Diary Of An Undergrad Summer Lab Rat
Written by Alex Tang
Like many other science students at Columbia, this Bwogger spent his summer working in a research lab (immunology). Here, he shares his summer experiences, based on (mostly) true events. If you did SURF, SRI, or any type of research this summer, you might be able to relate!
Lab rat (noun): An undergraduate who spends their days holed up in a research lab, due to a genuine interest in science, a sense of nihilism, a pre-med agenda, or a combination of the above.
Day 1: New lab, new me! I’m going to learn so much about XYZ! My PI is so smart and sooo chill, the grad students seem happy, and I got my own white lab coat! Maybe I’ll even publish a paper by the end of the summer (fingers crossed)??? [edit: you won’t]
Day 2: Where is everything?
Day 3: Where is everything?
Day 4: (spends 5 minutes trying to calculate a 1:1000 dilution while my mentor silently watches/judges)
Day 7: Summer in New York is supposed to be hot and humid, but not for me! I bring a sweater to lab everyday to weather the constant labroom chill plus regular trips to the cold-room AKA Antarctica.
Day 10: Contaminated samples! Go back to start!
Day 11: Where is everything again?
Day 15: I’m now an expert at beginning and finishing a round of Subway Surfers during a 10-minute Miniprep centrifugation.
Day 17: It’s 1pm, but I totally have time to start this ELISA! Three 1.5 hour incubations, so I should be out by 6pm at the latest!
Day 17 (9pm): Why am I like this
Day 23: A perfect day in lab! All my pipette tips fit on the first try, all my assays worked, and I got out of lab at 4:45pm! And it’s Friday!
Day 26: Accidentally dropped my gel before I could read it under UV light. The world is cruel.
Day 28: There’s something therapeutic about pipetting through hundreds of samples. I even have my pipetting playlist established (includes “Work B**ch” by Britney Spears, “Feel It Still” by Portugal. The Man, and a whole lot of Panic! At the Disco)
Day 31: Gave my first lab presentation! I can sum it up in three words: Still In Progress
Day 33: At this point, my friends are used to me showing up to dinner/parties/kickbacks 30+ minutes late, because my experiments *always* run behind schedule
Day 35: Hey, my data isn’t consistently inconclusive anymore!
Day 38: By this point, I can emotionally, spiritually, and morally relate to 80% of the memes on the High Recombination Frequency Biology Memes page on Facebook.
Day 44: Putting together my poster for the final presentation! Six more days to go…
Day 45: I have a dream where I’m somehow trapped in an Excel simulation. Can you guess what I’ve been doing all day?
Day 46: Literally what is statistics
Day 48: The new grad student just asked ME where something was! Oh how the tables have turned.
Day 50: I present! People ask questions. I magically know the answers???
bad gel results via rice.edu
Tags: always running on lab time (aka thirty minutes late!), bwog science, elisa is bae, if you dont listen to britney while pipetting what are you even doing, is statistics black magic, where is everything, wot in titration