The iLab generation – Fast Counter

Time for a new app recommendation today ! A while ago, it was suggested to me in a comment on this very blog, and when I saw the description in the iTunes Store, I was immediately enthusiast. It’s called the Fast Counter.

It’s basically the app that does the annoying job of colonies on petri dishes. Look at that :



I had time to try it out a bit , by taking a classic LB plate with bacteria after transformation (about 200) and tried to count. You can set the threshold, and the color of the background; and once this is done, it is pretty effective. It does capture -LIVE- your colony number (is it the future already, right ?), but you can also take a snapshot, and count “manually” by tapping on them.

My point is, if you need a good estimate, and not a super-super-precise count (which is generally not required anyway), you should definitely try it out.

Also, the company developing that tool also made some other apps, if you like all nerdy apps for the lab like me, check it out on their website ! It’s called Shazino. 


Famous Scientists Quotes -4- Theories should be treated like mistresses.

As already mentioned in my previous post, last week took place a team brainstorming session in the lab.

lightbulb-ideaIt actually made me realize how much we (the scientist) love to think about crazy ideas and theories, and sort of fall in love with them, and stick with them no matter what.

Gut feelings, or just enticing perspectives are enough to make us believe things are half-true even tough we don”t have any/poor data supporting it.

And then, I though about what I read in Sydney Brenner’s biography, one of his many funny quotes : “Theories should be treated like mistresses. One should never fall in love with them and they should be discarded when the pleasure they provide is over.”

Despite the machism underlying this sentence, I have to admit I kind of like it. And there is definitively some underlying truth in it.

New things, old feelings.

My new years resolutions of writing regularly is sinking already; but hey … circumstances are exceptional. I’ve been busy sitting up a decent website for my lab, and busy doing things that were new for me.

Tout d’abord, my first student is graduating tomorrow. It’s strange, because not so long ago, I was graduating, and now I am sitting among the jury members. Not idea how this will turn out … probably fine tough.

And my student was so sad to leave the lab today, had a gift for me, and said she would not like to leave at all. Somehow, it made me feel like I had done my job right, despite the little obstacles on the road.

Ensuite, last week-end took place a 3 hours brainstorming session with our group, and our “homework” was to think about what the research directions could be, what the big questions of the field were, how we should approach them, etc …

Men this was tough. I never had to put that much thoughts in it, because it’s so easy to focus on your little PhD project, and keep the big picture blurry in the background. This was a good wake-up from the lethargy. And I realized abruptly how difficult that “job” really was. Making plans for things that cannot really be planned. Thinking about the conflicts between your ideal research plans, and the ones that take into account some strategy and avoid you crab nests. Deciding where to focus. And how much the costs in people, hands, and money would be.

Overall, I was relatively happy with the ideas I could put on paper under short notice, and maybe with more training and time, I could actually draw comprehensive and realistic research lines.

I’m so glad I’m not a PI just yet (maybe, eventually some day, but hey, …) and can enjoy the time where money comes in, and I get to worry only about my own projects. Ah, the luxury …

PI Quotes 8 – “Laziness is a great quality for a scientist”

Hi all,

After christmas break I dragged myself back to the lab (ok, I was happy to return) and though of  this professor who once told during a master course :

“Laziness is a great quality for a scientist” 

That was a bit unsettling at first, my overall felling being that scientist are in the great majority hard workers (but is it really work ? ;-)). For example, injecting 1400 adult Drosophila‘s today is not an act of laziness !

Actually, his reasoning was slightly more twisted: 

The more lazy the scientist = the less experiment he does

The less experiments he does = the better his choose the good ones to do

And he focuses on succeeding immediately to avoid unnecessary extra replicates or troubleshooting work due to inattention.

Beyond the witticism, there is some truth in the fact that good scientists are always the ones who can choose well the key experiments, and make them look perfect.

So, should we all just be a bit more lazy ? 

Food for thoughts …