Debbie Knight

D’oh! Moment #429

In observation on March 14, 2013 at 11:32 am


This illustration I found on PhD Jokes’ Facebook page made me laugh because it’s so true!

I can’t tell you how many times this has happened to me. You have your 8-channel (or even a 12-channel) pipet aid, tips loaded and (blam!) one of the tips falls off.

You can carefully tighten down each of the eight tips before dipping them into the solution you are transferring, yet somehow it happens.

You suspect that tiny gremlins are at play because you did, after all, take the time to make sure each tip was secured. There could be “no” other explanation like you bumped the tip on the side of the plate that helped dislodge it. Nope, certainly human error is never a possibility. It must be, without a doubt, gremlins.

Okay, so it’s highly unlikely that the oft blamed creatures are the source of the problem. And even more unlikely that your lab mates or your boss would believe such a tale.

So how to fix such a predicament.

Well, sometimes you get lucky. The tip lands in such a way (like back in the appropriate well or somehow upright) that you can carefully pick it up and “save” the experiment by reattaching the tip.

And … sometimes you can’t.

Sometimes you will have to add a new tip – carefully – without touching any of the others still in place on the pipet aid.

Sometimes you just have to transfer the samples you have and come back, armed with a single pipet tip, and load the lost sample separately.

But there are times, like when you are transferring everything from one well to another  that  by dropping the tip, you’ve managed to lose the entire sample. There’s no coming back from that. Unless … in your infinite wisdom you built in replicate wells into your experiment (i.e., you designed your experiment to have multiple wells testing the same experimental condition).  This is always a wise thing to do.

Another problem that can arise from dropping a tip: when you are transferring infectious or radioactive samples. This is certainly worthy of an expletive or two. You’ve just created a bigger problem. Not only have you possibly lost an experimental condition, but now you will have to decontaminate the working area before you can continue.

Sure, I can laugh at the joke in the illustration above. Now.   While sitting at my computer typing this post. However, it’s not quite so funny when it actually happens during an experiment. And, yes,  I’ve been known to say an expletive or two, sometimes they’re rated G and sometimes not so rated G.

Of course, my most caustic string of expletives will never be a match for one of my lab mates from days long past.

Noelle was the best  at stringing along expletives when experiments go awry.

She sounded a little like the Looney Tunes character, Yosemite Sam.


You could hear her mutter the curses under her breath and it really did sound a lot like “sassafrassin’ raggafrackin’ fillaburgin’ braginstachin’” except they weren’t nearly so tame.

Her rants always made me chuckle.


So as not to further disturb her.

Ah, the good ol’ days.

  1. Certain companies put small rubber rings around the multi channel micropipettor’s area that holds the tips to give it more grip… If your micropipettor is one of such and the rings are missing, consider getting your equipment calibrated, the company will replace any missing rings as well, and if the rings are missing, chances are it requires maintenance as well…

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