Warning: the following may not be comprehensible for those not working in a lab.
So the other day, baymate and I were discussing how we use up our pipette tips. Not in terms of experimental procedures or in the types of orifices we jam them in, but in the order we remove our pipette tips from the pipette tip-box.
I tend to start off in one corner and work my way diagonally through to the other end:
In contrast my baymate likes to cut right through the middle of the box to form a horse-shoe pattern. (Quite a bold strategy)
In order to investigate this further we went around the lab and asked people how they used up their pipettes. The results of this informal survey are bellow the fold.
We first visited a postdoc in the neighboring bay. Her strategy, when using sterile tips, is to start from the periphery and work inwards, in this way she used those tips that are most likely to become contaminated first and those tips that are more resistant to contamination last. An example is shown below.
When employing non-sterile tips, her tip-using habits were very bizarre – a combination of the diagonal method combined with single tip extractions from the tip bulk. (An example is shown on the right.)
After this initial success we decided to examine all the tip-boxes in the room. We soon discovered that the most widely spread tip-utilization practice was the linear ordered tip usage method. Yes, most researchers around here utilized tips by picking them out in order along a single row. When a row was finnished they would move on to the next row. We dubbed this practice, the anal-retentive tip usage method (ARTUM). Here are two examples:
To the right is a clasic ARTUM box.
Below is a diagonal version of the ARTUM technique.
When we quizzed a practitioner of ARTUM, he informed us that he would secretly steal tips from his ex-baymate who was a devoted disciple of this method. In order not to be caught, the postdoc we questioned informed us that he would take his baymate’s tips in order. Soon our tip felon found that he was practicing ARTUM on his own tips. Obviously the ARTUM technique is very contagious and potentially addictive. You have now been warned.
Interspersed between the ARTUM boxes were the remains of very chaotic and seemingly random tip usage strategies. In the following example a strip of tips was cleared from the center.
Does this tip usage pattern indicate something? We though that the tip-free region resembled a fish. Was this researcher gone on a two-hybrid fishing expedition? Or perhaps they’re suppressing some deep scar inflicted by their christian upbringing. We’ll never know.
There were other boxes with very interesting patterns. Here’s one that was seen in the tissue culture room. Was this an example of a reverse sterile tip utilization method? We are currently setting up a camouflaged camera in order to get to the bottom of this interesting tip-usage phenotype. Stay tuned …