What did you learn from the lab?

Tyvek suit

Tyvek - perfect for protecting yourself in a lab environment, and re-enacting 101 Dalmatians (long story, dont ask)

Forging a career in scientific research is tough – really bloody tough. Which is why I bailed out after doing a PhD and short post-doc. Also, I’m really clumsy and have an approximate 5-second attention span – neither of which are ideal qualities for a successful life in the lab.

But my time at the bench wasn’t completely wasted. As well as a whole bunch of transferable skills that serve me well in my civilian life – such as being able to read and digest complex scientific information, managing complicated projects, and how to while away hours of my life on the internet – there are some other useful tricks that I picked up.

I was discussing this with a few friends at an event recently, and we came up with the following list of “things that we learned in the lab that have proved surprisingly useful in the outside world”:

  • How to open bottles, jars, tubes etc with one hand
  • How to weigh out things (eg flour, sugar) by eye
  • How to yawn without opening your mouth
  • How to kill a small animal quickly and painlessly with your bare hands
  • How to make any fancy dress costume out of a Tyvek suit
  • How to deal with seemingly endless dull, repetitive tasks (loud music is the key)
  • How fast you can take your clothes off in the case of radioactive contamination (this one’s probably just me…)

Over to you, current and ex-lab rats – what skills did you pick up in the lab that you find invaluable in the real world?

6 responses to “What did you learn from the lab?

  1. I can write a novel on a 0.5 ml Eppendorf!

    • LOL 🙂
      Sadly my handwriting was never neat enough for that – although I did learn the folly quite soon of numbering tubes without dates. When faced with a fridge full of identical eppendorfs labelled 1 to 10, it’s tempting to just chuck the whole lot in the bin and start again…

  2. Susannah Hewitt

    I can write backwards! It’s really fun but strangely not as much use in the real world as you’d think.

  3. Great topic, you’ve inspired me to give it some thought.
    Off the top of my head, knowing a good from bad diamond is pretty useful, but I think it gave my other half a headache!

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