Posted by: hkempthorne | June 2, 2009

Impressions from the Lab

Well I guess it has already been a month since the beginning of iGem, in some ways it seems like we have come so far and done so much in our research and learning and yet when I think about our project we are still just scratching the surface. The first 31 days have been exciting, engaging, sometimes frustrating and not at all what I expected it to be like. Here is a brief discussion about my thoughts and experiences from the first 31 days.

I am a second year Chemical Engineering student, so I have been in a lab before. I have been asked to perform experiments, comment on results, propose possible explanations for any incoherent data and suffered the consequences when our results did not match the theoretical values, so i guess that you can say that I had some expectations for what my summer might entail. Some of my preconceived notions came true, but for most things I was completly off base. For instance, I knew that I was going to learn alot. I had never worked in a Biological laboratory before so even the most basic procedures, such as maintaining sterility or plating cells were foreign concepts to me, needless to say it was a steep learning curve. However, I was prepared for that, to read protocols, research procedures or ask somebody how things are supposed to work. What I did not expect was the difference in attitude between iGem experiments and in lab experiments. While I still perform experiments, comment on results, and propose explanations for the results, just like in the lab, the purpose of this process is completely different. When your conclusions from one experiment influence what you do next, you take it alot more seriously. An unexpected result is not just something that you explain in a write up, but an obstacle that you must troubleshoot before moving on. While this is more work, I find that I get a lot more out of it then any lab report that I have written. It is necessary to analyze not only what could of gone wrong but what the feasibility of that happening and most importantly what can you do to fix it. When things go wrong it can be frustrating, however this is the part that makes real lab work exciting and worth doing.

Until next time!




  1. I agree, Heather, the molecular biology learning curve is a steep one! You’ll have to post another “lab insight” mid summer to update us on how the lab learning curve is treating you after a couple of months of iGEM.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: