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How to be good at the bench


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8 replies to this topic

#1 jangajarn

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Posted 21 May 2009 - 05:09 PM

Hello all,
I've heard several time about people being "good at the bench" or "having good hands". Being a relatively new graduate student, and encountering problems with my experimentation skills, I ask all the guru's of mol biology to clarify those terms. What does a 'good laboratory worker' do that an 'ordinary' worker might have missed? How does he execute his experiments that he's always successful? Is it because of good planning? good execution? or experience? Please guide me.
Thanks!
Ranga

#2 swanny

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Posted 21 May 2009 - 05:51 PM

Hello all,
I've heard several time about people being "good at the bench" or "having good hands". Being a relatively new graduate student, and encountering problems with my experimentation skills, I ask all the guru's of mol biology to clarify those terms. What does a 'good laboratory worker' do that an 'ordinary' worker might have missed? How does he execute his experiments that he's always successful? Is it because of good planning? good execution? or experience? Please guide me.
Thanks!
Ranga

Planning: yes.
Silly saying: "The more I prepare, the luckier I get". Think about your controls and what they'll show you if the main expt doesn't give you your expected results.

Execution: yes.
You need to be organised. Something I wish I was better at.

Experience: sometimes.
Sometimes all the planning in the world, and organisation of your workspace and your day can be thwarted by other events (and I don't just mean accidents). Members of our lab learned the hard way that LB is the best medium for growing bugs for plasmids preps, even though other media give higher cell density (so theoretically more plasmid). Those other media may give you more cells/DNA to purify for every 100 ml culture, but if enzymes don't cut the DNA as well, you need to do a lot more work. That wasted far too much time...

"Success" is a bit of a slippery term. It can come from the above discussion, but it can also come from having a project that works, as opposed to an interesting idea that can't be solved. Maybe that's where experience really helps...
Heart disease kills more women than breast cancer, but heart attack symptoms differ from men's symptoms. Get to know your heart... it could save your life.

#3 HomeBrew

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Posted 21 May 2009 - 06:42 PM

The biggest part of experience is coming to know what is important and what isn't. I see many people obsessing over things that have relatively little impact on success or failure. Also, do not be a "kit scientist". Using kits is fine (I use them all the time), but not understanding the purpose of each step and reagent of the protocol leads to silly mistakes (like vortexing a plasmid prep during the lysis step, for example).

#4 K.B.

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Posted 22 May 2009 - 01:48 AM

I would like to add - do not overcomplicate or "overcontrol" your experiments, use KISS principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid!).

#5 jangajarn

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Posted 23 May 2009 - 11:08 AM

Thanks guys. Just a follow up:
http://www.protocol-...?showtopic=8203

#6 lab rat

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Posted 13 October 2009 - 08:30 PM

...do not be a "kit scientist". Using kits is fine (I use them all the time), but not understanding the purpose of each step and reagent of the protocol leads to silly mistakes (like vortexing a plasmid prep during the lysis step, for example).


HomeBrew is right. Read your MSDS before using the reagent; you'll save yourself a few headaches if you know how to clean it up before you spill it.
42..."An immutable fixed-precision number of unlimited magnitude." <a href="http://en.wikipedia....amming_language)" target="_blank">http://en.wikipedia....amming_language)</a>, accessed 25June2009.

#7 Inmost sun

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Posted 03 July 2011 - 08:41 AM

being good at bench needs various inputs;
however, an important thing is:

when I started with lab work as a student assistant I tried to learn from EVERYONE in the lab; so, a close contact to your lab mates is essential i.m.p.o.v.

#8 ReResearcher

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Posted 10 January 2012 - 09:00 PM

Eventually, you will be able to churn out tons of extremely high quality science (then you graduate:). In the beginning, be methodical and perfectly organized. Learn organization tricks to make things easier on yourself. So you can do, and not have to think about it as much (minimizes confusing errors). To be productive, learn to recognize when you need to be fastidious and where you can be more relaxed without sacrificing the quality and rigor of your experiments. For instance, to get a time point in a cell culture experiment, sometimes I pour PBS on the cultures, to rinse, rather than pipetting it....this doesnt effect my results and allows me to get the time point. Which isn't to say this is a good idea:) but sometimes things dont work even though you did everything perfectly.

Know your protocol frontwards and backwards before you start. Write out a step by step list...eventually youll know it by heart.

Know the theory (chemical reactions, equations, kinetics and expected results) involved so you can recognize a good result from a bad one.

When you get a bad result, figure out WHY things didnt work and redesign your protocol accordingly and last, avoid this as much as possible by learning from people (lab mates, and department wide...Ive even learned stuff from people outside my department) that know what they are doing. Take that and make it your own (modify) if need be.

Edited by ReResearcger, 10 January 2012 - 09:24 PM.


#9 rhombus

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Posted 20 January 2012 - 05:48 AM

Hello all,
I've heard several time about people being "good at the bench" or "having good hands". Being a relatively new graduate student, and encountering problems with my experimentation skills, I ask all the guru's of mol biology to clarify those terms. What does a 'good laboratory worker' do that an 'ordinary' worker might have missed? How does he execute his experiments that he's always successful? Is it because of good planning? good execution? or experience? Please guide me.
Thanks!
Ranga



Dear Rangajarn,


The most important thing is LISTEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Then you can start learning

It does help to have people around you who are worth listening to. Be flexible in what you can do practically. There is a process that occurs when doing experiments in science:-
Read about the area you are going to be experimenting in

Try and meet people who are doing/have done similar work....this reduces the time that can sometimes be lost optimising conditions.....its called the "tricks of the trade" which are not to be found in the "Materials and Methods" sections of published papers.

Prepare thoroughly...have I got all the chemicals, consumables, equipment, SOP's that I require.

Do I have the correct supervision by senior staff when I first start. Do I know how to use all the equipment I need to do the experiment. IS THE EQUIPMENT CALIBRATED SO I CAN DO ACCURATE AND PRECISE AND REPRODUCIBLE EXPERIMENTS.

CONCENTRATE ALL YOUR EFFORTS ON 1 THING....... do not be persuaded to "multitask" i.e. give time and effort to get reproducible and accurate experiments that can be repeated, not only by you but by others!!!!! Once experience THEN multitask....but beware even experienced researchers make errors if put under too much pressure from the PI/Professors.

I personally found the process daunting when I first worked in a research lab in 1983. However over time you will go through the process many times, and like anything in life the more you do it, the easier it becomes.

Hope this gives you some ideas.

Kindest regards

Uncle Rhombus




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