Lab mates = house mates


Sharing a lab with me is kinda like sharing my house. It’s a bit of a tight squeeze, but we can always find space for one more and we’ll get along fine… just so long as everyone plays by the rules.

The rules like ‘don’t open my booze and don’t finish my milk’ (aka don’t use expensive things like enzymes, and don’t finish off anything that isn’t yours) or ‘don’t eat an entire pack of cheese without mentioning it and buying some more’ (or don’t use up several bottles of LB and decide not to tell me so that I don’t find out until 5pm when I was about to put some cells in before I ran home for half an hour before a rehearsal). And of course ‘don’t eat the dessert I made for friends coming over’ or ‘When I told you that that was off limits I expect you to listen to me!’

In general as a lab we’re pretty good at mucking along, buying things in turn without having an actual rota (it took me three tries not to spell that rotor… #centrifugebrain). But recently I have not been a happy baking biologist, largely down to the efforts of somebody who isn’t actually a part of my lab.

The Bear, as he shall henceforth be known, does not have a molecular lab of his own. By some kind of super natural dark arts he has convinced my PI that it’s okay for him to use our lab as well as our tips, tubes and reagents as well as equipment. I try not to be too bitter about this: I’m fortunate to be funded, and fortunate enough to work in a big enough lab that I don’t spend a small fortune buying my own filter tips and Eppendorfs.

But recently Bear hasn’t just been using my lab’s tips and tubes. He’s been using my stuff. And not in a sneaky a-bit-here-a-bit-there kind of way. In a ‘I will ask, and when you say no I will steal it anyway’ sort of way.

Today’s example has pissed me right off:

The Bear: Is there any ethanol anywhere I can use?

Baking Biologist: There’s general absolute stuff in the fume cabinet.

TB: Yeah but isn’t that a bit weak? (Ethanol sucks moisture from the atmosphere, so what starts out as absolute may end up as 90% or something)

BB: Potentially, but we use it for everything.

TB: Don’t you have some 100% stuff?

BB: Uh yeah… Are you sequencing? (Pro-tip: if you’re doing Sanger sequencing and don’t have perfect ethanol you just get huge dye blobs and no data. So I have a secret stash of 5 times the price ethanol just for that).
TB: No. Just doing QIAGEN clean ups (Aka something we do in our lab every day with this general use ethanol). 

BB: Well you don’t need 100% ethanol then. The nearly-absolute stuff is fine for anything other than sequencing.
TB: Oh… okay then.

And now about 100 mL from my 500 mL bottle of ethanol has magically gone walkabouts. I don’t even know how he managed to do that many samples in one day, or whether he just stole a big stash while there was nobody around.

This has NOT put me in a good mood.

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