Hello, my name is Mouse_Maven and I will be tormenting you this summer.

In the lab this week I have been filling out the various forms necessary to hire student workers for the summer. There are safety forms where we pledge not to expose the students, and their little gametes, to radiation or unsafe chemicals. (Much to my chagrin, “unsafe” is not defined. A 50 kg tub of regular table salt can be unsafe, depending on what you’re doing.) Then there are the insurance papers, the payment vouchers, etc.

Usually, I despise administrative paperwork, but this time I don’t mind. Every summer I get a crop of high school/undergraduate students to “assist” me. This year, I actually have some control over who I will be working with.

First order of business, I changed the job description for a student worker.

Many young people have no clue what research is actually like, and they have very high expectations. The CSI shows can roast in the most abysmal depths of the worst hell man has ever imagined. Every summer I have to explain that opened toed shoes, mid-drift baring tops and shorts are not allowed in the lab, and every summer I hear, “But on Constant Science Inaccuracy they wear those things!” Yeah, and the actors get paid more for one episode than all the grant money this lab will get in a year. We do real science here and it is very mundane. The acids will burn your skin. The needles are sharp and full of expensive reagents. DNA extraction and testing takes days, if not weeks. Budget shortfalls are a constant problem, not a plot point. Any body parts you may see are from real people, who suffered and died in less than photogenic ways. Great discoveries do happen, but after years of tedious work. “Eureka!” moments are few and far between.

Of course, I won’t tell the students all of this. Some people thrive in this environment, others don’t, the point of this is to help the students decide it this is what they want to do. There are kids with contagious enthusiasm, and reminded me of why I went into this field in the first place. There students I hate working with because their ambition is greater than their ability. Then there are some who are just plain pains.

Let’s see what the summer brings!

As an undergrad (long ago) I worked in a neurophysiology lab doing work with the marine nudibranch Hermissenda crassicornis. One of the animal caretakers (a work study student) was doing maintenance work on a big salt water aquarium which held our research subjects.

She approached me with a worried look on her face. She asked me if the mecury thermometers were expensive, since she broke one. I told her they were cheap, just be sure to clean up any pieces of glass. No problem, she smiled, it broke in the aquarium.

We had to shut everything down, trash dozens of animals, and consult professionals on mercury clean up. :frowning:

Mouse_Maven, does this mean that your job is secure (for at least a little while)? Or are you still waiting for the other shoe to drop?

My worst nightmare! I’m very protective of my mice. They’re are living beings that need to be treated with respect. I have had a few students who were to egar about learning how to perform a cervical dislocation, and I have refused to teach them.

That is one of my “weird things that happen in veterinary practice”. I will see a snake, whose owner has brought a live mouse for me to force feed to the snake. I will humanely kill the mouse and feed it to the snake. My very next appointment has a pet mouse that is sick. :wink:

Still waiting for the other shoe to drop.

I gave my boss a tour of our animal facility and surgical area today. For the past few years, my co-worker The Aussie has done all of our surgeries. He left for a better job back home last month. :frowning: - for us. Dr. Boss has done mouse transplant procedures before, its just been a long time. He isn’t to happy right now.

“When does your maternity leave end?”
“The baby is due end of September. So I’ll be back around the end of Decemeber.” Crossing my fingers as I said this.
“Well, we may be out of business by then.”

:mad: Great. He’s always been pessimistic. I had to tell him to shut up when we were in the animal facility.
“Why should I be quite?”
“Because you don’t spit in the waiter’s face when the food is bad!” There were animal care techs around, I started out as one and I know that they take the brunt of a researcher’s anger. Its unfair, since they don’t make the rules.

:smiley: Funny isn’t it?

The last lab I work for did oncology research. The PI wanted his mice to live as long as possible. Why? So there would be nice big tumors when we finally did kill them. :rolleyes:

Hopefully, its not open toed. :smiley:

Gotta love them nice big tumors. The largest tumor (as percent of hosts body weight) I ever surgically removed was a rat mammary tumor. I forget the exact numbers, but after removal the tumor weighed just a tad less then the rat. It was a male rat,btw.

Best of luck with your baby! My daughter was a September baby, born 16 years ago.

I once said in a pseudo-Gump voice, “Life is like a swollen rodent. You never know what you’re gonna find.” Since then, I have been banded from discussing my work whenever food is present. Some people are sooooo squemish! :stuck_out_tongue:

I once removed a 5g spleen from a mouse that was 15g before I opened her up! Part of me wanted to have that organ stuffed and mounted. :smiley:

Gah! I can’t think what astrological sign usually occurs with September, but I’m sure the kid will drive me nuts!

No Goddamned Open Toed Shoes!!!

I may as well have this tatooed on my forehead.

Well, there will be some time between the start of the epidural & the birth, but I’d advise against it. Would you consider “open other end” instead?
(Those cervix rods would probably be hell on dental work anyway. :smiley: )
Someday, on a trip to Wildwood, someone’s going to find me worth dissecting. Boy, will I regret this post then…!

Virgo, then Libra. I’ve known a few kids born on the cusp of both, and it’s a bit odd if they follow the “patterns” of both signs. Indecisiveness and perfectionism should never be paired off in one personality. Not that I believe in astrology or anything…

[innocent look]

So…flipflops are okay, then?
::: flees :::

Throws empty 15ml conical tube in your direction. Swears. Stomps off to eat lunch. No cake for you tomorrow!

Virgo for the first three weeks. Libra thereafter. I’m a Libra. (Sept. 26th – though evidently the nitpickers call it a “Virgo-Libra Cusp” because it occurs within some kind of three-day window where Virgo and Libra get funky or something, whatever the hell that means.) MindWife is a Virgo (Sept. 20th).

Y’know, I really like the CSI shows (Miami excepted), but I know most of it is unmitigated bunk. Seeing real researchers on the news and such really shows what it’s all about: Lab coats, masks, head coverings, and lots of fussing about with beakers and vials and eyedroppers and centrifuges and stuff. Not a toned midriff in sight!

I just looked up “cervix rods.” There aren’t enough :eek: 's to express how freaked I am now! The Mouseling will be an only child!!!

Its interesting. I’m a lab manager. Most of my day to spent filling out forms, filing, ordering supplies, nagging people about training renewals and safety procedures (Dr. G, you need to take the annual radiation safety quiz. This incubator is for bacteria, that incubator is for tissue culture. If you mix them up, I’ll make you clean them.), breeding mice, harvesting tissues, and organizing information. Somehow, all of this turns into science. :confused:

Nah. Just get you a pair of cadaver feet, put open toed shoes on them and nail them to the wall.

YES. The (extremely prestigous) graduate program that I work in decides admissions based on previous research experience, not grades, because so many very bright people don’t work well in lab. It’s frustrating, nothing comes out as planned, results take FOREVER, and if once everything goes perfectly, you have to do it again - with control samples. Many excellent students find that they can’t cope with the uncertainty.

Bless 'em. Had one of these two years ago. Still in high school, but already knew a ton of biology and was the most productive student I’ve ever seen.

I think I’m getting one of these this year.

Dear student: No, sweetie, you are not going to get listed as an author on a paper. Listen sweetie, I know you’re ambitious, hardworking, and smart. That’s obvious from the fact that you even found us, and all of your references say so. But you’re a freshman. You’ve only taken intro bio. You can barely keep up when I explain the basic concept of what we’re doing, and I haven’t even started on the complex genetic engineering involved. It’s not that you’re stupid (you’re very bright), but you just don’t have the knowledge base to make a valuable intellectual contribution at this stage. You will be working as my slave, doing what I tell you to, and in return for which I will be giving you extensive training in valuable techniques and the concepts behind them. Be greatful for that, because it will put you in a much better position to get authorships later.

I ignore these. My boss is too soft-hearted to fire a student in the middle of a semester, but I’ll be damned if I waste my time trying to train and tutor someone who doesn’t want to learn.

Here are some of my favorites:

The students who are incapable of generalizing. You need to keep that sterile. Yes, you need to keep it sterile when you bring it into the other room. Yes, you need to keep it sterile when adding new solutions. Keep it sterile in the house, keep it sterile with a mouse, keep it sterile here and there, keep it sterile everywhere!!! If I find you’ve contaminated it don’t tell me that I hadn’t told you to keep it sterile on Tuesdays!

The students incapable of multitasking. Hey, what are you doing? Oh, standing there, waiting for the water to boil. How about doing this other chore while the water heats up?.. What are you doing now? Waiting for the water to cool back down to room temperature. How about doing this other chore while it cools?

The nod-and-smiles. If you don’t understand, ask questions! I’ll answer questions until the last trump with a smile on my face rather than let you mess up my experiments.

What are your greatest students?


GodDAMN that’s a good idea.

I love you! Sire my children! ::looks at distended belly:: Uh, scratch that. Can I admire you from afar?

Ahhh, yes. I have encountered all of these students.

My favorite student: She was a junior in college. Very hard worker, took direction well, didn’t give me any trouble. Last year, I ran into her on campus. She was about to defend her thesis. She remembered me and thanked me for helping her get started. :slight_smile:

One of my biggest struggles is getting the kids to listen to me. They think that only the PI can tell them what to do, I’m “just a tech.” Unwritten lab rule #1: Once a phd becames a PI, they *rarely * do bench work. If you want to learn, you listen to the techs. Also, I’m the lab manager. My word is law. I will toss your ass out of the lab if you don’t follow the rules, PI be damned. You’ll be gone in August, the PI has to deal with me 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a years.