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made idiotic mistake- What to do now?


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#1 lotus

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Posted 07 December 2009 - 04:00 PM

I am a technician in a lab on a good pay level. About a couple of months ago, I made a plasmid construct. I sent it to sequence. When the sequences came back I just glanced through them and it seemed okay and I told my supervisor that the construct was successfully made. I also gave the DNA to a post-doc to be injected into C elegans for further experiments. Injection is back-breaking work and the post-doc spent days on my plasmid.

Only today I had chance to analyze the sequencing data in detail and I found (to my horror) that the plasmid doesn't contain the insert at all. It is simply uncut vector. It was sheer stupidity on my part to not have realized this all those months ago. I immediately informed my supervisor and the post-doc. My supervisor took it very nicely and said we could discuss it in detail later and that I should not worry too much about it and should proceed with my other experiments.

I would have felt better if he had given me a tongue-lashing. I feel like a moron for making such a stupid mistake and also causing trouble for our post-doc and wasting her time.
What should I do in this situation? I am so embarrased right now. Somehow my boss' politeness has made me feel more like an idiot than ever. I feel he should punish me in some way or other, like cutting my salary or something. Should I approach him and tell him what I think? I would be glad of some advice.Has anyone else ever been in a similar position?

#2 casandra

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Posted 07 December 2009 - 07:42 PM

I am a technician in a lab on a good pay level. About a couple of months ago, I made a plasmid construct. I sent it to sequence. When the sequences came back I just glanced through them and it seemed okay and I told my supervisor that the construct was successfully made. I also gave the DNA to a post-doc to be injected into C elegans for further experiments. Injection is back-breaking work and the post-doc spent days on my plasmid.

Only today I had chance to analyze the sequencing data in detail and I found (to my horror) that the plasmid doesn't contain the insert at all. It is simply uncut vector. It was sheer stupidity on my part to not have realized this all those months ago. I immediately informed my supervisor and the post-doc. My supervisor took it very nicely and said we could discuss it in detail later and that I should not worry too much about it and should proceed with my other experiments.

I would have felt better if he had given me a tongue-lashing. I feel like a moron for making such a stupid mistake and also causing trouble for our post-doc and wasting her time.
What should I do in this situation? I am so embarrased right now. Somehow my boss' politeness has made me feel more like an idiot than ever. I feel he should punish me in some way or other, like cutting my salary or something. Should I approach him and tell him what I think? I would be glad of some advice.Has anyone else ever been in a similar position?

Hi Lotus,

I totally agree with you...your supervisor is much too kind. He shld have painted you with honey and burned you at the stake. That's what I would do. :)....seriously, he doesn't even need to be too hard on you cos you're doing a good job of it anyways. Besides, he has probably counted all the mistakes of this magnitude that you've committed while working for him. So how many do you think have you had?

If he's too understanding, he probably has a valid reason so it's high time for you to move on from the "what an idiot, let me beat myself up more" stage. I'm pretty sure there are so many ways you can make up for this colossal mistake like, you know, offering to help out the postdoc student etc., I don't think your salary could be cut but you can work some weekends or have unpaid overtime...etc. Anyways, a good thing you discovered the error and spared no time informing them about it thus owning up to your mistake and then fully prepared to do some form of restitution so that should count. And more importantly, you'd never make the same mistake again. I'm sure you and your supervisor can figure something out.

casandra

Edited by casandra, 07 December 2009 - 07:54 PM.

"Oh what a beauteousness!"
- hobglobin, personal comment about my beauteous photo......

#3 HomeBrew

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Posted 08 December 2009 - 02:23 AM

We've all made the occasional blood-draining-from-our-faces-when-discovered mistake. Your supervisor has likely made them, too -- perhaps he is recalling a time when such a thing happened to him.

The important thing is how you react when you discover such a mistake -- and it seems you reacted appropriately by immediately telling everyone involved.

Now it's up to you to examine how the mistake occurred and how to prevent it from happening again, and be ready with this honest assessment when you and your supervisor "discuss it in detail later". You should apologize to him and to the post-doc directly, and (as casandra says) ask if there's anything you can do to help the lab recover from the mistake. Be willing to put some extra hours in to this recovery effort.

The bottom line is we all make mistakes, and we all wish that such mistakes didn't occur, but when they do, we become better scientists if we learn from them. The damage is done, there's nothing to be gained by beating yourself up, or by your supervisor doing it for you. Apologize, work your ass off to recover from it, and move on...

#4 gogreen

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Posted 08 December 2009 - 06:33 AM

Hi Lotus,

Both Casandra and Homebrew has said the right things about the issue. You did the perfectly right thing of sounding the alarm. We all do mistakes, ranging from silly to the ones we would regret all our lifetime! The damage done cannot be reversed. The best thing you can do now is to apologize in person to both of them and offer unconditional help to get through this issue and move on.

#5 Maddie

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Posted 08 December 2009 - 08:19 AM

Errare humanum est :D

I'd try to take a few extra hours (after work hours) to help the student.
Theory is when we know everything and nothing is working. Practice is when everything is working and nobody knows why. Here, we combine theory and practice. Nothing is working and nobody knows why.

A. Einstein

#6 lotus

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Posted 08 December 2009 - 12:37 PM

Thank you, all of you! Your answers definitely helped me put things in perspective........As you say, I should quit beating myself up and move on with my work.

#7 casandra

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Posted 08 December 2009 - 12:45 PM

You're welcome, lotus. But if you want to beat yourself up some more....we can also help you with that....:P..
"Oh what a beauteousness!"
- hobglobin, personal comment about my beauteous photo......

#8 Prep!

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Posted 08 December 2009 - 07:02 PM

you are waiting to do just tat aint u casandra!!??!!! :lol:

hey lotus... i may be late... i have no advises for u.. lot has already been given!!! but i appreciate your proactive thinking and action... in my previous companies.. one of my collegues made a big mistake and was feeling very scared so dint disclose it and had to lose his job!!! :P
Support bacteria - They are the only culture some people have!!!
Cheers!!!

#9 Doki

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Posted 08 December 2009 - 07:20 PM

there is one saying which Casandra will later explain . . PM her if she does not.

猿も木から落ちる

I appreciate ur boss's patience very much.

I don't think U deserve any kind of punishment. This is a lesson for U to work more carefully and someday forgive any of your junior's mistake the same way Ur boss did yours.
Simple living, highnot thinking

#10 Adrian K

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Posted 09 December 2009 - 07:50 AM

there is one saying which Casandra will later explain . . PM her if she does not.

猿も木から落ちる

I appreciate ur boss's patience very much.

I don't think U deserve any kind of punishment. This is a lesson for U to work more carefully and someday forgive any of your junior's mistake the same way Ur boss did yours.



you mean:" even monkey fall from trees?"
Expecting the world to treat you fairly because you are a good person is like expecting the lion not to attack you because you are a vegetarian.

..."best of our knowledge, as far as we know this had never been reported before, though I can't possible read all the published journals on earth, but by perform thorough search in google, the keywords did not match any documents"...

"what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger"---Goddess Casandra reminds me to be strong

"It's all just DNA. Do it."---phage434

#11 casandra

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Posted 09 December 2009 - 07:56 AM

there is one saying which Casandra will later explain . . PM her if she does not.

猿も木から落ちる

I appreciate ur boss's patience very much.

I don't think U deserve any kind of punishment. This is a lesson for U to work more carefully and someday forgive any of your junior's mistake the same way Ur boss did yours.



you mean:" even monkey fall from trees?"


nice...I thought I read it banana....:).....
"Oh what a beauteousness!"
- hobglobin, personal comment about my beauteous photo......

#12 Doki

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Posted 10 December 2009 - 12:22 AM

that's ok. Monkeys follow banana.
Simple living, highnot thinking

#13 casandra

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Posted 10 December 2009 - 07:34 AM

that's ok. Monkeys follow banana.

:P...actually the only word I can read without the help of our omniscient google is から--from.....Adrian shld teach us japanese....
"Oh what a beauteousness!"
- hobglobin, personal comment about my beauteous photo......

#14 Doki

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Posted 10 December 2009 - 04:32 PM

yeah, we should have Japanese lesson thread also.
Simple living, highnot thinking

#15 kottila

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Posted 04 August 2010 - 12:14 AM

I am a technician in a lab on a good pay level. About a couple of months ago, I made a plasmid construct. I sent it to sequence. When the sequences came back I just glanced through them and it seemed okay and I told my supervisor that the construct was successfully made. I also gave the DNA to a post-doc to be injected into C elegans for further experiments. Injection is back-breaking work and the post-doc spent days on my plasmid.

Only today I had chance to analyze the sequencing data in detail and I found (to my horror) that the plasmid doesn't contain the insert at all. It is simply uncut vector. It was sheer stupidity on my part to not have realized this all those months ago. I immediately informed my supervisor and the post-doc. My supervisor took it very nicely and said we could discuss it in detail later and that I should not worry too much about it and should proceed with my other experiments.

I would have felt better if he had given me a tongue-lashing. I feel like a moron for making such a stupid mistake and also causing trouble for our post-doc and wasting her time.
What should I do in this situation? I am so embarrased right now. Somehow my boss' politeness has made me feel more like an idiot than ever. I feel he should punish me in some way or other, like cutting my salary or something. Should I approach him and tell him what I think? I would be glad of some advice.Has anyone else ever been in a similar position?


I've made so many mistakes that if I was in any other field, I'd probably be fired a long time ago.... One of my supervisors during my Masters did sometyhing similar in that she helped me construct a primer that she should now wouldn't work, because it didn't contain a 5'overhang. Took me three months to figure out why it didn't work. Never held it against her though, as I now I would do something similar myself in the future. Holding a grudge dosen't help with anything anyways.




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