Debbie Knight

A day in the life: November 9, 2011

In research log on November 9, 2011 at 1:48 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…”

This fiscal year, my department had to let three researchers go.  I’ve talked about two of them in previous posts (Dr. V and Dr. T). The third researcher (Dr. G) did not go quietly, judging by a few scathing email messages he sent to everyone in the department.

He left a few months ago.

And as a final nose-thumb, he left his lab … untouched.

Dirty glassware still sit on the benches, formalin-preserved specimens fill the shelves, and bottles of reagents and chemicals fill the cabinets and refrigerators.

It’s pretty much a mess! I know this because I weekly monitor the liquid nitrogen levels in his cryopreservation tanks where his cell lines are kept in suspended animation. (The department will eventually ship those cells to him, once he settles in a new lab).

Because my name and phone number are posted on the door as a contact, I got a call today from an inspector from Environmental Health and Safety – she was scheduled to do a routine inspection of this abandoned lab.

Great! It’s stressful enough to endure my own lab’s inspections (which is due any time), and now I have to endure another lab’s?!

Well, unlike some inspectors, she was pretty understanding and decided to call it an “unofficial inspection” since no one was currently using the lab space. She pointed out a few problems that would need to be remedied (a fume hood that needed certification, a few moldy ceiling tiles that needed replacement, etc) and that was it. Pretty painless.

Of course, during the inspection I realized how much it would take to clean out the lab for another researcher to take over the space. And I sure hope it isn’t assigned to me! There are tissue culture dishes in the incubator, mildew growing like gangbusters in the fridge, an endless sea of culture media and reagents that will need discarding, and chemicals that will need to be inventoried for disposal.

But that’s for another day.

  1. Would anyone notice if a few pipettors “disappeared.” I bet there are labs low on funding who could use the supplies, until Dr. G figures out his life. Maybe he won’t come back to lab work. It’s like putting money in a savings these days, it sits there losing value (due to inflation) where it could be used elsewhere and pay off in the long run. Anyways, just a thought.

    • Good idea! The department has yet to open the doors for redistribution of equipment. I think they are using the equipment as a recruiting tool (though in the lab’s current state of chaos, I can’t imagine it’s a great selling point). Unofficially, I will say that a few things MIGHT have found their way to other labs in the department maybe (she smiles innocently).

  2. […] much ”as is” when the faculty member left the university (I talk about this in another post). Hundreds of tubes of cells frozen in suspended animation and other potential biohazardous […]

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