Thursday Thoughts

Hey everyone! I hope you are having a great Thursday! I saw this feature recently on Sar’s blog, and I thought I’d participate this week.



I hate to get preachy on y’all but I really need to get this one off my chest. About a month and a half ago, I trained a student (who for the record is NOT in my lab) on a simple lab procedure. To make things simple, I’ll call this person Student X. Student X seemed competent and had previous experience doing this type of procedure, so I gave the training and didn’t think anything else of it. On Tuesday, I was training another graduate student (also not in my lab) on a different procedure which required the same piece of lab equipment last used by Student X. I searched high and low for the desired piece of equipment, but could not find it. Upon locating Student X, I was informed that he/she (i.e. Student X) had accidentally broken it. Over a month ago. When I asked Student X if he/she had reported it and/or ordered a new part, the response I received was “…well no…”


Let me preface what I am about to say next by stating that I am the most accident prone person ever. And I mean ever. When putting together my thoughts for this post, I mentally cataloged all of my infamous lab incidents. The following is a brief listing for your reading pleasure:

  1. The Metallograph Software Flub of 2009: While taking a measurement on a metallograph, I messed up the installation of the data analysis software really badly. So badly in fact that the facility manager had to spend the entire next day reinstalling the software. Afterwards, he sent out emails to the group that had ALL CAPS giving us VERY EXPLICIT instructions on how to use the instrument (which was kind of nice because I hadn’t received a proper training in the first place…but alas that is another story for another day). I also had to endure a painful meeting with a well-meaning manager who kept asking me questions like “are you SURE no one was pressuring you to ACT RASHLY??” For the record, no one was pressuring me to “act rashly”…I just pressed a few wrong buttons.
  2. The Compressed Nitrogen Cylinder Incident of 2010: I accidentally left a nitrogen cylinder open overnight, and the lab tech had to replace it in the morning. Apparently this was a REALLY unpleasant task for her to complete because she never let me forget it (even though I told her I was sorry at least a 100 times). She gave me the stink eye and the cold shoulder for the rest of the summer.
  3. The Digital Pipette Snafu of 2011: I spent most of 2011 in a boot cast. While working in the lab one day, my cast got caught on a cord and I knocked a digital pipette off the counter trying to untangle myself. I had to send it away to get fixed, and tell the entire lab what had happened since at that time it had been the only working pipette that could handle large volumes. Sorry about that guys…

My point in documenting these mishaps is not to bemoan the fact that I am a klutz, but to show that I am uniquely qualified to understand that accidents happen. I also know from personal experience how hard it can be to fess up when you’ve made a mistake. What I don’t understand is not telling anyone when something goes wrong, and even worse, not doing anything about it. Part of being a responsible graduate student (and an adult in general) is having the maturity to admit that you’ve made a mistake and the willingness to accept the consequences. In this case, the consequences would have been extremely minor since we merely needed to order another (relatively inexpensive) part, and it would have arrived in time for us to take this measurement. Instead, we had to waste an hour begging around for a loaner part from another lab, and of course order a new part. Not cool kid, not cool…

O.k. I’ll get off my soapbox now.


My latest obsession is audio books. To those that know me well this may come as a surprise considering all the tirades I’ve made against “alternative readers” (i.e. audio books, e-readers, etc). While nothing will replace sitting down with a good old-fashioned paperback, I have to face the fact that I have a finite amount of time to read while my “to-read” list on Goodreads grows larger every day. I actually really like having a book to listen to while I  commute to school and run on the treadmill. I recently finished Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares and started One Day by David Nicholls.


During the past few weeks I’ve been experiencing a heavy dose of springtime wanderlust, so it really cheered me up to finally get my summer travel schedule (mostly) in order. I have plans to visit Houston in June, and go home to Kansas in July. I’m getting very excited!!!


While putting the finishing touches on this post and procrastinating from reading biology papers I don’t understand conducting “social research” on Facebook, I came across The Graduate Student Email Decoder by Beth over at Science and Cupcakes. I laughed really hard, and was temporarily able to forget that I know nothing about biology. Thanks Beth!


That’s all for now. Hang in there, it’s almost the weekend!


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Sarah
    May 03, 2012 @ 14:21:04

    Oh my gosh. Your story about Student X reminds me of why I don’t work with lab assistants! They drive me nuts–I’m much better off if I can just do it myself.

    I love hearing from other graduate students! What in biology do you study? I’m a neuroscientist, so let me know how you like the pop neuroscience book you’re reading for your book club goes. I’ve heard mixed reviews, so I’ve been hesitant.

    Thanks for linking up!


    • exlibrisheather
      May 03, 2012 @ 15:52:24

      Hey! I’m studying materials science, coming from an electrical engineering background. There is a growing bio-materials section of our research group, and when those group members give presentations I have no idea what they are talking about! So, I decided to take a biology class this quarter as an elective. I’m learning a lot…but I also realize frequently how much I really don’t know. I will post a review for sure when I’ve read the book. We were given three choices, and that book was had the best reviews so we’ll see…


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