Sunday, July 22, 2007

1:6 Ratio

I’d like to share an anecdote I have been using with my fellow MSTPs in the last few days:

For every 1 minute of research I have done, I have spent 6 minutes looking for stuff or finding someone to ask.

Frustrating! I know that this comes with being new to any lab, but in my particular one the problem is inflated. First, the lab itself is the older, closed style. It occupies a series of rooms, each with one bench, a fume hood or two, a series of cabinets and drawers, and a computer. Four-ish people use each room, but at any given moment there is at most one occupant per room. Because everything is so compartmentalized, most of the constant-use stuff (tips, pipettes, tubes, etc.) is in each room but in entirely different places. Other equipment (like cryotubes, tissue culture bottles, repeater pipette stuff, stuff for the centrifuges/specs, etc) is spread out in different rooms. Which rooms? Well… I have no idea. There is no central list. There is some, but not enough, rhyme and/or reason to what goes where. The cryotubes should be with the huge stock of microcentrifuge tubes, PCR tubes, and culture tubes, right? Well yesterday I thought so, but for the life of me I couldn’t find them. On Saturday there’s nobody around to ask, so I looked for about half an hour before resulting to yoinking some from somebody’s personal stash and leaving a note of apology.

But on weekdays, it’s easy to ask, right? Wrong. Our offices, where everyone works up their data and does other science-related (or not science-related) computer stuff, is on the 3rd floor. The labs are in the basement. The transit time from B to 3 is long and usually results in somebody feeling the need to go with me back down to B to show me in lieu of just saying “top left shelf in the back of room 209”. This makes me reluctant to ask anything because I feel so bad about making them get up, go to the elevator, walk through the maze of hallways, and point to the shelf where the glycerol bottle is hidden away (there is not one but two chemical rooms, one for organic chem. and one for molecular bio, and only one organized A-Z! Gah!).

This is not an accurate picture of all research here. We are in an older building. I know that most of the newer labs are the open style: one huge room with rows and rows of benches, offices right around the corner, and a long line of all-purpose, multi-user shelves and storage. This is how my old undergrad lab was layed out and I loved it. Got a question? Stroll down the rows and ask. Or just yell. Either way, it saved oodles of time compared to running the stairs every hour or so. A good example is on the left (I just googled open lab.)

Don’t get me wrong, I like my current lab. In fact, I am already thinking of joining it when my pre-clinical stuff is through. How will I manage with the closed lab style? I won’t have to. There’s a new building in the mix and word has it that the MIR (the radiology institute of which my lab is a part) will be centralized there. Open labs for everyone! Groundbreaking is slated for later in the year, time of completion is spring of 2009 if my memory serves correct. Perfect timing for my graduate training to begin on a pristine, unused lab bench.

More on open vs closed labs, complete with pictures.

1 comment:

Old MD Girl said...

Ha! For a minute there, I thought 1:6 was a reference to the female:male ratio. Just kidding around, of course.