Abandoned Lab

Two shelves I filled up with pipette tips.
Two shelves I filled up with pipette tips.

Last week the rice research lab I work in was all but abandoned due to a local conference on plant pathogens.

I didn’t go to the conference as I’ll soon be changing to working entirely onĀ C. elegans.

Spending the lab’s money on me learning more about a topic that I probably won’t encounter again would’ve made me feel guilty.

I was left in the lab with a few people who stayed behind or came back early.

I finished all my usual duties in the lab like taking care of plants and setting up stuff for next week, but I still had a lot of extra time before the end of the day.

I cleaned up the lab a bit and… FILLED TIPS.

I filled two entire shelves with boxes of tips.

You might be wondering what are tips and what are they used for?

Biological research often requires very small amounts of liquid to be measured.

For comparison, in the science we usually measure volumes of liquids in liters.

Most people are familiar with liters in the form of those two liter soda bottles that are used for parties.

A milliliter is equal to one thousandth of a liter, or two thousandths of a soda bottle.

A milliliter is still rather big though. It’s about the size of the last joint on your pinky finger.

The research I perform measures liquids in microliters, which are one thousandth of a milliliter (or two millionths of a soda bottle).

A microliter is about as big as a period.

So how is something that small measured?

With a pipette!

A pipette is essentially a mechanical suction device, similar to a straw.

A pipette tip is added on to the sharp end of the device you see above.

The button on top is pressed down, expelling a specific volume of air from the pipette.

When the button is released the pipette sucks that volume back up into the pipette tip.

Pretty much the same principle as using a straw to drink a two-liter bottle of soda.

The amount of air expelled from a pipette allows researchers like me to work with extremely small volumes. Some pipettes can even measure volumes as small as a thousandth of a micoliter (Another name for that is a nanoliter).

When working with small volumes like this its even more important to be clean.

Any small contaminant on the pipette tip would be a large contaminant in a mixture of only a few microliters.

So the tips are put into those boxes in the first picture and then autoclaved to sterilize them.

Oh and here’s a closeup of a pipette tip!

-Mister Ed

How I Drink Water

The nutrition facts and ingredients on a fruit punch Gatorade bottle.
The nutrition facts and ingredients on a fruit punch Gatorade bottle.

I like to drink water out of Vitamin Water and Gatorade bottles.

They hold a lot of water and the top is perfect for drinking without that “Glug-Glug” noise or spilling.

I can cap them for taking on hikes and their shape is just right for fitting in my back pocket.

I reuse the bottles. I only buy a new one when I lose an old one or when one melts in the dishwasher.

I keep a few of the bottles around my house and fill one up whenever I’m thirsty (often).

While on my vacation in Sacramento I left one of my bottles in the hotel room while I was at the festival.

When I came back my bottle was gone! The cleaning staff had removed the bottle when they changed the sheets, thinking it was trash!

The cleaning staff had the further audacity to think that the money I left on my desk was a tip and leave a tip envelope! (That was sarcasm. Hard to convey on the internet, I know).

I tipped them and gave up the bottle as lost forever.

I needed a new one though! I got the one pictured above today!

I took a picture of the ingredients label specifically because I noticed something new.

Gatorade previously had corn syrup in it. Now it just has sugar!

I am allergic to corn. It makes me itch a lot.

I love Gatorade though. I used to drink it all the time, but I would suffer for it.

And now I don’t need to!

I foresee a fridge filled with Gatorade soon.

-Mister Ed