Monthly Archives: June 2012

Starting labwork proper

So for the last few weeks I’ve not been doing proper work, I really only arrived in the lab in June so I spent a lot of time settling in. I still don’t know who we order paper towel off or where the acrylamide lives. I still don’t own a set of pipettes (I’m sure you’ve been following that ongoing saga…) and there aren’t spare ones in the lab (which is very strange, seems to be a mix of them getting broken or nicked).

Today, I set up my first proper experiment of the project, and, as always, was far less prepared that I’d like to be. It seems the buffers I made a few weeks ago are growing (hate that) and so in the middle of it all, I had to make up a few buffers (thank god for PBS tablets). Even though I find setting up and doing experiments can be pretty stressful, it still feels good to get a start on things. It’s just a preliminary investigation and I still don’t have a way to book the flow cytometer, but I still reckon it’ll work out just fine! (well, who knows how the data will be, but I’ll survive the adventure anyway)

Searching for help – the University Disability Office

So I had dropped into the disability office on campus at the very beginning of my PhD, but due to getting moved from lab to lab for the first few months, I didn’t have an opportunity to drop back in until today.

The office is far quieter after the exam boards have met, as their undergraduate wards have completed their exams (at least until autumn!). I went in trying to see what information I could get on e-pipettes (still looking), and other “adaptive technologies” for the lab.

The woman responsible for postgrads was very helpful, but admitted that her background isn’t in science so she couldn’t advise me directly about lab equipment. However she’s going to contact other disability officers in other Universities around the UK and Ireland to see how they cope with arthritic biologists. Hopefully (surely!) I’m not the only postgrad biologist in this boat, so I look forward to seeing how other people get around in the lab.

The other useful thing I learned from visiting the office is that they can apply on my behalf for grants for adaptive aids, so the e-pipettes and easy open microfuge tubes would count as such. This is especially good, given the limited funding for consumables and laboratory supplies that we were assigned for research (why are biotech reagents and equipment so expensive!).

VWR e-pipette: Review

So today I got to try an electronic pipette, specifically this model. The local rep very kindly arranged a loan of a 0.5-10uL and a 10-200uL set of them (serious kudos to the rep though, he’s the only person to find me samples to actually trial).

The instruction manual I was loaned was pretty basic, covered everything you need to know, these are the buttons and this is how to set the functions. I couldn’t figure out how to set the reverse-mode for standard pipetting, but I imagine there’s more if I had gone poking through the settings.

The pipettes don’t need a fancy charging stand, you can just plug them in and bung em in a drawer. However, you can’t use them while they’re charging, which is a potential drawback.

Now for the moment of truth: are they any use at pipetting and how are they for arthritic hands…

As they were a loan of someone’s working set, I just trialed them with water and a balance (can’t be contaminating someone else’s stuff!). They pipette grand, they’re easy to programme and the various mixing/multidispense/normal modes work grand.

And for my hands? Not much use unfortunately, after about five minutes of playing with them, my wrist started to hurt and I found it difficult to get a comfortable grip on the pipette itself. The aspirate/dispense button is around the back of the main barrel of the pipette and the tip-ejector button is directly on the front. In order to operate the aspirate/dispense button with my finger, I had to hold my hand away from the pipette, which was not comfortable, essentially I could press the button OR hold the pipette comfortably. I had no problems with the tip ejector, which is good as that can be a problem for regular pipette usage (for those times when you REALLY JAM ON THE TIP).

All in all, it’s not comfortable for my hands but it seems like an ok pipette otherwise. At €380 (.ie list price) for a single pipette, it’s not overly expensive for an electronic one but you’d still want to be happy with what you’re buying. Sadly, I’m going to have to continue looking….