July 20, 2008

Amplify Naked: In the Lab on a Sunday

I'm here at the lab this afternoon. See?

You can tell it's a lab because there are microscopes and other sciencey-looking things in the picture.

It being Sunday, I'm the only one in the lab, which is a bit lonely but also very nice. During the week, we have an undergrad here on a summer project in which he's working under the supervision of a post-doc to sequence a whole bunch of Boletales specimens from another university to make sure that they're actually what they're supposed to be. Most type specimens were collected before the days of molecular analysis and so in many cases nobody is as sure of their identities as they could be. It's a worthwhile project, but with everybody else doing their molecular thing, too, the clean lab is often at capacity. I have a sizable experiment I'm working on, testing a couple of primer sets for my so far-elusive cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 genes under a new protocol on the thermocycler. It's not that complicated a project, really, but getting it all set up requires a bit more physical room than is usually available. I'm just now waiting for the cycler to finish before I run a gel and hope that I actually get some bands. Then I'll be able to see if one of the primer set works better than the other, if both sets work well and the difficulty has been all about the annealing temperature, or if the whole thing just isn't going to work for some reason. I suspect the combination of a new, family-specific primer set and a different thermocycler regimen will solve the problem. We'll see.

Because there's nobody else here today, though, I also got to watch an old Del Tenney drive-in flick after getting the thermocycler set up. I watched the amazingly goofy Horror of Party Beach in a conference room. There's something particularly gratifying about kicking one's feet up and watching a cheezy flick about radioactive jellyfish-zombie-monsters that eat only nubile young beach party girls and the scientists trying to devise ways to destroy them when one is sitting in a biological science center and waiting for PCR products to be amplified. You can always tell the scientist in a 1960's rubber suit horror flick; he's the guy in the white coat, smoking a pipe and saying things like, "The organs of these beings are too decomposed to retain oxygen so they've been replaced by sea anemones. They're giant protozoa!" Errrr... yeah. I hope I don't give an answer like that when I take my quals.

I did want to get this experiment run today for another reason, too. With LL coming home, I won't be here most of next week. If I get everything ready for the sequencer by the end of the day today, I can have it on a plate tomorrow and get my sequences back on Tuesday. Or I can have it ready for the plate on Tuesday and then download them and toss them into an alignment next Monday. Either way works, really.

34 more minutes left on the thermocycler now. You know, if I'd have known I'd be the only person here today, I'd have amplified naked.

Nobody touch that line. It's going on a t-shirt.

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