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.

a photo of three petri dishes with dead material in them. The result of a failed experiment.

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

Note: This tip won't work for all research environments. In some labs, there is no-phone policy. Usually, it's because the work being done is easily compromised by having a phone around (because the phone cannot be sterilized) or because having a phone distracts the researcher in a way that is a safety hazard. So, this tip only applies to students who have discussed the lab's cell phone policy with their in-lab mentor or PI, and are allowed to use the phone.

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.