Real Research

What has been your most profound or surprising intellectual experience? or, Tell us about an experience that has changed the way you view yourself.

I arranged the bottles in front of me: 30% acrylamide, TEMED solution, ammonium persulfate, Tris buffer, and distilled water -- all of the materials I needed to run electrophoresis on the protein samples I had isolated earlier that morning. Oh, and isopropanol to even out the gel, I remembered. I reached for the bottle labeled “99% isopropanol,” but after angling it slightly, I realized that it was empty. I walked to the storage cabinets on the other end of the lab and peered inside. No isopropanol.

I found my mentor in the cell culture room, hunched over a microscope. Spraying antiseptic alcohol on my latex gloves, I hurried over.

“Dr. Wang, we’re out of isopropanol in the lab,” I announced after waiting several seconds.

Still staring into her culture medium, Dr. Wang replied, “Did you sterilize yourself before entering?”

“Yes, I did, with -- with the alcohol over there.” I pointed to a green plastic bottle that lay next to the electronic pipettes.

“The isopropanol is in the cabinets. I showed you yesterday,” Dr. Wang stated.

“I checked there and there’s no bottle of isopropanol. There’s just propanol, but--”

“Really? We’re out of isopropanol?” Dr. Wang finally looked up. “Remind me to place an order.” She returned to her cell...

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