Tips & Tricks

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.

Wearing Gloves?

You wear gloves at the bench for one of two reasons: Either to protect YOU from your experiment, or to protect your experiment from you. (Okay, sometimes it's both at the same time.) In any case, gloved hands should never touch your face, arms, skin, or cell phone.

You can wash and dry gloved hands (or use ethanol on them) to clean as needed. However, before you do, ask your research advisor for guidelines so you always make the safe choice. In some cases, it's better to discard the gloves and get a fresh pair.

To Accomplish Your Goals, Ask for Advice

This post stands for your personal, professional, and academic goals as well.

If you've been following us for a while, you know we often emphasize the importance of setting goals for you research experience. (If you started following us recently, welcome!)

Whatever your goals are for your research experience, you'll have a much easier time achieving them if your mentor knows about them, and if you ask what you need to do to achieve them.

Do You Know Why Your Research Matters?

What is ever better than getting an exciting research result? Understanding why it's important!

Learning the background information associated with your project is an essential step to understanding the full significance of your research project. Background information includes learning the basic information about your project, why it's important, and how it supports the overall research goals of the lab. The more background you understand, the more you'll be able to contribute to all parts of your project.

Two Reasons To Present Your Research Every Chance You Get!

There are many reasons you should put yourself though the special kind of stress that accompanies presenting your research. This post will cover two.

1) To build your resume or CV. Whether you apply for a fellowship, scholarship, or med/grad/prof school, the more presentations you have to list the better off you'll be. Most selection committees rank research presentations as a quality-rich activity.

Predicting the Future

Before starting an experiment, you should be able to predict what the results will be if you're successful, and what the results might be if you're not.

Although you won't be able to anticipate every possible outcome for every experiment, knowing the probable ones before you start will help you understand and correctly interpret the results you get.

Not only will this help you become a more independent researcher, but also it will help you make a more meaningful connection with your project.

Even If You Know What's in it, Label It!

When you're in a rush to wrap up your lab day, it may be temping to save a little time and not label a tube, bottle, or component--after all you know what it is. But that is a sure recipe for disaster.

Hinge Up, Down, or Random?

When placing your tubes in the microcentrifuge, If your research supervisor doesn’t have a preference, then always place the tubes hinge up. If you develop this habit, it will serve you well. For example, if you have a pellet after the spin, you’ll always know that it will be opposite the hinge. If the pellet is hard to see, or instead of a pellet there is a streak of material on the side of the tube, you’ll know the side of the to avoid when pipetting off excess liquid.

Schedule Your Lab Time (Even if Your Research Supervisor Doesn't Require it)

Even if you're given the option of showing up 'whenever,' schedule your research time because doing so will lead to more advantages than having a spontaneous schedule.

Although there are several advantages to scheduling your lab time, three are:

Don't Guess and Grab

In a lab, many reagents look similar either in color or formula and substituting one for another can cause substantial frustration for both you and your mentor. Back in the day, one of my student's experiment failed several times before I realized he was substituting EDTA for EGTA. That one letter made all the difference...

Whether you're new to the lab or in a hurry, double check your notes and the bottle label to make sure you have the correct one.

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