PhD – 21 months in 

Do you remember my optimistic blog post about finding my bearings in the lab after a month of the PhD? I also included pictures of a failed western blot and slightly crushed centrifuge tubes.

Well, twenty months later and I’m still making mistakes. Often they’re new and different mistakes, which could almost be exciting. But today I made the same mistake and lost a lot of plasmid-growing bacteria (bacteria I am using as work horses to produce specific DNA for me) in a centrifuge (which I subsequently cleaned!)…

Photographic evidence attached.

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A PhD Student for a Month

After the week of induction I have now spent three weeks in the lab. I have cells to look after, so that is most definitely a good thing. Mainly I am trying to figure out what kind of experiments to do that will actually give some sort of result and that is of course a lot harder than most papers will have you think. Until now I have just been finding my bearings in the lab (e.g. where do you keep the protease inhibitors? What? You freeze down your protein ladders/markers in the -80 °C freezer? Why can’t I find the antibodies in the boxes they’re meant to be in according to the Excel sheet? Etc.)

Luckily, people in the lab are all friendly and willing to help out. Despite that I still managed to crush a bottle in the centrifuge, by spinning it at 10,000 times the gravitational force. Turns out that it doesn’t need to be spun that quickly and quite evidently can’t take those forces. And this was already the second try. The first time I actually managed to rupture the bottle, losing some of my sample…

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Then of course there are the always unpredictable Western blots, as already alluded to earlier, in which one can investigate whether particular cells express certain proteins of interest. Ideally, this sort of experiment should yield a straightforward answer (more or less), as on the left of the following picture. But who even knows what happened on the right.

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Slotted between these attempts at lab work I’ve attended training to use the fancy flow cytometers, which can analyse single cells and even sort them according to different properties, and confocal microscopes. And so, let the next week of lab commence!