Field of Science

Lab etiquette and priorities...

I've been blogging quite a lot about actual science lately (which is good) so I think I'm excused one quick blog post about being a scientist, or in my case, being a Lab Rat. The thing is that I don't rank particularly highly in the lab; I'm doing a one year project, with not a huge amount of significance and in terms of funding I'm pretty sure the ants underneath the floorboards get paid more to be here than I do. And while I personally like to think I'm doing something useful for the lab I'm in, they'd probably be reasonably grateful if I served my time without causing any major damage, or using up too many resources.

So what do I do when (as happened just now) someone asks me if they can use the hood for the afternoon? And in a way that suggests that they kind of really need to use the hood that afternoon...

(Hood = laminar flow hood, which is a sterile working space).

What I did was to internally rearrange my schedule inside my head, to free up space for them. But what if that hadn't been an option? What if I'd been doing an infinitely-long colony pick or something? Who, in that situation, has the priority?

The PostDoc with their relevant research, or the Lab Rat who, by an accident of bureaucratic shuffling, happens to actually be in the lab that owns the hood? (there's about three labs in the space upstairs and we tend to share equipment)

I quickly finished up everything I needed to do right then, and then told the aforementioned PostDoc that she could use the hood whenever. Except...I still have more work to do in there this evening. And she hasn't actually started work in there yet. I don't want to start my work in case she suddenly appears, but I have no idea how long it is polite to wait before getting naggy at someone. Especially when that someone is a) older than me b) doing more important work for the lab and c) bringing more money in for the lab.

I have decided to deal with this problem in my usual way of dealing with all problems, by scuttling away and hoping it disappears in it's own time if I stop looking at it. Which is why I'm currently sitting downstairs in the dry lab using the computer and consoling myself with vending machine chocolate bars. I can't really go up until either she's finished with the hood or my E. coli plates dry, and they won't for a while because I accidentally massively over-poured one of them.

On the plus side, I discovered why my transformations didn't work yesterday. I plated them out on the wrong antibiotics and they all died. In my current state of mind, I can't help but find this kindof hilarious.


Captain Skellett said...

Ah... politics. My day has been full of politics as well (stupid work! GRUMBLE) Hope it gets better soon (your day I mean - although mine too for the record)

Re the bacteria mix up - oops! Glad you can see the funny side :) Got to love them positive controls.

Clifford said...

To my knowledge, males are better to share items in the lab comparing with females. It is totally opposite for mice (or rat): males are always difficult to share a cage while they are not from the same litter. Agree? (No offense)

Lab Rat said...

lol - my labs so far have mostly been all-female labs (which apparently is quite rare). I've worked in a couple of labs with both men and women in them, and I've never had a problem with sharing space associated with either gender, I just get a bit paranoid that I'm seen as taking up space and resources that could be used by someone actually doing a 'proper' project.

And despite calling myself one (which I do mostly because I work in a lab without getting paid at the moment) I have never worked with lab rats either. So I don't know how they react to cramped conditions.

Overall I think there is more likely to be a hierachy split (A post-doc is less likely to move for you than a PhD student - which to be fair I wouldn't complain about) than a gender one.