1. Always wash (and DRY!) your hands
I work in a Category Level 2 lab. This essentially means we work with pathogens that are not easily able to infect us, or are easily treated if they do manage to, we work with biosafety cabinets if we do work that creates aerosols to protect ourselves and of course we wash our hands! Washing your hands shouldn’t be something just related to lab work though. The media love to sensationalise “superbugs”…
… but the best way to limit the spread of infections is to wash your hands. This doesn’t just relate to “superbugs” like MRSA and C. difficle but all kinds of infections including, but not limited to, food poisoning. If we can limit these infections we can limit the need for antibiotics and therefore the spread of antibiotic resistance genes within bacterial populations. So wash your hands but also make sure you dry them! Damp hands are more likely to transfer bacteria that haven’t been washed off, so next time you skip the hand dryer think again! This free access journal article sums it up nicely while the research was funded by dyson the point is the same – dry hands spread fewer bugs.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask – no one minds and you’re only making your own work take longer, no one elses.
This one is pretty self explanatory, I know the feeling of avoiding asking people a question. There are so many reasons; you don’t want to look stupid, you’ve already had it explained to you but you’ve forgotten/didn’t quite understand etc. etc. etc. but I’m learning that:
1. the person you’re asking usually doesn’t mind!
2. they were you once so completely understand
3. it’s much better to make catch a mistake before you put loads of work in!
4. so much of the time you’re actually right and just want the confirmation… get it once or twice and you will feel so much more confident with whatever it is you’re doing.
3. Never label the lid
One specific for those of you wanting to work in labs – never just label the lid of something! Lids are removable, lids get lost, lids might even get swapped! I label tubes on the side (or the top AND side) and any microbiologist out there will tell you you always label the bottom of an agar plate. Basically you want to label the part that is guaranteed to stay put with your sample/solution/bacteria.
4. Room 207E is always cold
An even more specific one for anyone out there who finds themselves in the Adrian Building. We have lab meetings and journal clubs in Room207E and it is so cold! I’m an overly cold person as it is so I dread going to 207E – I’ve even started taking a blanket (essential to arrive before every0ne else though so you can hide it under the bench). We do have a cake rota for lab meetings so that can help soften the blow.
5. Before you go away ALWAYS make a to do list for when you get back
I learnt this one over Christmas, well when I got back from Christmas, and spent the first few days back floundering about trying to wrap my head around what I’d been planning to do. It took me about 2 weeks to do 1 weeks worth of work. If I’d made a list before I went away of things to get on with when I got back it would’ve made life a lot easier.
6. You WILL make mistakes but often they are easily fixed 🙂
Just don’t sit on a problem, that will never help! I find I often realise I’ve done something wrong when I’m walking to or from the train station, so I send myself an email to my uni account to remind me first thing in the morning to deal with it. Like earlier this month when I realised I’d sent the wrong primers with my samples for sequencing – I dealt with it straight away! The company I’d used helped me cancel the original order ASAP and I could send them a new set of reactions out that day – time lost 2 days, if I’d waited until after the weekend that would’ve doubled.
7. Paper towels are an acceptable method for storing notes – but only in the SHORT TERM! Long term this approach is very very dangerous.
In lab/offices with post-docs and PhD students (of the science kind at least) you will always see a wide variety of written records. Some people always write straight into their lab books (these are the people who don’t worry about crossing out mistakes), others (like me) use a note book which then gets written up into their lab book (my notebook is messy, my lab book is neat and tidy) and finally you have the scrap paper bunch. These people will write things down anywhere, on anything. They just need to get it down and will figure the order out for their lab book somewhere down the road. Even those of us who use notebooks will admit to the odd napkin scribble, when you have your lab coats on, gloves on and can’t be bothered to walk back to the office they’re the most convenient things around. They are not however suitable for long term storage! It can be hard enough finding the exact conditions of a reaction in your lab book when you roughly know the date you did it last – now think of doing the same with loose napkins! It is a little entertaining watching someone search though!
That’s all for now… eventually more life/lab lessons will follow (as I think of them – I do actually use the scrap paper/napkins for this…). Happy Friday everyone, don’t forget to make a to do list to make your Monday morning a little smoother 🙂