Wednesday, October 6, 2010

I know the game so well....

Today was one of those days that I was going to get a ton done.  Seriously.  I got to work an hour early for a meeting, got my stuff was going to be awesome.

After a productive meeting with my PI and a fellow professor in our department, I felt hopeful.  Said professor has taken pity on me, and is offering time and his post-doc's expertise to help with isolating/quantifying some compounds of interest.  Sweet.
The catch was that said professor is going to leave town I need to summarize the protocols popular for these compounds.  Knowing how these things go....this was gonna take some time.  But hey!  It's cool.  I had my cultures in check: bring on the work!

Or no.
I was quickly reminded I needed to hunt down some cultures and start them growing for something else.  No biggie. 
Our lab is split between two smaller labs, as my PI is slightly new to the MRU we're at, and I'm told the MRU is renovating a shiny brand new should be finished in a year (or so they say).  My bench & desk are in one small lab area shared with one other post-masters student who has stayed on as a tech.
The other lab down the hall has the other current PhD student, and all of the undergrads. 
I rarely use the fridge in the other lab because I'm rarely there....but there might be the chance I'll find an old plate of the desired culture.  As I'm digging around...I notice everything is wet. 

The freezer part of the fridge has been frosted over for some time.  I noticed in July it was a little difficult to close the fridge, but it would still close.  But now, I sense that something is very wrong.  The reagents don't look cold.  I ask a nearby undergrad what's up with the fridge.
Ungergrad:  Oh, the frost over the freezer blocks you from closing the door all the way.
Me:  So it isn't getting cold enough?
Undergrad:  Yah
Me:  Did you just notice this today?
Undergrad:  No.  Probably earlier this week.

WTF?  Earlier this in 2-3 days ago.  There's stuff that we use in there.  Stuff I use occasionally for gels and what-not. 

Immediately my day has shifted.  Trying to cram everything into the fridge in the lab space I'm at...locating a cold room to store other stuff.  Then start the de-icing process of hammering away at the freezer, borrowing a hair dryer from another lab so I don't damage the coils in the freezer.... 
I'm annoyed because if someone had told me this on Monday, I could have taken care of it.  It wouldn't have cut into the day so terribly. 

But I know why the undergrad didn't mention it to anyone.  She didn't want to get stuck doing it herself.  Maybe she had a class to run to, or homework to finish...or whatever.  I did that kinda crap when I was an undergrad (well, kinda - I stayed and helped for 2 hours when a freezer went down). 

So I sent an email to the lab group:  hey, if something is broken/not functioning/etc., even if you don't have the time to fix it, no biggie.  Just let us know.  I'd rather have an undergrad shoot me a "oh by the way...I think the fridge in room #xxx is acting funny..." email sooner rather than later. 

As a grad student I accept that I'm cheap labor and part of my duties are the mundane lab maintenance that undergrads aren't required to keep up.
But...A) some of those reagents could be worthless from spending ~24 hours about 4°C
And B) I could have soooo easily done this Monday or Tuesday of this week.  Not today. 

I was planning on catching up on sleep this weekend anyway.

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