lab-tech

Day 4 - I had a meeting today that required a bit of artificial courage, so I pulled out one of my favorite lipsticks!

Today’s Lipstick: Thus is a custom Bite lipstick I made at the Bite Lip Lab in New York City.

If you ever have the opportunity to go to the Bite Lip Lab in NYC, I highly recommend it. The “lab techs” help you mix up a custom lipstick based on your specifications and needs. It’s super fun and I’ve never been disappointed in the results! This lipstick, for example, is the only pink I’ve ever purchased that I really, really love. And that’s because it was made specifically for me!

I’m working for University of Florida again this summer as a lab tech at one of the research stations. Hooray for another entomology summer job. I’m not entirely sure what my duties will be this time, but I’m going to be working in a lab that focuses on controlling invasive plants through insects instead of controlling invasive insects. 

2x20 ideas - Simmons & Lincoln

I’m really excited about that sneak peek for all of the reasons but lets have a look at Simmons and Lincoln because I think putting those two in one place in these circumstances is very interesting.

  • There is of course the “Do you think she’ll stay” question paralleling Fitz and Simmons with Lincoln and Skye. But there’s also the fact that Simmons (probably, since none of the lab techs around here do anything) would have been in charge of Lincoln’s care.
    • This means that a) Simmons was actively working to save and look after an inhuman and b) Lincoln was being touched/drugged/operated on by somebody he is afraid of; he knows Simmons only as a representative of SHIELD and the creator of the gloves, which he sees as restraints, possibly even as cruelty, and which he has taken as a sign that she is opposed to Inhumans.
  • Lincoln’s opposition to Simmons, expressed to Skye, may come up some more. The bit in the sneak peek was in Simmons’ hearing, so we might see Simmons reacting to that.
  • If Lincoln continues to express concern/fear/anger in her hearing, Skye might come to her defence. Hopefully in her hearing. And Simmons will realise that her desire to help Skye has not fallen on a cold heart, has not come across wrong, has not made her seem like a monster, has not hurt Skye and may even have helped. Even if she doesn’t believe she was in the right any more, she will at least know that. I’m cool I’m fine.
  • If Skye does not come to her defence, maybe Simmons will defend herself. She hasn’t been doing that a lot lately. She feels like she deserves a lot of the crap she gets because, as she said to Skye earlier in 2B, she doesn’t feel like she’s done anything right except to decide to eradicate alien DNA, and that hasn’t gone too well for her thus far. If she got Skye’s x-rays and showed them to Lincoln to explain the gloves, this would be a good start. If she got some angry-crying in there I would not be opposed.
  • Simmons being in charge of Lincoln’s care also means that she has been in contact with alien biology very closely related to electricity, static and electric shocks. Cast your mind back to FZZT. I know it’s not hard for many of you. Simmons’ first contact with the alien virus – and a major incident from which she draws her skepticism/hatred/desire to eradicate alien biology – started with one tiny electric zap. The choice to give Lincoln those powers, and then bring him that close to her, and while she is in her medic/ME capacity…I can’t help but think that’s interesting. It also adds to the headcanons/potential that Simmons has anxiety or PTSD or similar, and to the potential that we might see that addressed one way or another if she or anyone else makes the link and expresses concern for her wellbeing in the circumstances.
4

Biosafety Levels 1-4

We’ve known that breathing in or touching infectious/infected material is probably bad since before germ theory, but it wasn’t until 1943 that our first formal guidelines and laboratories for technician separation from the infectious agent were set up. It was the 1960s before the first conference to standardize personal protection equipment (PPE) guidelines. 

These days we have 4 basic safety levels when working with biological agents: Biosafety Levels (BSL) 1-4

BSL 1 includes well-understood agents not known to regularly affect adult humans, and which present a minimal level of hazard to the technician. Canine hepatitis, non-pathogenic strains of E. coli, and other non-infectious bacteria. Aside from standard healthy-living procedures (washing with soap etc), laboratory equipment is decontaminated via autoclave between uses, protective gloves, and sometimes protective goggles are required.

BSL 2 includes many of the milder infectious diseases that we know about, such as Salmonella, measles, mumps, MRSA, C. difficile, and hepatitis A, B, and C. These are sometimes serious illnesses, but are not easily aerosolized in a laboratory setting. When aerosols may be formed, biological safety cabinets are used, extreme care is taken with sharps, access to the laboratory is limited during work, and all technicians are trained in pathogen handling procedures.

BSL 3 includes dangerous pathogens that can cause potentially lethal infection, such as Yersinia pestis (black plague), rabies, SARS, tuberculosis, tularemia, and yellow fever. Laboratory personnel have specific training in handling pathogenic and potentially lethal agents, and are supervised by competent scientists who are experienced in working with these agents. All procedures involving the manipulation of infectious materials are conducted within biological safety cabinets, specially designed hoods, or other physical containment devices, or by personnel wearing appropriate personal protective clothing and equipment. The laboratory usually has special engineering and design features, such as restricted access, double-door entrances, and sealed penetrations. BSL 3 laboratories are sometimes called warm zones.

BSL 4 includes the most lethal and exotic agents that there are no cures or vaccines for, such as Ebola, Lassa, Argentinian hemorrhagic virus, and smallpox (smallpox for its extreme virulence, despite its vaccine availability). When dealing with biological hazards at this level the use of a positive pressure personnel suit, with a segregated air supply, is mandatory. The entrance and exit of a level four biolab will contain multiple showers, a vacuum room, an ultraviolet light room, and other safety precautions designed to destroy all traces of the biohazard. Multiple airlocks are employed and are electronically secured to prevent both doors opening at the same time. All air and water service going to and coming from a biosafety level 4 (or P4) lab will undergo similar decontamination procedures to eliminate the possibility of an accidental release. Agents with a close or identical antigenic relationship to biosafety level 4 agents are handled at this level until sufficient data is obtained either to confirm continued work at this level, or to work with them at a lower level.

Members of the laboratory staff have specific and thorough training in handling extremely hazardous infectious agents and they understand the primary and secondary containment functions of the standard and special practices, the containment equipment, and the laboratory design characteristics. They are supervised by qualified scientists who are trained and experienced in working with these agents. Access to the laboratory is strictly controlled by the laboratory director.

The facility is either in a separate building or in a controlled area within a building, which is completely isolated from all other areas of the building. A specific facility operations manual is prepared or adopted. Building protocols for preventing contamination often use negatively pressurized facilities, which, even if compromised, would severely inhibit an outbreak of aerosol pathogens.

BSL 4 labs are hot zones.

Cranquis Recommends: Lab Tech (aka Clinical Lab Science, aka a gazillion other names/acronyms) blogs

Ok then – here they are, in no particular order, with mini-reviews from me.

[Be aware, my “reviews” are based on (1) my 30 seconds of splashing around in each blog’s archives and (2) my having retained absolutely zero knowledge about histology after med school exams were over….]

  • i-heart-histo – lots of original posts, including very creative “look-alike” feature (“This cross-section of a penis looks like a Cartman” LOL!) 
  • Fuckyeahmedlab – mainly reblogs, small archive but good tag index
  • Medical-lab-minds – written by a CLS student, very large archive, takes questions about pursuing CLS career
  • Medtechthings – written by an “ASCP certified MT” with 4 years experience (sheesh, you lab folks love your acronyms!), small archive, takes questions about “anything”
  • Clinical-lab-scientist – written by a “RMT and an ASCPi laboratory professional”, mainly reblogs, medium archive, no updates in past few months
  • Clsprobs – a large archive of original "De-motivational"-poster-style graphics about problems and pet-peeves in the CLS world (which encourages readers to submit your own); my favorite, purely because the meme-based concept is simple for non-lab-techs to understand; sadly no updates since Oct 2012
  • Fyeahmedlab – not to be confused with “Fuckyeahmedlab” (or “fyeahmethlab” haha!), this massive-archive blog is written by a “biomedical science graduate who is working in a hospital laboratory in Ireland”; it appears to be the grandaddy of CLS Tumblrs, posting since Oct 2011
  • Laboratorysciencemajorrbc – this Tumblr has apparently cornered the market on the CLS meme; a moderate-size archive of amusing memes, infrequent posts lately
  • Laboratorysciencereview – a medium-size archive stretching back to 2011, excellent index, mixture of replies to CLS questions and lab science board-review material

I’ll add more to this list if further submissions come in.

Special thanks to LOOONG-time Cranquistador lifeispandemic for providing the bulk of these recommendations!

Welcome to science! If you’re new like me, there is something you should know:

how much pipetting you do is directly correlated with how new you are to the lab. 

This is something I discovered rather quickly. While tedious, it is a great place to start because, though mindless and monotonous, it is the foundation of scientific research. (Or at least that is a nice thought when you’re on hour #3 and sample #492 and your right thumb is going numb.)

When I started, most of my 8-12 hour workday was pipetting. My two main tasks were running PCR and taking blood plasma samples, both of which require hundreds and hundreds of pipette pulls. 

I’ll talk more about the specifics of the experiments I do, but first thing is first. When anyone asks what I do all day, the simple and honest answer is:

Pipette. A lot.

Organoids: 3D Printed beating cardiac cells

Researchers from the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center Institute for Regenerative Medicine have developed 3D printed beating cardiac cells, called organoids. They converted adult skin cells into a network of functioning heart cells & fused them with lab-grown liver cells using a 3D printer ( multiple organoids form ball-like spheroids, which can then be printed in various shapes).

“The heart organoid beats because it contains specialized cardiac cells and because those cells are receiving the correct environmental cues,” says Ivy Mead, a Wake Forest graduate student and member of the research team. “We give them a special medium and keep them at the same temperature as the human body, and that makes them beat. We can also stimulate the miniature organ with electrical or chemical cues to alter the beating patterns. Also, when we grow them in three-dimensions it allows for them to interact with each other more easily, as they would in the human body.”

Popular Mechanics has an exclusive video:

The goal of the program is the replication of real organs for a body-on-a-chip or organ-on-a-chip, which will be used to model the body’s response to contagions.

[read more at popular mechanics]

Lab Tech blogs, anyone?

At the request of Cranquistador introvertedloudmouth, I’m collecting a list of “lab tech / clinical lab specialist / medical lab scientist” Tumblrs. Any recommendations from my readers? (As always, you’re free to recommend yourself).

Meanwhile, here are some previous posts which collect Cranquis-Recommended blogs of various categories:

(and check out the #Cranquis Recommends tag for further individual blog recommendations…)

A note about hours.

I am way too exhausted to write a long post right now, but I think this is a great moment to talk about how many hours I, and many of my labmates, work in a week. 

This picture was taken on a Saturday in the evening. And I wasn’t the only one there. You see, science doesn’t operate within the 9-5 constraints of other jobs. Try telling cell cultures or mice to “wait until tomorrow.” Unlike paperwork, or whatever the rest of the global workforce is doing, months and months of work can die, literally die, if you do not attend to their needs at specific times.

For example, I ran a month-long experiment in my old lab that required me to fast, feed, and test mice at specific time points. The first one was 5am, the last at 4pm, with 3 in between. A missed time point means botched data, and botched data means bad science, and bad science makes you a bad scientist. Existential crisis ensues. See how critical time is?!

Other than the demands of your experiments, working late/early/weekends is also a product of fluctuating workloads. For the past three weeks I had no PCR to run, and had a fair bit of free time. Then on Friday I received four emails in a row demanding genotyped samples immediately. So in order to process the 500+ samples, I had to work Saturday and Sunday.

So the lesson is, science doesn’t care that you want to wake up and go to sleep and eat and socialize at specific times. Science first, life second.

2

This is my life taking a detour. 
I am proud to say that I now work for Columbia University Medical Center
as a Lab Technition. I’m very very excited about this position.

At this very moment I still wish to be a doctor one day, but I’ve always wanted to get a step into the research world…and this job is really the best of all worlds for me. I get to do a little research, I get to have a job, and I get to not waste my years off.

PCR (polymerase chain reaction)

For those unfamiliar, PCR is a process that allows for the amplification of a specific DNA sequence. It is a foundational component of laboratory science that utilizes transgenic animal models. In my lab, I use PCR to test the DNA of our mice to determine the presence or absence transgenes so they may be used in experiments or paired with a mate for breeding purposes.

**This video does a fantastic job of explaining the specifics of the process: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_YgXcJ4n-kQ

When I joined the lab, my first project to tackle was genotyping 1000+ samples that had accumulated in the freezer. The samples were packed in little plastic bags in groups of 10 in no particular order. We have 10+ transgenic mouse lines, so organizing the samples took 2-3 solid workdays.

(Three months later, I still haven’t made it through all of the samples)

Prior to joining the lab, I had never run PCR on my own. Suddenly I was faced with a tidal wave of samples and eager emails from post docs. 

Luckily, my lab uses the DNeasy Kit by Qiagen (lamest name ever) which, as the name suggests, makes DNA purification foolproof. Tissue samples are digested in solution overnight. The resulting “mouse soup” (as my supervisor put it) is run through a series of washes until you are left with purified DNA in a buffer solution. This is the part that requires 2-3 hours of pipetting, depending on the number of samples.

The DNA is combined with primers and water in preloaded strips of wells made by Bioneer. Each well contains DNA polymerase, dNTPs, and tracking dye. Again, I am very lucky, because most labs combine these components themselves, which is time consuming, allows for greater inaccuracy, and can require extremely toxic materials that guarantee your babies will be weird.

The strips are placed in a thermocycler specifically programmed for the DNA sequence I am trying to replicate. When this process is complete, I should have one bajillion copies of the target sequence. One. Bajillion.

ONCE AGAIN, I am so lucky. My lab has a QIAxcel, which basically eliminates the most tedious and time-consuming aspect of genotyping, namely preparing and running a gel. All I have to do is pop the strips into a futuristic space box, program a few things, and the QIAxcel does all of the work in an impressive 10-30 minute timeframe. 

So what is the end product? A bunch of lines that indicate the presence or absence of the target sequence. If a line appears and corresponds to the expected bp or molecular weight, then the gene is present in that mouse. 

A lot of work for a few little lines. But when those lines appear nice and crisp, there is an undeniable sense of satisfaction.

Thank god for well-funded labs.

When it rains, it pours.

As I mentioned in my last post, I worked all weekend due to a tidal wave of samples to be genotyped. Here is a portion of my workload. All the samples are in various stages of completion. The box contains tail/ear/toe clippings (stage 1), the top orange and purple trays are digested clippings (stage 2), the red and orange trays are purified DNA (stage 3), and the bottom are samples that are currently in the thermocycler (stage 4). Not picture are the 96 samples being analyzed in the QIAxcel (stage 5). 

Also not pictured is my shelf in the freezer, which repopulates itself with more and more samples at a disturbing, ungodly rate.

fishmostly asked:

Do you know anything about lab technician jobs? If not then it's ok I can continue to research them myself but I was wondering if you had any insight as to job requirements or possible places of work (surely places other than universities and govt agencies have labs to work in?) or anything really.

Lab techs are very important people. They tend to be under-appreciated, and certainly there is a certain stigma in the sciences against lab techs, because they are seen as being inferior to the ‘real researchers’. But that’s bullshit. Lab techs know their equipment, the techniques, the chemicals. They teach the researchers how to do their research. Unfortunately, aside from their real income, that role is only repaid in acknowledgements; lab techs are rarely counted among the authors of papers unless they are working on new techniques. 

Usually, to be a lab tech you have to have a fair amount of experience working in labs. Quite a lot of experience, actually. The best way to do that would probably be to have had multiple research internships, as well as at least a Master’s degree in sciences (or commensurate research experience). I wouldn’t be surprised if most lab techs had doctoral degrees, as it can require quite a bit of experience and knowledge. It’s extremely technical stuff.

Excerpts from some job ads I found on ScienceMag.org:

“A typical candidate would have a Bachelor or Master degree in the life sciences and prior experience doing wet-lab work in a demanding environment. Candidates with a TA/MTA diploma or with a PhD will also be considered.” [x]

“AAS, MLT or MT with at least one year experience or four years related laboratory experience. BS Degree preferred with required area of studies in Chemistry and/or Biology.” [x]

Research institutes hire lab techs, but the most common place you will find positions are in unis and govt agencies. I’m afraid I can’t give you any more information than that.