Monday, September 22, 2008

Little quirks

Every lab has its little quirks and now that I am in the second week, I am discovering all those little things that made life easier at old institute. Not that I would go back, but there were some perks to being at a facility that believed in farming out as much as possible. For instance, today for the first time in 2 years, I had to make 10x and 1x PBS, plus I will now have to autoclave and sterilize my own solutions (including H2O). Old institute believed that making stock solutions (and filling tip boxes) took away from valuable science time, so we had a Core Technician, who made all the PBS, sterilized H2O, FBS, and cell culture additives for the whole institute. It saved the labs money as we ordered in bulk, but it also meant that a whole lot of people took Core Technician for granted (which is why she is leaving).
I am not sure if I have a strong opinion for or against institute wide stock solutions, but I did feel a pang of annoyance at not being able to make all my solutions because I had not first made a bunch of stocks. Plus it seems silly for each lab member to have individual stocks, a bit repetitive. However, I also know that pang of annoyance I felt, when a certain lab person in old lab was not careful with lab stocks, leading to contamination and fubarring reagents for other people. I guess this is why I do not have strong feelings one way or the other. I see the benefits in terms of time and cost savings, but I also know that one mistake (or one persons carelessness) can have huge ripple effects in that system.
The other interesting quirk is that we use all glass here. From little culture tubes, to actual graduated glass pipettes. The less plastic waste the better is the theory. I felt very old school learning how to use some of these things because quite frankly the only glass that I have encountered was for beakers, flasks and pasteur pippettes. The one quirk that I will love is that I no longer will have to weigh out PFA, our head technician believes the extra cost of the 16% PFA ampules is worth the reduces risk to our health and safety. Making PFA was never so easy!
Things are still going well. I am feeling out the dynamics and learning to manage the strong personalities. If anyone knows of a good fly genetics for dummies book, I would greatly appreciate the recommendations.

On the other front, I asked PI1 for tea. I basically told her that I took her advice to be selfish and that my decision had been made only a few days ago. To quote "I appreciate the offer and the assistance, and I hope to still able to learn from you. You can forgive me and I'll buy you a tea or you can just hate for me 5 years. I would prefer to know now please". We went for tea. Here is hoping I am on her good side. If not, I am sure she is not the first, nor will she be the last person, that I piss off in my lifetime.


Amanda said...

It sounds like you did well with smoothing things over with PI1. It's odd all the things that change when you change labs. I had to get used to all glass, too. Plastic is really rare around here. But in my old lab all we used was plastic!

Melanie said...

Enh, once you have all your stocks and have gone a couple of years with no contamination by other people you'll be happy with the new lab's way I predict! And I miss the glass pipettes, it's all plastic here. Talk about HUGE waste!

Good job on dealing with PI1 instead of just letting it fester. From what I know of her, exactly the up-front and direct manner to take with her. Yay!

Cath@VWXYNot? said...

I was always glad to have my own stock solutions, not that I didn't trust all of my lab mates but... yeah, OK, I didn't necessarily trust them. Although I didn't go to the extremes of a former colleague who labelled all of her solutions with "potion 1" and "potion 2", and kept a list of what was what under lock and key.

And great job with dealing with the other PI head-on. I SUCK at those situations, so good for you for being brave and direct!

microbiologist xx said...

We have an undergrad that sterilizes items and makes media. When I started in the lab, the common solutions (PBS, TBS-T, etc.) were made by the lab where the last person to use something was supposed to refill or remake. As you might imagine a few of us somehow ended up making all the common solutions all the damn time. After about a year of this I just started making my own personal stocks of everything. If I can help it, I will never go back to sharing responsibility for making solutions. The added bonus of idiot co-workers not using and subsequently contaminating the solutions doesn't hurt either.
Also, the way you handled the situation with the other PI was very professional. Bravo to you!