Would we work more if we had more sun ?

“Would I work more if I had more sun ?” … I’ve been wondering about this lately, as a result of the bad weather over here in the Netherlands (or let’s, winter coming), and vague thoughts about doing post-docs in sunny places.

I am not sure this is true, or proven in a scientific manner, but it just feels right, no ? People are more happy and energetic when getting enough sun and producing vitamin D under their skin. Does it mean you work more … I’m not sure. Think of Europe and the eternal clichés that people from the South are lazy.

And Google kind of contradicts itself on the subject. For sure there is something called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD, haha …); and it could impact productivity. At the end, it probably really varies from individual to individual.

Until I relocate to a hopefully sunnier place, I enjoy having a big window in front of my bench to get the occasional sunlight and do some cutaneous photosynthesis. (inside joke)

I’ll leave you with pictures I’ve been drooling over looking at :

One from the Center of Genomic Regulation in Barcelona, Spain :

And one from the Salk institute in La Jolla, California :


I think I don’t need to comment further anymore …

PS: My apologies for the short and incredibly superficial post. It’s midnight, and I am incapable of doing better for today.


And you, could you give up your bench work ?

There are so many different kinds of scientists out there. And lately, I’ve been talking to post-docs. The kind of post-docs stuck at the bottleneck of the academic world. They are good scientists, enjoy doing science, and have been doing it very well for quite some time already. But they would not like to become PI’s.

Why ?

They like the work in the wet lab, at the bench. Doing experiments, smelling, tasting ?, troubleshooting, optimizing, supervising, etc …Occasionally they write grants or teach, but most of the time they work in the lab like us, PhD students.  They do not want to give that up, but there is very little space for these experienced and qualified people in academia. At some point, they know they have to get their own group or get “a real job”. (I don’t like how that sounds either, but that’s what they said.)

I’m always a bit surprised to hear people who like so much working at the bench. For me, working on the bench compares to driving a car. It is absolutely necessary, and I have no problem doing it, but I don’t love it. If I had to, I could give it up.

I like reading literature, doing computer work (getting started in bioinformatics), doodling stuff, listening to podcasts, writing, tweeting, etc … I do not necessarily need to work with smelly bacteria, under noisy hoods, sweating under plastic gloves, or having crappy 12-hour time points. (OK, exaggerating a bit, when things work, I really like it of course)

One big exception tough, I would not like to give up my flies.  I like the fly work to much I guess. There, you got me.

So, I’m asking you readers ? Could you give up working on the bench ? 

You know you’ve worked too long in a lab when …

I’m not taking credit for the content of this post. This has been on the internet forever, and was initiated by a facebook group. I found a categorized summary here, and since it’s really an effort of all the nerdy white coat out there, it’s probably okay to paste it here.

Fill free to comment and add your own. An more importantly, get ready for a great laugh.

So, You know you’ve worked in the lab too long when…


  1. You say “mills” and “migs”.
  2. You say “orders of magnitude” in regular sentences.
  3. You say “conjugation” instead of “sex”, and “pili” sounds dirty.
  4. You can no longer spell normal words but have no trouble with spelling things like immunohistochemistry or deoxyribonucleic acid.
  5. You refer to your children as the F1.
  6. You think the following is a quality insult: “I’ve seen cells more competent than you!”
  7. You use acronyms for everything and never stop to elaborate.
  8. You use the word “aliquot” in regular sentences, especially with reference to tea, coffee or curry.
  9. You flinch when you hear the word “significant”.
  10. For you, media is something which increases your culture.
  11. When you hear tween, you think of the surfactant not the age group.
  12. You are fed up of people saying alcohol, when they mean ethanol.
  13. SOB is not an insult; it’s what you grow your bugs in.
  14. You actually threaten your cells whilst waving a bottle of virkon or some other disinfectant.
  15. You give the lab equipment motivational pep talks: “Work for me today or I’ll reprogram you with a fire axe” is my favorite.


  1. You’ve seen how far away you can hit a target with a squirty water bottle or seeing how far away from the bin you can fire pipette tips.
  2. You still get amusement out of “freezing” things in liquid nitrogen.
  3. You rejoice when grabbing a handful of eppendorfs/bijous/anything and it turns outs to be the exact number you needed.
  4. You decide the courses and conference you want to go on by the quality of the food served.
  5. When you start making patterns in your pipette tip box as you take the tips out.
  6. You’ve played Battleship using tip boxes.
  7. You’ve used, “I’d like to get into your genes” as a pickup line.
  8. You have made some kind of puppet out of a nitrile glove and kept it as a pet.
  9. The scent of latex reminds you of work, not play.


  1. Safety equipment is optional unless it makes you look cool.
  2. A timer clipped to the hip is not only practical, but dead sexy.
  3. People wearing shorts under a lab coat disturb you slightly as they look as though they might be naked underneath.
  4. You can tell what cheap and expensive white coats look like.
  5. You hate having to change your lab coat to a new one because ‘it just won’t fit right’ and because the wrist bits are way too tight.
  6. You’ve never worn a clean lab coat.
  7. You have an irresistible urge to rip your shirt off superman style because it has press stud fasteners just like your lab coat… Most often occurring as you walk through a door just like exiting the lab… (I prefer to apply the Hulk style to disposable PPE)
  8. You’ve left the lab wearing a piece of PPE (personal protective equipment) because you forgot you had it on.
  9. You consider a green laser pointer to be science bling.
  10. You own Invitrogen t-shirts and actually wear them.

Kitchen and home skillz:

  1. No matter what the timings in the experiment protocol, there is always time for lunch in the middle.
  2. When you organize your kitchen cupboard contents the way you would your chemicals… all labeled in alphabetical order.
  3. Although all cooking is a glorified chemistry experiment you just still can’t seem to get it right.
  4. You’re also very good at transferring small amounts of liquid between containers.
  5. You’re very good at diluting things.
  6. When your fruits go bad and you get fruit flies, you can’t help but check their eye color.
  7. You open the toothpaste with one hand.
  8. You want to have parafilm at home too.
  9. You wonder what absolute alcohol tastes like with orange juice.


  1. Showing up at 10AM and having a coffee is a productive day.
  2. You’ve worked out that a trained chimp could probably do 90% of your job.
  3. You always seem to use the microscope after the person with the impossibly close-set eyes.
  4. When you say goodnight to your microscope on a Friday night and tearfully hug it goodbye as you won’t see it all weekend.
  5. You can identify organs on roadkills.
  6. You can’t wait for lab clean-up because you get to do random pointless “experiments” to figure out what’s in all the dodgy unlabeled bottles.

Accidents & discomfort:

  1. Accident reports are a badge of honor.
  2. Warning labels invoke curiosity rather than caution.
  3. Blinking real fast has saved your eyesight on more than one occasion.
  4. Burning eyes, nose and throat indicate that you haven’t actually turned on the fumehood/ downdraft bench.
  5. Liquid nitrogen is only about a 1/3 as dangerous as you thought.
  6. You bitch about not being able to pipette by mouth any more.
  7. When you wonder: how much will it hurt if I pour just a smidgen of this phenol/chloroform/ trichloroacetic acid/ any random chemical on myself?
  8. The fire alarm ceases to bug you. You only evacuate when you see the fire. (Hand on the floor to check for heat is a good indicator.)

C’est la vie:

  1. No one in your family has any idea what you do.
  2. Sometime you momentarily vanish from social activities because of a time-point.
  3. The front page of Science is your light reading.
  4. You realize that almost anything can be classed as background reading.
  5. When a non-scientist asks you what you do for a living, you roll your eyes and talk science at them until they’ve lost the will to live.
  6. When you rejoice when grabbing a handful of eppendorfs/bijous/anything and it turns outs to be the exact number you needed.
  7. When you’ve got that callus on the side of your thumb from opening PCRtubes (0.5ml and 1.5ml eppendorf tubes for me).
  8. You are strangely proud of the collection of junk you’ve stolen from vendors at trade shows.


  1. You can make a short film in Powerpoint.
  2. You can’t watch CSI without cursing at least one scientific inaccuracy.
  3. You don’t fear rodents, rodents fear you.
  4. You have to check the web to find out what the weather is outside.
  5. You’ve bent down to pick something up off the floor only to scatter the contents of your top pocket under the largest machine in the lab.

Health and Hygiene:

  1. You wash your hands before and after using the washroom.
  2. You’ve suffered carpal tunnel from the pipetman.
  3. You’ve used Kimwipes as Kleenex.
  4. You’ve wondered why you can’t drink distilled water in the lab- shouldn’t it be clean?
  5. Your nose invariably itches when you’re doing mucky stuff with your hands so you develop the habit of scratching it on your upper arm. Unfortunately, you sometimes carry this habit over to real life, where it looks like you’re sniffing your armpits.
  6. You are slightly too fond of the smell of (pick one or many) Xylene/ Agar/ Ethanol/ Undergraduates/ Alcoholic hand-wash.
  7. You’ve removed your gloves to find a small hole which has left you with either – wrinkly old person hands, a brightly colored finger (histologists especially) or a burning sensation and dermatitis at some point.

I’ll add: 

-You try opening your door at home with the badge of the lab. (Yes, I did it)

-You wish you add  10%bleach / 70%EtOH to clean your home

-Cooking is basically following a protocol

-Thursday means Nature, and Friday means Science.


Book review 2: I wish I’d made you angry earlier

I bought that book because I was intrigued by the title.

I wish I’d made you angry earlier is actually a series of essays on Science, Scientists, Humanity; written by Nobel-prize laureate Max Perutz.  (Amazon link here)

It is impossible to present Max Perutz in a few lines (That’s why we have Wikipedia); but basically, among his many achievements like solving structure of hemoglobin, he was also member and chairman of the Medical Research Council Laboratory (MRC) of Molecular Biology in Cambridge. It is just one of these places significantly enriched in Nobel Prize winners. (14 for that particular lab; like Fred Sanger, Watson & Crick, Sydney Brenner, …)

Getting back to our subject, his book was a delight to read. It is a series of essays that can be read more or less just by cherry picking the one you feel like reading at a precise moment. I like to say that it describes History and histories of science of the 20th century.

Thereby, it contains chapters about the making of the nuclear bombscience during cold warphilosophies of science, and the advent of molecular biology after WWII. (And more …)

I liked it because it does not contain meaningless gossips about scientists, but stories of the men and women behind famous scientist names. It makes these big names of science more human. The fact that they did their research in sometimes dramatic and difficult conditions makes you feel so lucky about our nowadays research conditions we tend to complain a lot about.

The preface is incredibly meaningful, and I probably read it about 10 times. Max Perutz notably writes : “Like children out on a treasure hunt, scientists don’t know what they will find”. This kind of sets the tone of the book.

One hidden jewel is Max Perutz’s “Commonplace Book” were he lists all the quotes of philosophers, scientists, writers that he likes. It’s such a pleasure to read them over and over.

I would definitely recommend this read to all people, scientists or not, who like to read about science. It is very accessible, witty, and clever.


PS: You’ll know why it is called “I wish I made you angry ealier” when you read it. That’s my cliffhanger.