Debbie Knight

Got a blunder wonder in the lab? There’s an award for that!

In Uncategorized on October 11, 2012 at 9:00 am

With the Nobel Prize going out to various recipients this month, I thought it would be appropriate to talk about the much less prestigious “Dumbass Award.”

Truth be told, I was rummaging around on my computer for a photo and I stumbled upon the completely forgotten “dumbass award.”

A relic of a former lab.

We had a pretty big lab crew. And we were a pretty jolly group.

I can’t remember the specific event that lead to the invention of this award, but one seasoned lab member made a truly rookie mistake that messed up her experiment.
(Please note: it wasn’t me)
This lab member was probably called something like dumbass.
(Yes, it’s not exactly politically correct, but we were a close group, we often referred to each other in such loving terms)
And then some jokester thought it would be a good idea to invent an award for the blunder wonder. Hence the birth of the Dumbass Award.

Let me first say that humans work in the lab. We don’t intentionally set out to make mistakes, but they happen. It’s easy to forget to perform an experimental step, forget to dilute a solution, etc.

Some mistakes are recoverable. Others are not.

But not all mistakes are bad. Sometimes it leads to a “eureka!” moment. Admittedly rare,  it can happen.

More often, the mistake will tank an experiment.

But it takes more than just your garden variety mistake to earn the “dumbass award.” For this award, it needs to be a stupid mistake that is typically witnessed by someone else. After all, no one in their right mind would willingly admit they did something to earn this “auspicious” award.

Receiving the award strongly motivated the awardee to find someone else who deserved it more. No one wanted the award, let alone keep it.

While it wasn’t created to do so, it improved lab efficiency to some degree. Perhaps it increased awareness.

I don’t remember why, but the dumbass award was eventually retired.
Perhaps the same people earned it over and over again.
(Yes, I might have been a recipient a couple of times)
Perhaps people moved on.

But for whatever reason, the award now sits on my computer’s hard drive. And I think I’m happy to let it stay there, reminding me to make every experiment count.

Besides, my lab mate didn’t seem too excited about resurrecting it.


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