An NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center
By Samuel LaBarge | May 14, 2012
Samuel LaBargeFoolish mistakes are an amazing aspect of scientific research. Mistakes that involve not following a set protocol or failing to follow a protocol or just forgetting there are protocols is not uncommon to a scientist. With this in mind, I have listed a set of bungles from my hands. Some of these examples are given to exaggeration and some are just irritating.
  1. Add 100μL tube A into tube B, repeat ad nauseam. Sounds simple enough, but I zoned out and forgot which vials I just pipetted from and into.
  2. Poured too much polymerizing poly-acrylamide between gel plates. I not only have to remake the gel but also clean up a neurotoxin.
  3. Failed to prep enough poly-acrylamide for the number of gels I wanted to run.
  4. Black leads connected to positive terminal, red leads connected to negative terminal.
  5. Filter paper, filter paper, membrane, gel, filter paper, filter paper, or is it filter paper, filter paper, gel, membrane, filter paper, filter paper?
  6. No methanol in the transfer buffer.
  7. Used transfer buffer in the separation phase (works!) and running buffer in the transfer phase (not so much!).
  8. No cDNA in the qPCR.
  9. Wrong temperature on the thermocycler.
  10. For that matter, wrong temperature on anything required of an exact temperature.
  11. Unpaired t-test vs paired t-test, suddenly things aren’t statistically significant.
  12. Water into acid.
  13. a) Latex gloves that didn’t fit; b) lots of soap; c) shattered the only available bioreactor for my particular experiment.
  14. Have you ever tried to set a quarter on the edge of a desk then flip it to the opposite side with half a rotation? Same principle, but replace quarter with a confluent Petri dish.
  15. Ruined last Petri dish of confluent cells.
  16. Not enough cells for adequate experimental design.
  17. Dropped a full bucket of ice minus samples.
  18. Dropped a full bucket of ice plus samples.
  19. Left samples in liquid nitrogen then went home for the night. Returned the next morning and found no liquid nitrogen and plenty of warm samples.
  20. Labeled samples incorrectly.
  21. Didn’t label samples.
  22. Forgot there were samples to label.