At the Nijhout lab, I work with imaginal discs, which are about half a millimeter in size on average. From the time that I get there around 10-11am to the time that I leave the lab around 6pm, I’m either looking under the microscope or staring at a computer.
My typical lab days have become steady enough that I’ve figured out how to stick to a comfortable schedule. Because my imaginal disc batches have to sit overnight, the first thing I do in the late morning is rinse them out and continue adding and washing out different chemicals while working under the microscope. After the procedure is complete and some time has passed, I set the batch onto microscope slides and add coverslips. I then move to a different room that houses a larger microscope with higher magnifications so I can analyze either mitosis or DNA synthesis in the stained discs on the computer. If I feel that I have enough time before 2pm rolls around, I’ll select more caterpillars for dissections, stain them, and let them incubate for 2 hours while I go off to lunch and/or discuss with my PI what my next steps for the project should be. When I come back, I “fix” the discs with formaldehyde (still working under the microscope) and put them in the refrigerator overnight so that I can repeat the process the next day.
It might seem monotonous or boring to some people, but it makes my day to see the stained imaginal discs under the high powered microscope and learn more about my research. I am glad to come into work everyday to continue learning something new.