Home Laboratory Top 10 Lab Fails

Top 10 Lab Fails

#6 – The golden penny

“I first coated a copper penny with zinc sulfate, turning the penny a silver color. When you put a newly coated penny on a hot plate for 6 to 10 seconds, the zinc and copper are supposed to mix together into a golden-colored metallic alloy. Thus, the magic “golden” penny should have emerged. Leave it on the hot plate for too long and the zinc will melt into a liquid, leaving a barely recognizable coin, and according to According to Title 18, Chapter 17 of the U.S. Code, a possible fine and/or jail sentence.” -Margaret Jensen

over-heated copper penny lab fails


#7 – The fish blot

“These were my first few attempts at western blots. I would forget to roll out bubbles, my gel cast wouldn’t be set up properly, and somehow my proteins would get into wells that I hadn’t loaded protein into. I’m doing much better now though!”

western blot with a bubble that resembles a fish


#8 – Don’t leave your cells at home

“I defrosted a vial of cells to begin a new culture. After centrifuging the vial, I changed the media and resuspended the cells in new media. After adding the cells to the flask, I checked them under the microscope. They looked smaller than usual, but I thought it ought to be fine by the time I come back from the weekend.

Flashforward to Monday, my cells look no different from Friday. There are no attached cells and definitely no proliferation. Weird. I trypsinize and centrifuge my other cell culture flask and notice the vial cap on my water balance in the centrifuge is a different color than usual. I lift the vial and see my cell pellet at the bottom. I had tried to culture the water I used to balance the centrifuge instead of cells. Big oof.”


#9 – The mystery gel

“Maybe faulty reagents, maybe experimental mistake, maybe overheating. Who knows?”

lab fail - gel migration gone wrong


#10 – The little bottle who could(n’t)

“I autoclaved a little plastic bottle to re-use it. It didn’t make it.”

lab fail - autoclaved plastic bottle 

Honorable Mention 

“Autoclaved two carboys, apparently only one of them could take the heat :(.“

lab fail - autoclaved  carboy gone wrong


LabTAG by GA International is a leading manufacturer of high-performance specialty labels and a supplier of identification solutions used in research and medical labs as well as healthcare institutions.

Autoclave Labels


Alexander Goldberg, Ph.D.
The scientific writer and social media manager at GA International. Dr. Alex Goldberg earned his Ph.D. in biology and previously worked as a post-doc in toxicology and medicine, studying chronological lifespan in yeast, anti-neoplastic small molecules, and the genetics of tuberous sclerosis complex.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Most Popular

How Scientists are Tackling the Problem of K-Ras in Cancer

K-Ras belongs to the family of RAS genes whose gene products comprise some of the most important signaling modulators in cancer cells. It governs the...

Tips for Planning Labwork

One of the primary skills a scientist should have is planning and organizing their work. Multiple experiments often need to be carried out simultaneously...

Research Spotlight: Dr. Anjana Venkataramanan

This week's Research Spotlight focuses on Dr. Anjana Venkataramanan, a former Ph.D. life science researcher who recently transitioned from academia to industry. She has...

Barcodes Vs RFID: Which is Best for Your Lab?

When it comes to tracking and tracing samples, the best options available are either barcode printed labels or radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags. For specimens...

Connect with us


More Categories

Recent Comments

Michelle Yin on The Science of Cryogenics