Monday, December 04, 2006

How old school are you?

I had one of those Mondays where the usual high-tech solutions kept breaking. For example, the lovely $300 bag-sealer I use for western blots stopped sealing. Heating element died, or some such.

I hunted around for a while to find something the right shape and size so I could still get away with using less antibody...

Stupid problem to have, but antibody is expensive!

And don't even get me started on the computers. Tell me why it's easier to take pictures on a digital camera, then transfer them to a computer, then print them out, then walk to the printer?
HOW is that easier than just using film and then walking away, film in hand, all finished in one step??

I'm one of those people, I'll run columns with gravity on the benchtop, because I don't have one of those fancy-schmancy FPLC machines. Takes longer, sure.

If postdoc time is 'free', tell that to my gray hair.

Even when I run a multiplex PCR, I still pipette them one at a time, by hand. One of these days I swear I'll get an undergrad to use a multipipettor and do them in octuplicate, or whatever... but not yet.

How old school are you? I'm looking for ridiculous but kick-ass, and preferably ghetto solutions to everyday lab problems.

Do you boil your protein samples with a bunsen burner and a marshmallow fork?
Do you seal your agarose gel trays with lab tape?
Do you clamp your glass plates with big rusty binder clips? Are they caked with years of buffer drippings? Hmmm? Are they????

And please, no mouth-pipetting stories. That's just gross.

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At 7:58 PM, Blogger DancingFish said...

We do behavioral observations using giant VHS cameras. They kind from 1984 that you hold on your sholder....
And we seal agrose gels with lab tape for teaching labs!

At 10:03 PM, Blogger Twirly said...

The GC I use has a dot matrix printer (integrator) attached to it....

No mouth pipetting stories really - it wasn't me, there was this Polish research scientist who in front of me siphoned concentrated HCl (that's like 12N) with her mouth - WITH HER MOUTH!

At 6:34 AM, Blogger RPM said...

When I run PCRs, I drop oil on the top of the reaction. We still have a bunch of bottom heating thermacyclers, so we need to prevent the solution from evaporating. Our one top-heater broke and we can't afford to fix it.

I have a multipipeter (1microliter-50microliter) that's held together by autoclave tape.

To use our autoclave, you turn nobs rather than push buttons. That is, until the sucker started leaking last week.

Until it broke a couple of years ago, we took pictures of gels using a computer that could not accept CDs and had no USB jacks. It printed the images on a spool of shiny paper (don't know the technical name). Then the fine focus on the camera jammed and we had to use the zoom as a focus. Oh, and the UV light source was one of those tabletop, uncovered platforms that you set the gel on (with the camera perched above). You had to risk cancer to take a picture of your gels. Luckily, someone bought a new gel imager that's pretty good.

At 7:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Our 6" mass spectrometer still uses DOS and a dot matrix printer. I'm sure they don't sell print catridges anymore. Luckily we are all stocked up!!
Our other mass spec was bought in 1990. Pretty much if anything goes wrong in the lab and we call for replacement parts the young guy on the phone has never heard of that model. But we manage to survive.

At 8:03 AM, Blogger Dr. Brazen Hussy said...

How funny! I am a total technology junkie. I find it difficult to remember how I survived without an electronic repeater pipette and a 12-channel multichannel pipette. The capillary sequencers make the slab-gel sequencers seem like a bad dream. Since I started this job, I have taken all of the lab's important pieces of paper, converted them into digital formats and put them on a password-protected website... and the list goes on.

However, my office is covered in little sticky notes to myself... is that old-school?

At 7:01 PM, Anonymous Virologista said...

The bag sealer in my old lab was some version from the 80s that apparently was a kitchen appliance for sealing food. Worked well.

Also, there is an emeritus professor who hangs out with our group. At a lab safety meeting he mentioned that he used to mouth pipet human cell cultures while smoking a cigarette. The ash did no harm to his cells. (this story is trumped by his tales of collecting fetal calf serum at the Oscar Mayer factory, which I cannot do justice to)

At 8:50 AM, Blogger JF, scientist said...

I seal gels with autoclave tape. We have one top-heating thermocycler, and you have to put in a metal plate to make it work.

Our lab has a gigantic meat grinder and an aquarium tank for obscure experiments. My favorite tool is made from a paperclip and half an eppie.

We have some kind of spec that weighs 75 pounds and is five feet long and has a chart needle. When I bought a new computer, we couldn't even upgrade the software, it was so old. Unless it has actually exploded, we can't throw it away.

At 7:43 AM, Anonymous matt said...

When I was an undergrad, not that long ago, I Maxim-GIlbert sequenced an oligo to make sure the sequence was right.

RIght up until a few weeks ago we used polaroid film for gel pictures but we just brought a new shiny digital camera setup with a little printer, yum.

I know its terrible but I buy my SDS Page buffers premade for my premade gradient gels. Isnt that just terrible!

We do however still pay an undergrad to rack pippette tips for us. Thats gotta be saving us about $5 a month right there.

At 4:16 AM, Blogger kstrna said...

We do however still pay an undergrad to rack pippette tips for us. Thats gotta be saving us about $5 a month right there.

Pay an undergrad? We don't even go that far. Each person in the lab stuffs his/her own pipette tip boxes, then autoclaves them.

At 8:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Seal a meal for westerns, huh?

I refreeze my antibodies diluted to whatever in blocking buffer and azide, keep them in a 50 ml Falcon, and "recycle" them for YEARS. I was against this at first, I thought it seemed 'dirty', but now I am a born-again convert. They usually get better over time because the non-specific stuff goes away, although some monoclonals don't freeze so good I hear. I guess if your lab uses big gels, this is a little tricky, but for BioRad or Hoeffer minis, it's perfect, particularly if you cut the membrane into little strips you can just pop them into and out of the tube. You can always pour the 40-50 mls of antibody solution onto the membrane in the little plastic trays and then pour it back to freeze of course. I've even lost a strip or two only to find them back in the freezer in the Falcon tube. They worked just fine after thawing. Don't freeze in milk though, because they get all nasty. 1-2% BSA works great!

At 11:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

At the lab I work at about 5 years ago we had an FTIR that used a dedicated UNIX workstation and printed using a plotter. As if that wasn't bad enough they also had a auger spectrometer that transfered data an using 8 inch flopppy. That is the first and only time I had even heard of an 8 inch floppy let alone seen one in action.

At 10:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I worked in a cytogenetics which didn't even have a PCR machine. The one next door had an old PCR machine that had a WATER-BASED COOLING system--and it was still in working order! (This was a serious first generation PCR machine.) Several of our reagents came from apothecaries (so I have seen some of the weirdest labels imaginable!)
My favorite--our "autoclave" was a tabletop pressure cooker designed for commercial kitchens!
I wish I still worked there so I could show you pictures.

At 12:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I work in 9 different health institutions before, not to mention their names and location, but yes..we do use mouth pipets to draw blood for complete blood count testing. it was stop after few years (not during my time) when HIV and hepatitis came into existence and found to be contagious.


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