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Protocols for taking care of living things in my absense

by Eva Amsen

Please follow these detailed protocols to take care of the living things I left behind.

Protocol 1 – The Cat

  1. Refresh water daily
  2. Add dry food and wet food to bowls. (If wet food is untouched, just skip that for a day – it’ll be fine.)
  3. Clean litter box three times a week and add some fresh litter.
  4. Cat is probably behind the couch or underneath the coffee table or behind a curtain or on the bookshelf or in or underneath the bathroom cabinet. Please locate cat to make sure she isn’t accidentally locked in somewhere before you leave.


Protocol 2 – The Cells

  1. Refresh medium twice a week
  2. Add PMA to medium before use. (If cells look weird in between, just add more PMA – it’ll be fine.)
  3. Split cells once a week to a new flask in fresh medium.
  4. Cells are in the bottom left incubator, medium is in the fridge. Please ask someone if you can’t find anything.

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Richard P. Grant July 25, 2008 - 5:08 AM
Bob O'Hara July 25, 2008 - 5:14 AM

Wouldn’t it be easier to just feed the cells to the cat? Or _vice versa_ I suppose, but we don’t like to think such things.

Eva Amsen July 25, 2008 - 5:17 AM

But I still need the cells after I get back! (And the cat!)

Mark Tummers July 25, 2008 - 5:27 AM

I went on a holiday once and asked my lab mate to take care of my tissues which I was growing in culture. In fact I was too lazy to stop the cultures, because then I still had to process them.
We had the tendency to refresh the medium at least every other two days. My lab mate wasn’t the most reliable person in this matter, and she did it twice a week at the most.
And to my surprise the tissues were still alive after a 3 week holiday, even with the non-standard treatment laid-back attitude. And it turned out you could grow them for up to 6 weeks in culture with rather standard medium.
Moral of the story:
It pays to be _lazy_ and _sloppy_.

Eva Amsen July 25, 2008 - 5:34 AM

These cells are actually not for my own experiments, but for experiments I’m doing for another lab, and that student is going to take care of them. I’m sure he’s motivated enough to keep them alive (more than I am myself – not my project anyway) but I only have one day to teach him mammalian tissue culture, and I’m not entirely confident I won’t leave out any Important Details (or accidentally give him the cat protocol instead)

Eva Amsen July 25, 2008 - 5:41 AM

@Richard Ha, funny list =) I’m sure some people out there do have frozen stocks in case things go wrong with their kids. (At least, within the margins of ethics and sanity, there is frozen cord blood, that’s getting pretty popular. It’s not an entire new kid, but they can make new bone marrow for the existing kid!)

Cath Ennis July 25, 2008 - 6:33 PM

During my first ever research experience (mid 90s) I told my flatmates that I had to go into the lab on a Saturday “to feed my cells”.
“What, like a tamagotchi?” came the puzzled reply.

Anna Kushnir July 25, 2008 - 7:29 PM

Eva, this is so on point that it’s scary. I could never go anywhere without having someone take care of my cells! Things were even more complicated when it came to my mice (lab mice, not home mice. The latter were fine without me). I always felt so anxious leaving cells/mice in others’ hands – I didn’t trust anyone to do things for me, just the way I wanted them done. I had to trust the results because I had no choice obviously, but I wasn’t happy about it. I was the same way with reagents and constructs given to me by others – sequence, re-make, re-pH, whatever. I don’t think trust is necessarily a virtue in the lab, nor is OCD a fault.

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