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MIT student blogger Hamsika C. '13

Lessons Learned in Lab by Hamsika C. '13

Applicable to life.

Yes, I know it’s a Sunday, but nonetheless, I went to lab around 2:30 pm. As I walked out 3 hours later, I had the beginnings of a blog entry in my head. And now, that mental blog entry is here :)

I was thinking about lab and about how these past few weeks in Bhatia Lab have taught me about more than fibroblasts and the hepatitis C virus. From lab, I’ve learned a little about life – and how to live it:

1. Tell the truth. I’ve done some pretty stupid things in lab. Case in point: I’ve cracked coverslips, broken pipettes, multiplied incorrectly, and accidentally poured out too much or too little of the volume in question. I’ve shamefacedly but honestly gone to my graduate student and reported each of my accidents. Nonetheless, I do realize how terribly each of our experiments would have gone if I had lied about any one of my errors. Honesty works best.

2. Get a good night’s sleep. Every night. I’ve been in lab as late as 11 pm, and I come home exhausted. 8-9 hours of sleep does wonders for lab stamina though. Sleep is magical.

3. Don’t know something? Ask for help. I’ve asked so many questions at lab that I’ve probably driven my grad student crazy at times. When something doesn’t make sense, it is so worth it to take a few extra seconds and truly understand what’s going on. It also saves moments of looking dumb later on.

4. Think before you speak. While asking questions is great, thinking for yourself has its own merits. A couple days ago, I unthinkingly asked my grad student if I should put 2 microliters of a probe (used for FISH: fluorescence in situ hybridization) into an empty tube instead of first putting the solvent buffer in and then the 2 microliters. My grad student just looked at me for a moment, then said, “Really, Hamsika? Really?” After which I felt silly, lol. 2 microliters is clearly too small a volume to be chilling in a tube on its own.

5. Have an idea? Share it. One of the greatest strengths of lab work is the fact that there are often established protocols for various approaches and techniques. Sometimes, though, it pays sometimes to stray outside the box, take a risk, and try something different. Question everything! Understand why you’re doing what you’re doing, and then see if you can make it better.

Haha, okay, I think I’ve been deep and philosophical enough for one day. Till next time!

16 responses to “Lessons Learned in Lab”

  1. Great post. I especially like the part about being truthful. pro veritate! If only more people thought this way…

  2. Hamsika '13 says:

    haha, it ends up adding up to 40 hrs. yeah, i haven’t worked overtime yet, although some urops in my lab do.

  3. @ HAMSIKA


  4. anon says:

    Are you even allowed to work that much…? Do your extra hours just become volunteer hours? Or does it just end up amounting to 40 hours a week?

  5. Keith says:

    Awesome post. What are you majoring in?

  6. Hema says:

    This is exactly what I learned from working in a corporate office….. You have articulated it very well….

  7. kilanko paul says:

    that really wonderful hamsika.can i get you no or facebook page address.

  8. Hi,I am Karan from India,currently I am a high school junior…..Oops is it too much detail?Anyways can I ask you an off topic question???Who much did you score on your SAT Reasoning Test..

    Thanx a ton!!:D

  9. Hi Hamsika,I am Karan from India,currently I am a high school junior…..Oops is it too much detail?Anyways can I ask you an off topic question???Who much did you score on your SAT Reasoning Test..

    Thanx a ton!!:D

  10. anon says:


    So they just don’t get paid for the overtime hours? ):

  11. Hamsika '13 says:

    @ anon – if your lab funds you, you might get paid for extra time you work, but as far as the UROP program goes, it caps paid time at 40 hours per week.

    @ Aarti – OF COURSE I REMEMBER YOU!! can’t wait to see you in a couple months smile

  12. Aarti says:

    Hi! Loved reading this, just like I love reading all your blogs smile Do you remember me?! haha

  13. Treadmill says:

    Nice site, i wonder whether i can buy an ad area at your site

  14. Sohaib says:

    Labwork, you have to love it; but it comes with it’s own ups and downs. I remember breaking my first pipette… quite embarrasing. Closed the tap a little too hard and crack, it was in pieces. Most people would say it would be clumsy to break things in the lab, but I say that if someone hasn’t broken anything in the lab, he/she hasn’t done enough practice raspberry.
    On the side note, I have to agree with all your points, honesty has it’s own ways. You’re going to have to lie a million times to cover up your original lie.
    Sleep, something that most students deprive themselves of. But it isn’t only the number of hours of sleep that affect you, but also the timing of sleep, which depends on the biological clock or otherwise the circadian cycle of a person.
    One thing you notice nowadays is that most people don’t ask for help because they think that they may be ridiculed or belittled by others. Not true at all. In fact when you ask for help, you may help the person you ask as well, by increasing his knowledge. Science will never advance if people don’t collaborate and ask for help. Same thing about sharing ideas, if you don’t share it, it may never come true.
    On point 4, think before you do anything :D.
    I remember reading a quote somewhere, I don’t know who said it, but it went something like –
    “Before you speak, listen.
    Before you write, think.
    Before you spend, earn.
    Before you invest, investigate.
    Before you criticize, wait.
    Before you quit, try.
    Before you retire, save.
    Before you pray, forgive.
    Before you die, give.”

  15. Hamsika '13 says:

    @ Sohaib – that’s an awesome quote!

  16. is a great site