Archive for: July, 2012

Running on fumes...gasoline dreams

Jul 28 2012 Published by under Lab

I'm running on fumes today after a series of long stressful days...  I welcome sleep or any form of unconsciousness.

 

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Executor of the Research Estate

Jul 24 2012 Published by under Lab

Our lab maintains the cell culture archives of another PI who unexpectedly passed away years ago.  These cell lines and other samples have proven valuable to many researchers over the years but honestly its a pain in the ass to curate and deal with requests.  Typically, an email pops up in my boss's inbox requesting cell line x from patient with condition y.  Boss forwards me asking if we have this? And we better have this because it was on the inventory of lines that was last done about a decade ago.  Not to mention the inventory and archiving was less than meticulously done.  This means I'm digging through tons of boxes in our liquid nitrogen stocks reading faded and illegible writing or worse labels that are in various states of disrepair or falling off.  Then I've got to culture them and find some way (western blots, genotyping, etc) that they are what they are and make freeze backs before sending them out the door.

As much as this last step is a pain in the ass I respect my boss for doing it, because I don't know how many times we have been shipped lines that were the wrong mutants or were supposed to be mycoplasma negative but are teeming with the little creatures.  And then off they go.

Do you folks safeguard others samples and dole them out to whoever wants them?  And for PI's do you have a plan for what happens to your stuff if you somehow end up kicking the bucket?

12 responses so far

Sort of collaborating with moochers...

Jul 18 2012 Published by under Collaboration, Evil, Lab

I'm currently stuck working with an internal collaborator on a project that I was originally supposed to just provide technical advice to.  It grew to them trying to dump the work off on me and using all our equipment and reagents.  After explaining to the collaborator that the only thing in the world that mattered more to me than his project was everything else in the world, he took the hint and started working on it himself.  But the cheap fuck is using all our reagents and kits to do the work, I don't think the boss man thought this would be the case but I've got to bring it up to him.  He may roll over on this but "our" collaboration is now at a standstill until some stuff for the project is ordered and the doucheknuckle wants us to pony up the money for it.

There is no way in hell I'm going to pay for stuff we might not even use in the lab to help this person out on a one off project.   At this point, they need to put some skin in the game, so I'm using the slow roll approach and conveniently forgetting to order what we need until they get a clue and do it themselves.  This has been frustrating, I don't have time to drop everything whenever you deign to show up and am getting pissed off when you forget to answer my emails for a month.  This collaboration will net me nothing, I will help you produce what you need and at best end up buried in the middle of the authorship if even that.  I've got other fish to fry.

Speaking of frying fish I need to go catch some catfish.

4 responses so far

Exploitation of thy enemy

Jul 18 2012 Published by under Grad School, Lab

A lot of what my lab focuses on is studying the sensitivity of cells deficient for my gene of interest to different DNA damaging agents in order to find out what potential repair pathways it may participate in.  This gene is over expressed in multiple cancer types and elevated levels of it in the cancer confer poor survival outcomes.  This coupled with the fact that lack of gene sensitizes it to particular damaging agents makes my gene of interest a potentially druggable target.  The drug screening for inhibitors of the gene product is not the main focus of my project.  Rather I try to study the gene and its implications on organisms overall physiology as well as mechanistically what is actually doing in the cell.  The Genomic Repairman protein appears to require a delicate balance in the cells, too little and you have problems, and too much of it causes the cellular train to speed up to fast and run right off the track.

While studying the mechanism is more rewarding to me, I do have a keen interest in finding a drug that might exploit a weakness in cancer cells.  This is a long term project and one that may not even get off the ground before I leave the lab but I feel that it would be personally rewarding to help get this off the ground.

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Scientific Posturing...

Jul 11 2012 Published by under Lab

Recently Genomic RepairWife booked me a massage as a treat for my birthday and damn it was awesome.  But while laying on the table, having Helga the masseuse use Randy MachoMan Savage atomic elbow drop-like movements on my shoulder blade area, I realized that science is killing my back.  Working long hours hunched over at the bench like the diligent troll that I am has contributed to my poor posture and back strain.  I have even contemplated getting one of those ugly back braces to straighten me up so that I don't pick up a Quasimodo style hunchback.  While I do like swinging from ropes, I do not wish to become a anymore of a social pariah than I already am.

So dear reader, how do you handle ergonomics in science to preserve the body?  For instance my PI, makes the trainees read papers for him and report back to him on them in detail, thus preventing the onset of eyestrain for him.

11 responses so far

Rejected...Postdoc edition

Jul 02 2012 Published by under Postdoc

We recently interviewed a postdoctoral candidate for our lab and rejected the chap for more than a few reasons:

-No papers.  Not a big deal but when combined with everything else, it doesn't help.
-No enthusiasm for anything that we do in the lab.  The dumpsterbaby reportedly checked his iPhone while speaking to one of the senior technicians in the lab and what we do and what the culture of the lab is like.
-Didn't really care to talk science at all during the interview process.  If I wanted to make small take, I'd have talk to someone more interesting.
-Forgetting to read some of the most recent papers from the lab.  Ding ding ding, this is the kiss of death.  We no longer work on redacted, that was like 10 years ago and what the boss got tenure on, we've changed topics.  Hopefully you would have noticed this.
-Not disclosing pertinent information on your CV.

He was a nice guy but lets face it, we are in a business that doesn't put a premium on nice guys, just folks that have their act together and will get the job done.  When you interview you have to have your proverbial shit together and be well read on what your potential lab does.  Also its not a good thing when your CV has huge gaps in it that seem to be filled in on your LinkedIn profile.  Consistency is the key.

11 responses so far

Committee Meetings: YMMV

Jul 01 2012 Published by under Grad School, Meetings

So PLS has a post up lamenting the worth of the obligatory committee meetings in graduate school.  From my standpoint, they have been helpful to me, but it depends on the individual and the situation.  First off my institution mandates that we have these little pow wows every 6 months, starting midway through your second year, as a way to ensure you are working and meeting milestones that are set by primarily your PI and your committee.  They also serve as a method to ensure a trainee isn't being abused or treated unfairly as a PI, but this can vary and is typically not the case.  The committee meeting also can be a place where a PI can use three to four other people to help get their subtle points (work harder, focus dammit, or watch your grades) to the slower and stupider of my species.

The value of my committee lay in initially stacking the deck with people that are players in my field and serve as great internal reviewers to my proposed experiments.  They will ask me controls, why don't I do this instead, or tell me to also consider this because for my paper because the damn reviewers seem to be harping on this lately.  Also don't be afraid to change out committee members, as soon as I've gotten all that I can from them (expertise or feedback), its time to jettison them and get a new one.  I did this before my last committee meeting, getting rid of a member who sat there and ate my cookies but gave little feedback.  And swapped him with a PI who we could generate a collaboration with.  I wanted to study the role of my enzyme on a process that he studies in his lab and didn't really know the techniques to do this.  Now we are working together.

So from a grad students perspective, I think the mileage on committee meeting worth may vary, but its what you make out of it.

3 responses so far