Backing up the lab – Monday 25th April

This morning started in a strange and slightly dramatic way – over the weekend there was a fire in the building opposite ours on campus. It was bad. No one was hurt which is obviously the best outcome possible but a lab’s been destroyed and a lot of work along with it. It made me think about what position we’d be left in if the same thing happened to our lab. We don’t keep back ups of lab work in the same way you do with computer work. We do back up in a sense – all mutants and strains we make/have in the lab are put into a central collection (in duplicate) but that’s still all stored in the same room, if something happened to that room we’d be screwed. I don’t know how to get around this, it’s not something I’ve ever thought about before.

I arrived this morning at about 9:15am after a morning trip to the gym and the *fire talk* took up a good chunk of the early morning. At about 10:30am I made it into the lab, and set up a long PCR and made a bunch of media. I worked in the lab until lunch at about 12:30pm. 

After lunch I faffed at the computer for quite a while. Eventually (after a quick chat to the boss) I went about tackling a problem with a mutant I’ve been trying to make. I have several strains I’m trying to work with but the problem is they haven’t been sequenced (yet). Instead I have the sequence of something similar, similar but not the same. The boss suggested I align the sequences I do have on the computer, to see how much difference there is between them. It may be that they fall into two distinct groups and I’ve just picked the wrong one.

After aligning all the sequences it was clear that there are two groups! Tomorrow I’ll design a new set of primers against the “other” group and see if that helps with my problems.

At 3:30pm I went back to the lab, I poured plates and streaked out a lot of different bacteria. One strain I’ve plated to look at the morphology – how do they physically look on a plate. This meant I had to make a specific type of plate. I also had 48 samples to plate out and take to the hospital tomorrow. While all of this was going on we were also having a safety inspection. You know how when you go through customs or drive past a police car you always feel guilty even though you’ve done nothing wrong? A safety inspection gives you exactly the same feeling. I’m tidy in the way I work, I keep my bench clean and my reagents labelled, but I still felt like I was being watched… I wasn’t kicked out of the lab so I can’t be too much of a safety menace.

I finished up in the lab about 5pm, and spent my final half hour dealing with my inbox and checking on undergraduate submissions. My final bit of marking is coming up and the students have a deadline of this Wednesday. I have 32 reports to mark in just over a week so if any of them submit early I can get a headstart. Luckily 5 of them get gold stars so I can get marking tomorrow 🙂 . I left for home at 5:30pm ready to do it all again tomorrow. Until then everyone, thanks for reading 🙂 .


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