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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


#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!”


#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?”


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

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


Honorable Mention 

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


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