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

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Coke Floats and a Full Day

Two Coke floats my wife and I made.
Two Coke floats my wife and I made.

I wanted two root beer floats tonight, but we didn’t have any root beer in the house.

I made Coke floats instead.

We only had enough vanilla ice cream for one float, so I used chocolate in the other one.

They were not really root beer floats, but they were really nice.

And apparently my wife never had a root beer float, so this was her first experience.

The floats were an end to a long day which involved: getting fewer privileges at work, trouble shooting a problem at work, talking about relationships, having a birthday lunch with a friend, organizing vacations, doing laundry, cleaning cat poo, and at the end I got floats!

Previously I had thought it was alright to watch Youtube videos at work while I sorted seeds. Boss said no today. I’m disappointed, but its not unreasonable of him to ask this.

Isolating DNA from rice leaves hasn’t been going well. We’ve been getting errors and we finally narrowed down the error to a salt we use.

The stock salt we use to make the salt solution looked dirty though. I cleaned it. We’ll see if it’s good next week.

I talked with my coworker while sorting seeds about his future plans with his girlfriend. He wants to move in with her, but she thinks marriage is the next step.

They’ll probably just live close to each other next year. Right now they live around an hour apart.

One of my old friends from my organic chemistry class sophomore year had a birthday today!

I took him out to lunch at Taco Bell (he chose it). We talked about life and stuff. It was a lot of fun!

When I got home I organized my Memorial Day vacation with my father-in-law.

Another old friend, from high school this time, wants to hang out on the actual Monday of Memorial Day weekend. Organized stuff to make it work.

Laundry and cleaning the litter box are pretty typical chore things.

And chocolate ice cream in vanilla Coke to end the day!

-Mister Ed