#OFEL: Ordinary Friday Evening in the Lab

Here I am. Along with a couple of PhD students that, like me, are “investing” another friday evening chained at their benches. What did we do to deserve this?

I have 1 hour of incubation… should I read some of the latest review in my field? Write those damn e-mails? Capitalize my time? FUCK YOU! I’ll write a bit on the blog… and I will tell you how comes I am waiting for 1 h on Friday evening, 18.00 o’clock.

Just another ordinary PhD student, in an ordinary Friday evening, in an ordinary lab.

It is 5.00 pm and everything is ready. While people around me are tossing lab-coats and planning the evening, the last step of a week-long experiment is finally upcoming. The light at the end of the tunnel. I just need to ultra-centrifuge 10 samples and then I’m free. Easy! Right after I will freeze all down and go to gym. [Gym? ah ah ah – redaction note].

With my set of precisely balanced samples, I cross the department to reach what I will discover as a battlefield: the centrifuge room, where I met my enemy number one: the Beckman TL-100. Industrial design peak (quoting you, Johan). A facility so old and covered with dust that nobody knows anymore how to use. A sort of private heredity that some professor left behind along with a set of rubber pipette-boy and those hundreds of slivered glass slides used to cast gels. Yes, those you never gonna use.

The industrial design peak is one of those instruments that supervisors cite continuously while talking about “those days”. Indeed, nowadays the new scientist generation prefers to get frustrated with other low-cost materials, such as filtering tubes.

But not me!

I walk towards the industrial design peak proud of my nerdy exclusiveness and I start working. I adjust the rotor in the bucket, put in my samples and close the door. SLAM! Old fashion sounds, lovely tunes.

Press start to begin the workout. The industrial design peak doesn’t vacuum properly. Error in the system. Try again.

Fine. Turn off and then turn on (chapter I of “The Fine Art of Laboratory Science: Prelude to the Disaster” – Elsevier 2008). A sinister mechanical racket, then silence. Blank screen. The sound of flushed water into a pipe, in the background.

Breathing normally, as everybody would do on Friday evening, I repeat the procedure saw in Figure A (on/off). Nothing happened.

OK: it may be like in Monkey Island, let’s unlock the game with the binary code: on/off/on/on/off/on/off/off. Nothing again.

I seek for help. I find a lovely girl bend over a protein gel: “There must certainly be a responsible, but that’s not me.” Only now I get the British humor. “Try upstairs”.

I find a couple of guys that said: “no worries! It’ the electric circuit” and coming with me to the crime scene: “we’ll fix it!”. As soon as they came in, they immediately turn to the right, towards the Ultimate Centrifuge 2020 – model “do I look like I can break?” gasping: “what’s wrong here?”. When I point at the real patient, the industrial design peak, one of them yelled: “Oh God! What a hell are you doing, man?”. I saw them both disappearing behind the door whispering at each other.

Alone again.

In the meanwhile, the industrial design peak opened its big mouth to spit out my samples. In that moment of relief I realized I would haven’t to sleep there.

Such injection of enthusiasm pushed me to try to solve the problem. Me and the industrial design peak had a long chat. I started telling my plan for the evening and what I thought would be nice to do in the weekend. We then moved towards my upcoming future: my flat, my career… In a moment of dismay, I agreed with the centrifuged that I could wait for my samples to deposit by themselves, rather then bother it.

g=1

It would have worked, if I haven’t to defend my thesis in a couple of years. PhDs are so short, I thought.

By the end of the conversation, I moved the industrial design peak by pity and it started working.

Thank you Mr. Beckman, now I can wait 1.5 h in my office (18.00) and write a post about you and your stupid industrial design peak.

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