culture lab until all the batteries are drained down, but doesn’t bother to charge any of them up again.
- Finally, the sadistic person who puts pen/strep in your LB without telling you and doesn’t label it so you can’t work out why you can’t grow any E. coli for the C. elegans to eat. “Why won’t these cultures grow?! Gaaahhh!!”
Lab techs: for every overfilled bin; for every poorly labelled tube; for every spill, break or slip; for every buffer solution you made; for every hour of your time you gave up without complaint, from all of us, we salute you!
What did we miss? Got a gripe to share? Then please leave it in the comments below or tweet us @sciencewater using the hashtag #labgripes.