Debbie Knight

A day in the life: September 22, 2011

In research log on September 22, 2011 at 4:14 pm

From time to time, I will give a glimpse into the “glamorous” life of a research associate and talk about what I’m doing in the lab on a particular day. These entries I will call “A Day in the Life…”

Working in an older building means there’s always something that needs attention.

Today was no different – except I was the one to stumble onto the problem this time.

I was asked by the department chair a few months ago to check in on a lab of a scientist who had left the university — specifically to check on the cryopreservation tanks that contained frozen cells used in his research. The cells will eventually be shipped to him when he settles into a new position.

So, today, when I entered the lab in the basement of my building, I noticed a number of the ceiling tiles were water-stained — a large number of them. They didn’t look this way last week when I checked the lab.

As I walked deeper into the lab, the water stains got heavier, the air felt more humid, and I could see steam coming from a wall vent.

What?! That’s not right.

I opened the door next to the vent and flipped on the light. Until a moment ago, I didn’t even know this door existed, so I had no idea what I’d find inside.

Yep, Houston, we definitely have a problem.

I was looking at the back of a steam sterilizer (or autoclave) and steam was pouring out of a pipe. The wall and light switch (which I had just flipped on) were dripping with moisture. The floor was flooded, but thanks to a small drain in the floor, the water hadn’t quite reached the lab.


I turned off the light, hoping I wouldn’t be electrocuted in the process. I closed the door hoping this simple act would make the problem go away. And I quickly walked to my office on the fourth floor imagining the steam pipe was about to blow. I hoped I could find the right person to call to fix this hazard.

It took a while, but someone did finally show up … I think. There appeared to be an unmanned, orange stepladder hard at work on the problem.

I sure hope it knows what it’s doing!


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