New Year’s Lab-olutions

Happy New Year, BenchFlies! It’s that time of year again, when people around the world promise themselves they’ll drop 20lbs, or kick their pack-a-day habit, or actually use the gym membership they purchased months ago.

But how about resolving to improve your lab life in 2012? I know, I know, some of you are the perfect tech/grad student/postdoc, but for the rest of us, here are a few suggestions for your New Year’s Lab-olution.


1. “In 2012, my bench will have more than a square foot of usable space available at all times.” We all have those weeks when we just don’t have a spare minute to clear up our bench. However, there is a limit to how long you can play the “I’ve been super busy” card when someone expresses concern over the vast quantity of unlabeled conical tubes filled with mystery liquids, especially if you’re making the excuse while cruising Amazon PubMed at your desk. Not only can this propensity to clutter infringe on your labmate’s space but it could seriously tick off that pesky health and safety officer who frequents your building.

2. “I will keep up with my notebook.” That’s not to say a notebook isn’t being kept, but is it organized? Is it correctly dated? Do the pages of it need to be actually contained within a 3-ring binder and not strewn across your desk?

3. “I will not pick my nose while wearing gloves.”  Not only should you not be picking your nose, gross, doing so with gloves on could result in a nasty situation. Imagine if you forgot about the hydrochloric acid you splashed on them while pH-ing a batch of Tris? Hmmmm? Seriously nasty. And while we’re at it there are other activities you probably shouldn’t be doing in gloves, like typing a quick email or turning down the volume on the lab stereo. Dancing, however, is fine. In fact, I think gloves add emphasis to certain moves.

4. “I will not put empty solution bottles back in the fridge after finishing the contents.” Exhibit A, an email sent by me to my lab a few months back:

Empty Bottle Lab

Seriously not cool. Common solutions should always be left in a usable state, i.e. there should be enough left for someone else to complete at least one step of an experiment. Leaving a useless trickle doesn’t count, and it aggravates the trickle-finder.

5. “I will not eat Domino’s pizza no matter how free it is.” I know Domino’s has recently mounted a very strong advertising campaign about how they have improved their pizza, but they may have overstated said improvement. It’s really not good. And no matter how hungry you are you will feel worse after eating it.

6. “I won’t leave my Facebook account open on a common computer.” If you, like me, work in a lab full of pranksters, then this is definitely something to be conscious of. I am currently embroiled in a Spotify war as I generously leave my account open. But it turns out that Spotify posts songs to Facebook. Apparently the other day I listened to a whole playlist of songs whose titles contained my fellow grad student’s name. Sigh.

7. “I will make more lame science puns/jokes than last year.” This is one of those super positive resolutions sure to entertain your colleagues and generally improve your lab life. For example, we have this displayed on our door:

Hipster scientist sign

8. “I will no longer be jealous of the two projects in lab that are *actually* working.” It’s tough to be supportive when all your experiments are failing, but just remember, you’ll want a pat on the back when they start giving you publishable data. Try and keep the green-eyed monster in check.

9. “I will not use the fact that I work in a lab to validate my ink-stained pants and mis-matched socks.” Today I am actually wearing a rather fetching sweater dress, but yesterday I was wearing a pair of jeans that had suffered a small pen-in-the-laundry-related incident. Pride in your appearance is a nice self-esteem booster, plus if you haven’t dressed nicely in a while you get A LOT of compliments. But don’t forget to sport your protective lab coat when actually at the bench. Phenol can very quickly destroy a pair of tights.

10. “Graduate. For realz you guyz.”


Have I missed anything? Let us know in the comments!!



Katie Pratt is a graduate student in Molecular Biology at Brown University. She has a passion for science communication, and in an attempt to bring hardcore biology and medicine to everyone, she blogs jargon-free at Follow her escapades in the lab and online on Twitter.



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2 comments so far. Join The Discussion

  1. terry

    wrote on January 4, 2012 at 5:11 pm

    i will no longer pass gas in the fume hood and blame it on a solvent.

  2. Bowlcut

    wrote on January 5, 2012 at 8:15 pm

    I will read at least one print version of a journal article this year. While listening to an 8-track.

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