bench tip

Label Bottle Tops

At the start of a wetlab research experience, there is often more information to learn than is possible to remember. Even those who take great notes inevitably lose some details. One of the most common mistakes a new researcher makes is storing a chemical or reagent incorrectly.

Lab Cell Phone Tip #3: When Something Doesn't Look Right

When you're conducting an experiment or doing a technique, take photos of anything that looks “odd” if your research mentor isn't around to help.

Sometimes, it's easier to describe and troubleshoot a problem if you have a photo to go along with a statement such as: “I don’t think my culture lysed correctly," or "When I filtered the solution, it looked chunky," or "The tissue kept tearing on the microtome."

Obviously, this won't work for all kinds of wet benchwork (such as enzymatic reactions), but when a photo could be helpful it's a great resource to have.

Read the Troubleshooting Section Before You Need It

Every research kit contains a protocol manual with a troubleshooting section that explains the most common mistakes made with the kit at the research bench. If the kit procedure fails, the first thing most scientists do is turn to the troubleshooting section to determine if the reason could have been Operator Error.

Making Chemicals and Solutions

If you work out the math once, save it on an index card so it is easy to use at the scale or at your research bench. It’s likely you’ll make the reagent, solution, or medium again.

Also, use an app or calculator to get the math right the first time. The most expensive chemical in the lab is the one that is made up wrong, and everyone uses. It's always worth your time to double-check.