Saturday, June 07, 2008

The Learning Curve

(Editor's note: this is was written a week before it was posted for editorial reasons)

This was an interesting week. First, loyal readers will be delighted to know that I am penning this missive from a new MacBook.

So, this week I felt incompetent. In the lab I was trying to do stuff on my own so that I could learn as much as possible, but when you walk by yourself, you can trip. I did just that. Two days this week were true blunderfests. It seems that there's a threshold error level, above which errors tend to accumulate more rapidly. That happened with my neutral lipid samples. Without delving into the gory details, I managed to mis-transfer about half of my samples at one time or another. Rather than having nice vials containing only triglyceride or fatty acid, I now have a nice mixture, exactly what I was hoping to avoid. Yesterday, before acid methanolyzing my samples, I managed to contaminate two reagent bottles. Then, flustered, I also forgot to remove the chloroform from my samples before adding the acid methanol. I don't actually think there was a long term effect to this, but it made me feel dumb. We'll see tomorrow if they turned out.

After bumbling around the lab, Mindy and I went over to our friends Dan and Maggie to eat dinner and help them with their house. The girls left together to get paint while Dan, Rich, and I worked on the kitchen. Dan and Rich are rather deft with their hands, while yours truly is not. Obviously this is not some innate capacity, but of course skills learned by practice. I just have never been taught how to hang a door for instance. So, I stood around foolishly until Dan and I figured out something I could do that didn't require too much skill. Combined with the morning's mistakes in the lab, I felt pretty incompetant by the late evening.

Epilogue: The specimens didn't turn out too well, though not strictly because of my blunders. The purification method we were using wasn't high enough yield, so we have gone with another route for purifying the lipids. The TLC extractions weren't working because the lipids would oxidize in the atmosphere while the plates were drying. Consequently we are going to use HPLC in order to purify the lipids for use on the GC. In english, this means we are going to use a machine to purify the lipids rather than using glorified sand covered glass.

1 comment:

Maggie said...

Just to let you know, you're help is MUCH appreciated in our house. We NEED it right now and we're ever so grateful for it.