The iLab generation – Invitrogen Apps

No surprise for those who know me IRL, surprise for the others: I’m an Apple geek. One day I got an iPod nano, and a few years later, I am hooked to iPhones, iPad, iClouds, etc …

One of the things I secretly dream about is making use of all of these in the lab. Unfortunately, I am in a relatively PC-oriented, old-fashioned, and not-growing-money-on-trees-but-can’t-really-complain  kind of lab. Nevertheless, I try to make use of my ‘i’ things here and there … and it turns out to be really useful.

One of the first things you find on the App Store in the “lab science” section is the suite created by Invitrogen (or should I say Life Technologies ?).

Prize for the best app goes to the “cloning bench” ! This is your friend if you do molecular cloning. It will calculate a lot of things, find the best buffers for enzymes, etc … 


Prize for the most disturbing and “WTF” app goes to the “Gathering Light”. Here is the description from the website : “Long hours in the lab can leave even the most seasoned researcher flat on the bench. Refresh yourself with Gathering Light, a new Gibco® game and mobile app.”   Right ? Right ? Worst part is that this game comes with the most annoying and stressful background music on earth, so don’t even bother downloading this one.

So, I’m not doing promotion for Invitrogen here, but some people might not know these apps exist, and some of them are actually quite nice. There is also one for making conversions (yeah, yeah, the young generation is lazy), a guide for cell imaging, staining, fluorescence, etc …

iLIKE, you like ?

PI Quotes 6 – “It’s beautiful to be naïve”

Time for a new quote. One that I think about a lot these days.

When I started university, and went trough the Bachelor’s and Master’s years, I -retrospectively- see that I was incredibly naïve. I went through these years smoothly, without thinking too much about it. Enjoying it most of the time, without thinking about the future. Being fearless, spontaneous, and not rationalizing or over thinking too much. Just going for things. I think that’s what they call “early twenties”.

In less then a month, I’m turning 25, and although I know it’s not old, not a big deal, and will not change anything in my day-to-day life, it made me conscious that this naïveté goes away bits by bits. And I’m not liking it.

A few years ago, I thought that people who where honest, well-intentioned, and hard-working necessarily made it through life. I thought that passionate and good scientists should not have troubles getting a nice job at university. I though, with blissful optimism, that life was fair.

With years going by, I see that things are not that bright. Did society change, or is it me, seeing things I could not see before ? I do not believe anymore that talented hard-working people necessarily get a good job in academia, I see that even fabulous research projects do not always get funded, and science looks more an more like an ego-driven enterprise, influenced by finances, buzz words, and fashion. (Don’t get me started on “translationnal research”)

So, yeah, when this PI looked at me in the eyes to say: “It’s beautiful to be naïve”. I knew it was true, I knew I looked naive to him, and simply wished it was real.

It’s weird, feeling that you grow up. Reinforcing and weakening at the same time.

Lab romance

Hey guys,

We had a very good laugh during coffee break today, when a college of mine told us about the perfect way to be romantic for a scientist. Pre-requisit is that the other person kind of understand science too.

So here it is : A heart in a DNA agarose gel.


We were actually talking about a gel picture saying I love you, or let’s say I heart U, but I could not find it by googling. (if anybody find it’s please share !)

Actually, despite the extreme geekiness of it, I think it’s super cute and romantic. And quite some work.

Because of course, we tried to imagine ourselves doing this, and it would require a lot of primers, amplifications products, and perfect gel composition for equal running at the top and the bottom of the gel. Not to mention persuasion to get your PI to order all that stuff. (Non-molecular biologist probably clicked elsewhere by now) Wouldn’t that be a convincing proof of love ? 😉

Yep, this  made my day … You like it ?

The Drosophila week in Cambridge, in a few words …

Hey all,

I’m back from the intense week of Drosophila learning in Cambridge.
It was awesome, exhausting, but I learned a lot, had a great time with my young drosophilists fellows, and left with a great feeling about the city of Cambridge !

After such a science storm, in the beautiful setting of Cambridge, it’s a little rough (to say the least) to go back to the bench and day-to-day life. But it also opened my mind, and I come back with more mental energy and more motivation.

I also totally hooked on fly geneticist and their History and hi-(stories), so I ordered the book “Lords of the fly on amazon. I’ll post a review when I’m done reading it.

I feel just so lucky and so privileged to have had to opportunity to meet all these “big shots” such as Scott Hawley (I look up stuff in the blue book all the time) who is the best teacher of Drosophila genetics ever
Casey Bergman is part of this new generation of PI’s that I find really cool … Constantly thinking about new perspectives, new angles, new ways to do science, and tweeting all this. Open science at it’s best.
Steve Russell and his heavy – but understandable- Scottish accent creeped me out on RNAseq data, Gary Karpen was this cool Californian talking about epigenetics, Pavel Tomancak had awesome imaging pictures, an intriguing theories about eggs and chickens (;-)), and Norbert Perrimon was Norbert Perrimon: Elegant scientifically and IRL, so accessible, and my science felt like baby science next to his.
Even Sir Ashburner came to visit quickly for the 30th anniversary of the course, and we were taking pictures as if we had met our star. (yes, we were really a bunch of nerds)

Anyway, I think you got the message … I’m still a little bit on the clouds, but if your ever want to enter the Drosophila field, this is the golden entrance gate to take …


Greetings from Cambridge (UK, not MA) -edit with more pictures-

This week I’m on holiday following a course at the University of Cambridge. I curse myself for not reading a little bit more about the history of this place, because it’s just so full of it. People who study/studied in Cambridge are just so lucky … everything looks fancy and beautiful. It’s the first time I am on a campus that is actually visited by tourists …

After my arrival I walked to the city center to get some pictures done, as long as I still have time. Because, yeah, our planning for the week is 9 am – 10 pm of learning about Drosophila genetics and genomics.

Because of the Olympics ending, it was FULL of tourists, and luckily all the stores were opened, in particular the Apple Store, where I ran for an urgently-needed Apple travel Kit … ha-ha-ha.

PI Quotes – 5 “Grad students don’t stay at the lab on week-end if their salary is too high”

I realized that until now, all my PI Quotes were either funny, either truly positive.  Nevertheless, we all know that some PI’s go from being a little offensive here and there to complete jerks. You can judge by yourself where on this ladder this one stands …

Let’s give some context: I’m on a conference, around a table, talking with other PhD’s, Post-Doc’s, and PI’s about our salary. We note that a swiss PhD student earns probably more then a french PI … (true story)

Then, this  PI says : “Grad students don’t stay at the lab on week-end if their salary is too high. They rather book a flight for a week-end in Barcelona ! That’s not good.”

That literally knocked my socks off because : 1 – He/She was not drinking, and 2 – It was not meant as a joke … 1% of me knew that there was so truth there, but 99% of me also shouted at him “sorry whhaaattttt ?” , noting that this person really thought that “grad student = dumb research robot that is meant to stay in the lab 24/7” …

At the end, beyond revolting, disrespectful, and contemptuous, it’s just really sad … 

PI Quotes – 4 “Writing is very hard work”

New PI quote today, and this one comes from my nowadays PI ! It’s still related to the writing process I talked about in my previous post. As I said, I had never written a real scientific article (when you’re 24 I think it’s still OK to say that); and started with a review a few months ago. It got published over summer.

After I wrote the first draft, I gave it to my supervisor and he sent me back a tracked changed version. Among other things, he wrote :

“Please do remember that writing is very hard work, and a lot of rewriting, deleting, until you are fully fed up with it….
Nevertheless, we are getting there.”

At that point I was so psyched about getting to write a review that I thought it was crazy and impossible to be fully fed up with it.At the end of the submitting/revision/rewriting process, I knew what he meant. So for those of you who are newbies in writing (like me), be aware ! You’ll notice that I also have the nicest and most supportive supervisor ever, since he added the comforting “we are getting there” to reduce the shock when seeing all the track changes he made …


Have a great week-end …