Lab supplies and the Cow-supply-woman

As mentioned in a previous my job and the mental/emotional pain this job generates thread… I’m a lab tech. A lab tech 1.5 years out of college, a lab tech who by and large has no idea what the flying, jesus-cum-encrusted-fuck I’m doing.

This makes itself readilly apparent when I get a variety of things accomplished, like:

Lab cleaning – Leave doors unlocked, leave note… lab is still dirty

Equipment repair – Must get purchase order BEFORE I call repair dude, to get a purchase order repairs must be UNDER 200$, repair guy won’t know how much it is until he gets out, 200$ cap includes hourly labor bill AND parts. --See the dude who electrocuted himself on the floor of the lab.

Supply Purchasing – We need “X” where is something like ubiquitous and requires hunting around in a catalog for a product number THEN having to find the current price for the item.

I HATE purchasing!

My ‘training’ in supply purchasing is slightly less in depth than my BSL-3 training – Don’t lick the floor – and involves a handwritten note which says Skow x446 and no mutant plants.

Neither of which really enlighten me, nor can I remember the significants of both of those scribbles.

Today I had to order a variety of items…

From Sigma.

I HATE sigma. Look, in the scientific world, while related, chemistry and biology supply catalogs MAKE NO FREAKING SENSE.

Sigma is a chemical supply company. Everything from acrylmide – mmm neurotoxin – to cocain – 98% pure in methanol medical reagent grade at $64.593/mg.

Goddamn Sigma… stupid fucking catalog! It’s in alphabetical order, which is nice. It has a product number index in the back. However what I need to order is a) lacking product numbers, because some nameless ass speluncker tossed the bottle and didn’t write down the number or b) product has been discontinued or c) I was told to order something like ‘xylose’ or some exotic sugar for some experiment involving stuff.

Now, I don’t know exactly what I need.

It’s also been enough years, and biological reagents don’t have chemical composition listed on them, that I don’t know enough about the chemical structure of what I’m ordering for me to cruise through the list of IUPAC named reagents to figure out what the FLYING fuck half of them are.

When I finally do find the correct reagent… I’m given about 16 bijillion listings for it. Each one different in purity, stability, culture suitability and size.

Now, explain to me, how ‘mannin’ written on the white board indicates what grade of reagent is needed? Are you using it in a box? With a fox? In a culture? To get some culture? Sam I am not!

Take Tris. A common buffer for biology. Except there are 30+ listings for tris in Sigma, each in about 8 different sizes. Then you also have the TRIZMA® brand Tris :stuck_out_tongue: So I’m looking at 400 SEPERATE entries into the freaking catalog, none of which indicate which one is appropriate for the ‘experiment’.

It’s not really suprising you get crack or heroin cut with ground glass. Trying to figure out which version of the needed reagents I need for experiments run in this lab is making me insane. I can only imagine the poor drug chemist. Trying to figure out which reagents will leave a toxic residue, then they give up and figure if you use ground glass at least you KNOW one way or the other >.<

But, after half the day, the sigma questions are answered and I realize… If I screwed up, I’ll just swap bottles with someone who uses what I purchased.


Oh man, the highlight of my puss filled day. Did I mention I slashed my arm open after I got back from my interviews in Houston?! See, I was still drunk so I staggered in from the taxi dropped my suitcase and instantly tripped and slashed my arm open on a knife on the kitchen counter >.< So I’ve got this nasty red cut which is keeping me out of the BSL-3.


I’m trying to order some fetal calf serum.

Take a developing cow, suck out all of the proteiny goodness and use it to grow cell cultures. Because the serum you take out has all of those yummy signal molecules to make the cells eat and grow big and strong. Much like a 102 lb japanese man at a hotdog eating contest trying to win the all expense paid sumo scholarship.

We’ve got money to spend this year, so I’m ordering some more.

Now, FCS is a tricky bitch to get. Prices vary year to year, quality of the stocks vary and EACH batch you buy MUST be tested to see if it works with your cell cultures before you drop 20,000$ or so on a few dozen bottles.

So first I need to call the company and get a sample sent out.

Strike that

First I need to find the right DEPARTMENT to call at invitrogen to ASK who is my fetal bovine supply rep for my area.

Yes, the ENTIRE WORLD is broken down into areas for various fetal cow byproduct reps.

Boggles the mind huh?

Ok, so 45 min later I find her.

“Whats you account number”

The answer: 1-800-blow-me comes to mind…


“What institution”

That one I can answer.


which one? Street, mailing or shipping? We’ve got 3

“Which product number?”

OH SHIT, Captain Brain comes through again in a big way. I’ll get around to punishing you with alcohol later Brain…

“I’ve got a lot number…”

She now knows she’s working with an idiot.

Ok, so we are now to the point where she knows which institute I’m from, but apparently we haven’t ordered ANYTHING from them in a few years. Which is odd ya know. We’re a biomedical research facility. Someone has to be ordering FCS from these people! Maybe if I knew the account number we used :confused: Or if I had some idea how this all worked! I’d know what the FUCK I WAS DOING!

We’re only really to the part of the conversation that is the equivelent in the dating world of, “No mace! Please for the love of god no mace! I was only holding the door open to be polite, not so I could check out your hot hot as---- aaahhhh the BURNING!” But the entire time we’ve been in this phase she keeps uttering phrases like, “So, for a 1 year supply.”

See, I’m keeping my cards so close to my chest they are blocking a major artery. We’ve only go so much money and I’m trying to figure out if I can get a bulk order discount without mentioning how FEW bottles we’re going to order and how few total dollars we’re going to spend.

Prepair to enter the: Getting to know you phase.

“Wow that’s an OLD lot number”

Yeah, no shit there are 4 of us in the lab.

“So, what account number are we doing to use to set up a reserve and how many bottles?”

Crap, I was hoping for a dollar amount to be thrown around first… Any control of the situation I had has since fled, much like bowel control after eating a pork and chile taco from the south side of san antonio 3 hrs after the lunch rush.

“How much are they?”

“235.19/bottle for 500mL”

I want my complementary sex tour of SE Asia included in this purchase, but I have the feeling that against NIH guidlines.

Carefully doing the math, I figure out how many bottles my boss wants to buy.

We are now past the getting to know you stage and entering that first ackward conversation you get when she invites you over to her place when her parents are gone. When suddenly she says, “Be quiet, my dad is drunk and passed out in the livingroom which shares a wall with my bedroom – he’s a light sleeper!”

“Thats below our minimun reserve number, and we can’t send a sample out unless that is met”

Houston, the vaccu-suck toilet has just snagged the flight Officer’s member and we’re about to begin our decent. Anyone know how to fly this freaking thing?

Now, after hearing about the father you suddenly realize what time it is and are forced with the possiblity of being yelled at for being out so late… so you utter the words of wisdom, “Crap! it’s late, I need to call my folks and tell them I’m at a … friends house” The smile on her face says it all…

Realizing that we can mouth pipette to save cash I up the size of the purchase. We can always whore the monkeys out to A&M students as hookers on the weekends to earn money. Can’t we?

“Ok, then that’s taken care of, I’ll send out a sample.”

PRAISE JESUS! Lube him up and let him have another go at the virgin mary!

"Oh, wait…

You’re buck naked with a hot chick in bed with you, she’s got half her clothes off when she gets that concerned look in her eye.

“I’ve got something to tell you…”

Caught up in raging hormones and blood flow to places with normally much less blood flow, “gah”, is all that comes out.

“I’m a transvestite with active herpes.”

No matter how well something goes, there is always some goddamn thing that FUCKS IT UP!

… I’m not sure I’ll be able to get a sample of that lot number out to you until next week!"

GAH Grant money to buy this expires by then!
:smack: :smack: :smack: :smack:

“Well, all things being equal, we need that sample more than we need that specific lot number.”

“Well, maybe I can get it from our AU source sooner.”

AU source? European source? US source? It’s a freaking fetal cow! Take a few hundred, stick em in a cowsized garlic press and squeeze the cell culture goodness out of them!

arrrg I’m seeing myself blow 50,000$ – having my letter of recommendation amended with the phrase, “Is a waste of sperm” and my prospects of grad school getting flushed faster than what came out of me after those pork and chile tacos.

This rant was brought to you by 4 <---- yes 4 alcohol/caffine free days.

I think giving up alcohol AND caffeine at the same time is dangerous.

Damn… I remember my lab tech days well enough to actually understand most of that. And I do sympathize.

But I really hope you understand when I say I was also laughing my ass off at how well you described it; the comparison to a fumbling sexual experience was just priceless.

Oh, and this part really had me laughing:

I remember mouth-pipetting various unsavory solutions in college labs… :eek:

I haven’t given anything up actually. It’s just simply been 4 days since I last had a drink or pumped my blood full of caffine.

I haven’t given anything up actually. It’s just simply been 4 days since I last had a drink or pumped my blood full of caffine.

Ok, can someone explain to me how I double post 7 min apart when I closed IE between the double posts?

Try Hyclone for FBS/FCS… they are cheaper, 180 something for 550ml

Ha! you think your ordering is bad? at UCSF there is a flow chart that looks like a geometry book puked on one of them Family Circus cartoons with Billy walking all over town! We need quotes, then the quotes need to get approved, then we can order, but only if it is under $2500 (with taxes and shipping and UCSF fees), otherwise we have a whole different form to fill out which goes through the special ed. section of the purchasing dept., who call us daily asking stupid questions. “duh, what is this water filter that you said you were going to use to filter water going to be used for?” is the smartest thing they’ve asked since i started here. Plus they reject orders for reasons unknown to anyone in the outside world. their idea of rush is one month. Big purchases (over $3500) have to be approved, then from an approved vendor (if the vendor is not approved, we have to get them approved, which takes another few weeks,) then the order sits on their desks for a week, then they call because they think we are going to order a 3700 DNA sequencer to make paper copies or something stupid, then they make us fill out some form for cost justification (i.e. prove you have the lowest quote, which we usually say “they are the only vendors”)

Then finally the stupid stuff gets ordered, and because traffic is backed up here, they drop the big items off in the loading bay on the second floor (near the morgue, so we see dead people regularly). so now we have to go down to the loading bay, somehow get ahold of the one pallet jack they have for the 3 15 story hospitals, then take the service elevators (which not only take forever, but perodically beep which means we have to get out because someone is dying and they get priority on the elevators). finally we get to our floor, and all is right with the world (except the empty crate in the hallway which they wont pick up for a week). This ignores the idiot delivery guy who put our $15000 robot on the floor by the ER on the 5th floor and left it there! Or the fact that we are 1329L, not 1329M, who get our stuff often, and will still have a computer monitor that has been MIA for 6 months (someone in the hospital got a new 21" flatpanel…)

thank god we don’t have to order live animals, we’d probably have to jump through flaming hoops while balancing 20 wine glasses on our noses and wearing a ham costume, with no Boo Radley to save us from the madman.

This is why our lab makes the technicians (I’m a TECHNOLOGIST, thank you) do the ordering. They’re so low on the totem pole they’re underground.

The general rule of thumb I follow is to assume that your post always goes through. Hasn’t failed me yet.