Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Solutions for solutions

Apparently my current lab contains people who cannot or will not order supplies. As a result, we are constantly running out of certain regularly-used items. I know that this problem is not unique to my lab. On a good day, finding a certain reagent or supply completely gone makes me mildly annoyed. On a bad day, this can send me into a rage.
Yesterday, I found myself annoyed as I was having a decent day already. A couple other co-workers and I discussed the ongoing problem and potential solutions. My solution, regrettably, was to start hoarding this particular supply (one that I always need and we are regularly out of) for myself. I really don't like to hoard supplies, but I also don't like for my experiments to get put on hold because some dumb fucking donkey couldn't fill out an order form.
This ultimately lead to a discussion about people taking your solutions and reagents without asking and the remedies we each had employed in the past. (Note: I am NOT talking about a few mls.) My co-workers had tried (1) hiding solutions; (2) writing "DON'T USE WITHOUT ASKING" on the solution label and (3) giving solutions generic names such as "A." My remedies included making the solutions weird concentrations that require the thief to do math. (For example, 1.41M instead of 1M.) The hypothesis here being that if you are too lazy to make solutions, then you are probably too lazy to do math. If this doesn't work, I mislabel my solutions. The label may read 1M Tris, but it is actually 5M NaCl. This is most effective because the thief determines you can't make solutions and quits "borrowing" from you. I was told this was kind of evil, but I think taking people's shit without permission is still worse. Of course, I am an only child and I don't like to share. :)


chall said...

The mislabeling thing is tempting but almost always wrong... if nothing else, you can get in trouble when there is some kind of fire drill etc...

that doesn't stop if from being tempting. I'd go with making strange dilutions :) That is of course, I hoarded some solutions in my previous lab since I knew that there were lazy people who even when they obviously used the last drop of the stock solution didn't order or tell someone else to order (what I think is the least one can ask for) but moved into "Can I have that from you, we seem to be out and I need it now".

(It was hard for them to take it, since I was in lab earlier than they came in and left after them...)

Option two is an open list on the shelf next to the solution/material needed where you sign your name when you take stuff and then a column for "ordering and date". At least it is easy to see who are never ordering things.

the whole "you are in chagge of X and A" is good IF people tell you when they take the last of things. Otherwise it is just passing the buck in a slightly evil way imho. (yes, I've been in that lab too. It sucked having to check certain things every day since people couldn't use their PHDbrain to say "i took the last of x")

(sorry aboutt he long rant. obviously sore subject in this alone child's heart ;) )

LabMom said...

Love the random concentration thing. That is a great idea.

We do the "name/date" ordering method and it still isn't very effective since frequently those lines get left blank.

I also have started using the molecular formulas for solutions. CHCL2 for chloroform,(HOCH2)3CNH2 for Tris etc. It definitely slows down the thieves since they often don't want to look stuff up!

Hermitage said...

I've hoarded and mislabeled like it was my JOB and it worked brilliantly. Especially when one summer student grumbled that my 'ladder' and wtfpwnz0red her gel in an inexplicable manner and everyone in lab giggled at her. It can be tough out there in the academic tundra, every scientist for herself.

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microbiologist xx said...

Chall - No worries about the long rant. This is a common and extremely irritating problem.

LabMom - I can't imagine the name date would be that effective since people who don't have a problem taking stuff that isn't theirs probably don't have a problem leaving the sheet blank.
I like the molecular formulas on the label. There are actually people in my current lab that wouldn't use 2-propanol b/c they couldn't figure out what it was, so this would probably be an effective strategy for me.

Hermitage - Glad to hear I'm not the only one. Besides, it's not our job to make other peoples shit. ;)

LabMom said...

Oh yes.. many a day I have heard "Please order Iso-Prop for me, we are out. All we have left is that 2-Prop. Why do we have that for anyways?"


Dimitris said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dimitris said...

Yep I like it in my lab when they empty the flow antibody vial and then they put it back :).

tideliar said...

I *LOVE* the formula label! Damn, i almost wish I was still in the lab to do that!

I employed my Bulldog/Asshole persona to prevent theft by making the lives of anyone who A) stole MY shit or B) didn't re-order shit a living misery.

My area of bench. My pipettes. My fucking solutions.

microbiologist xx said...

LabMom - In our lab, the person kept ordering isoprop over and over, thinking the order wasn't placed. By the time someone explained the difference, we had at least a years supply.

Dimitris - Yeah, putting the empty tube back is really damn annoying. This is exactly why I keep my own stocks of enzymes that I personally use on a regular basis.

TL - Most of the time, I can only guess as to who the jackass is, so I don't say anything. On the few occasions that I do know who the person is, I don't hesitate to let them know how I feel.

microbiologist xx said...

LabMom - I meant by the time someone explained that there wasn't a difference.