Saturday, July 25, 2009

On this day in history #1: 1996

My lab books from my PhD and post doc are closest thing I have to a diary. Except for the actual diary I kept from 13 - 15, I suppose.

So: what joys lie in these dozen or so books?

Well, on this day 13 years ago, it looks very much like I was setting up another in vitro, cell free virus replication assay using recombinant replicative proteins. And, by the looks of the print outs from the scintillation counter stuck in the book at jaunty angles, it this was another failure. Months spent cloning the damned genes and getting them to express and bugger all to show for it. Not to mention: huge exposure to viruses (even the expression system, vaccinia, isn't very nice), radiation (to check for incorporation of labelled nucelotides) and chemicals (scintillant ain't nice).

This experiment, which I had forgotten until now (hooray), took a couple of weeks to set up and involved a myriad of tubes.

Quote from my lab book: "I don't think this experiment worked very well (at all)".

No change there then.

This experiment, which was repeated many times during my PhD, never worked. The following PhD student had to travel to Europe to see how it was done and did get it to work (finally). The key: lyse the cells in situ and stop the reaction ASAP otherwise all the product is broken down. Shame this wasn't in the methods section of their published papers.

Luckily for me I had a number of other projects on the go so the failure of this one did not scupper my whole doctorate.

This is a flavour of why, if asked, I tend to advise my fellow medical students not to aim for bench research. Otherwise I keep quiet to avoid colouring them with my jaundiced view.

More depressing slouches down memory lane later.

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