My first stop on my way into the lab is my little lab bench/office space to drop off my backpack. Then, I always go to the shared office space (where there is usually fresh food someone brought) to check in with my bench mentor, Julia. She and I go over the plan for the day, and we both write it down on a sticky note to keep track of our “to-do list.” The actual details of the plan vary from day to day, but, most often, it includes me returning to my bench to first prepare some PCR samples and sticking them in the thermocycler. Then comes the waiting.
There tends to be a lot of inactive time in the lab when Julia and I discuss the project, next steps, what’s actually happening while we’re waiting, etc., but usually this time gives me the opportunity to update my lab notebook. I spend a lot of time organizing it, taping in important pictures of gels we’ve run, writing down data and results and next steps. As someone who likes to keep a physical planner and bullet journal on hand for organizational purposes, the physical lab notebook is the perfect way for me to stay organized, and I make sure that it is kept pristine and well-detailed.
About 30 minutes before the PCR is done, I head over to the main lab space to pour a gel to run with the PCR products so we can image the gel and see if the products are the right size. This doesn’t take too long, and usually by the time I’m done, the PCR is nearly ready. After the samples are ready, I take them over to the shared lab space to add the loading buffer and wait for the gel to finish setting up. Carefully, I load the samples to a finished gel sitting in a buffer solution, then I hit start and let the gel run for about a half hour. This waiting is more anxious, because we’re so close to seeing if our reactions worked. Then it’s time to image the gel, print out pictures, and Julia and I discuss what the next step is.
For the first few weeks, it was often more PCR and more gel-running, but now we are getting to an even more exciting part of our project where I’ll get to learn new procedures, and hopefully perform a biolistics transformation within the week. Even though I’ve grown a lot in terms of becoming adept at performing many of the day-to-day lab procedures on my own, every day is a new adventure in the lab, and each hour is an opportunity for me to learn something exciting.