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Tales from the lab

Reposted in honor of the holiday.

What’s it like when you work in the lab on Halloween?

It started out innocently enough.

“Go get some BHK cells,” he said, “then transform the cells with these plasmids and use G418 to kill the cells that didn’t get transformed.” i-b66a384f4939deb076ab6a057002bbe1-green_cells.jpg

Cautiously, I ventured upstairs to the Howard Hughes floor on top of an adjoining building. I nervously glanced through the hallway, expecting someone to challenge my presence and ask me what I was doing wandering around their floor.

Nothing. The halls were still.

I walked into a lab room and found two scruffy looking guys.

“Could I have some BHK cells?” I stammered.

Oh, I don’t know. Have you worked with these cells before?

“No,” I squeaked.

Be careful, you don’t know what you’re getting into.

They grinned like cats as I went back to my part of the building, set up the transformation, and put the cells in the incubator, leaving the little fibroblasts bathed in their warm pink solution of nutrients and sugar.

The next day I came in to the lab after my class to change the media, expecting to see lots of dead cells and a few colonies. Nope. The cells were growing and the liquid culture media was bright yellow, a sure sign that it needed to be changed. I grabbed a fresh jar of bright pink media from the fridge, stuck it in a water bath to warm, and sat down at the microscope to look at the cells.

What was that? Did I just see a cell move?

Whoah! Better start getting more sleep. But, wow! There sure were a lot of cells. I swore the number had doubled, maybe tripled, from the previous day.

I finished feeding the cells and went back to the other room to record my notes.

A few hours later the lab was quiet and the sky outside, the dusky purple color of late October.

I heard a bump.

Strange. There’s no one else here.

Bump. Bump.

It came from the tissue culture lab.

Normally, labs are noisy places even without people. Refrigerator compressors hum, appliances whir. But nothing goes bump, bump.


I got up and walked out into the hallway, creeping step by step towards the tissue culture room.

It’s nothing.

I opened the door. That’s odd, I must have left the door open to the incubator.

Slowly, I walked towards the CO2 incubator and shut the interior and then the outer doors.

Too much imagination! I scolded myself, turned around, and almost collided with the creepy janitor with long black greasy hair who leered at me as I hurried back to my lab.

Too be continued….

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  1. #1 Maddy
    October 31, 2006

    That’s why I didn’t touch my bench today… what if my e. coli suddenly decide to mutiny against my command?… nooooo way!

  2. #2 Sandra Porter
    October 31, 2006

    yeah, those E. coli are sneaky little …

  3. #3 Thomas
    October 31, 2008

    Have a look at this funny video about CO2 incubators:


  4. #4 Sandra Porter
    October 31, 2008

    Thanks Thomas!

    That’s funny! Nothing like getting a little culture.

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