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Where did it get you?

You might ask, so where did 10 years get you.  I understood techniques.  And the science at hand.  I was a reservoir for information.   I found often that the majority of those away from the bench didn’t know the details of the  techniques but just wanted data.  That’s why I had a job.  I knew how to maintain the equipment and keep things running.  I knew how to run a protocol and tweak it to get an experiment to bring results, but what does that mean when it’s grant renewal time.   The sad thing is the results aren’t always the ones we want or expect. Honesty and integrity is accepting the acquired data, not hating on a tech.  Remember, your tech is an asset.

My advice to all of you PI’s who’ve been away from the bench for 20+ years, let us buy the kits we need.  No.  NEB and Qiagen are not paying me for this post.  Yes I know, back in your day you grew E. coli RY13 and purified your own enzymes.  But now kits and pre-made acrylamide gels are so cheap.  Why risk user error. Call up Invitrogen, Techne, Roche, Bio-Rad, or IDT and order your primers for RT PCR!  You know you want a light cycler or what ever the in vogue thing is.. Sure Syber Green and TaqMan cost more, but you’ll save in the long run.  Spring for some time on your neighbor’s Real Time PCR instrument!  Someone in the department has to have one!!!   We all know you were hard core and did it by hand back in the day, but you will save so much time and produce far more reliable data by using the current equipment.

If there’s a kit or a piece of equipment that can handle a task, buy it.  Don’t hesitate.  Why?  Because you’ll get better data, and love your lab tech more.  Really.

Back to the subject at hand and educational remorse, I will admit that the brilliant thing about getting a higher grad degree is the experience developing your own project and learning to understand the big picture, and not just the list of requirements to complete your project.  If I could repeat the last 10 years, I’d work for 4, and go back to school.  A degree would have been a much quicker route to learn what it took 10 years to figure out, and probably some things that I didn’t.


What comes around.

Long ago I made a decision not to complete grad school.  Probably not one of the brighter decisions.  At the time it was clear that I wanted to work in a Lab.  All of the PhD’s I knew were down since they spent their time managing labs, and were away from the bench which is what drew them into science in the first place.  I love research.  I love asking questions, and best of all, answering them.  So.  I decided to work at the bench for 10 years.  That did not require a PhD.  So I didn’t get once since I could work as a Research Assistant, and pay my rent!   To all you PI’s pinching pennies.  Promote your Assistant.  Make them feel valued and they will work that much harder!..  Make them Lab Manager!  Back to the story, I was a dedicated lab jockey.  But that said the politics behind the scenes were for the birds.

10 years in almost 4 contracts.  Low pay, lousy retirement, but great insurance and a tremendous environment. Life was not about the perks.  Life was about the idea, the mission.  Life was about finding drugs, targets, and solutions for people’s misery.  Life was about an idea.  Life was about making a difference.  Life was about scientific discovery and research.  I sat on a pedestal feeling high for the importance of the impact of my work.  I poured my energy and creativity solving problems and fighting to make things happen, and not even a free parking space.  I happily paid around $140+ back of my hard earned cash for the freedom to park a 15 minute walk from my lab.  But hey, I got to avoid tickets that way!

I digress.  Really, I loved the job, and the research.  It’s a shame there’s not an endless supply of money to support researchers.  Actually, at this point, I’d happily volunteer in a lab to make media and solutions, maybe organize the freezer stock, just because I miss it.  No pay.  Really.  I’ve done that between contracts in the past where I volunteered my time to continue research.  I know other post research career individuals who probably would too.

Remember.  The life of a scientific researcher isn’t supposed to be about money.  It’s about the love of watching bands travel on the gel.  It’s about the hope that your cells grew the way they were supposed to.  It’s about reading 2d gels and making sense of those little blobs.

Why post a year later?  A blog deserves a post once a year.  But really, there’s a story coming, but I’ll post that later after I know the results.  A word to you all out there.  Karma.  To all of you PI’s who are pissed at your Techs or Post Docs that didn’t bring you results.  They broke their ass for you, and it’s not their fault that your ideas didn’t work! Be kind.  It’s a small world out there!  Do a count of how many people work in your area if interest.

Feel like posting about your life in Lab Research?  Drop me a line.  Day to day lab antics?  Cool.  Life the politics of the lab?  Cool..  Notes about your research?  Sure as long as it’s ok to post publicly about it.

For the moment, I’ve found my way out of lab politics, and happy to be out.  I’d love to hear about experiences.  Have any of you made it out?



Just a non-sequitor thought.

This is a new life.  I’m in a new direction where I’m no longer relying on the invisible.  I look back and I think of the years of growing cultures, hoping to extract functional proteins, and develop new drugs.  We were constantly digging for these invisible bands to find something new that will lead to the next grant.  And now, that’s done.

I have a great deal of love and excitement for those at my former employers who are still doing this.  I’m sure one day, I’ll be back, but after 10 years, it’s a nice break to work, measure my rewards in dollars, and not have to curse the ever elusive band.  There’s something more concrete about developing a business, over searching for an answer that may not be there.  I have so much respect for those that develop life careers in science.


After 10 Years!

After 10 years working for various PI’s at Georgetown University, I have left the scene.  That is, once again, the funding ran out, and I was left holding my own, looking for the next gig.  Currently I’m working managing a business that’s about to open in Bethesda.  It’s a different direction, and I’m excited about the opportunity.  Working directly with customers and clients is a different world from praying that your reactions will work, or worse yet, wondering why they didn’t work.  This direction has a great benefit, of marking your success with dollar returns.  If your pitch hits, then sales are made, and deals are closed.  When deals are closed there’s a direct measurement of your success.  I find this exciting and very rewarding.  I look forward to bring these skills, some day in the future, to a biotech venture that I manage, or possibly own.  Great things to come!



One of the greatest fringe benefits is the pleasure and positive vibe from getting your assay to work.  After fighting a need to survive and create good reliable data, there’s the hell of finding out your assay doesn’t work.  Follow that by spending a month or two fighting the odds, searching for tubes that don’t exist, transforming strains, and searching for what’s not working, you step back, and yes, your tube changes color, and it’s done!  Your assay works.  That single moment of joy and accomplishment makes the struggle of 2 months worth it.  There’s no question, you’ve accomplished something.  On to the next experiment with a little more confidence.


Things to come

A sign of a new day, or is it the sign that it’s Friday. The bench is clean, media is made: YPD, Cornmeal, and Serum! I love the site of a clean bench in the afternoon. Organization is in the eye of the beholder. Plates are where they need to be! The equipment is there, solutions waiting, with research to be completed on Monday. Some where, I’m sure there’s a poem to be written about all of this.

With a tightening economy, grants fewer and far between, a faster pace, and the ever increasing need for PI’s to publish, I’m extremely excited to be here.  With a constant strain on the world of soft money, any research has to know how valuable it is to have an opportunity to contribute.  If you’re a researcher, we’d love to hear about what you do.  The DC area has a great community out there.  I know it’s waiting to be found.  Drop us a line.  Shoot us a link to a picture of your  bench.  We just might publish it!


Western world.

We switched gears to look briefly at levels of protein expression. I’m enjoying the change of techniques. It’s been years since I’ve done protein work, and I like it! This time around we’re using HRP and a camera system to detect the signal from ECL. I do have to say, it makes me miss my days with alkaline phosphatase based detection. We have the HRP antibodies already, so that’s the direction we must go! None the less, it’s still quite fun! The anticipation waiting for those bands to appear on the screen.


Growing cells.

It’s a day of growth.  Growing cells for RNA extraction for production of cDNA for use on micro arrays.  Freezing down strains for lab maintenance.  A good day.  What’s your day in the lab like today?