This just in!

Scientist Enters Incorrect Incorrect Info on Own Plasmid, Screws Self

Mrswhatsit, a senior graduate student at WantstobeHarvard University, discovered this afternoon that her cloning project will not work because the information in the database about a particular vector was incorrect.  Sadly, this information was entered by Mrswhatsit herself.  Mrswhatsit freely admits her responsibility in this mix-up.  “It’s my own  fault,” she said, “I fucked it up.”

Mrswhatsit has been plagued with difficulties throughout this cloning project.  Up until today, these difficulties have centered around other people’s fuck-ups (one vector not only had the wrong gene, the gene was from the wrong species).  These problems have caused the cloning project to drag on and on, wasting precious time.  After spending a month trying to sort out the various misinformation surrounding the starting plasmids (including good old-fashioned sequencing of the plasmids), Mrswhatsit was looking forward to finally getting the damn cloning finished.  But it was not to be.

The cloning project is an ambitious one, involving the insertion of multiple genes, done in a sequential fashion.  While the first step of the cloning procedure seemed to go okay, the second step tanked.  “Essentially, I was getting an insert cut out when I was just trying to linearize this construct which was the product of the first cloning step.  Since I thought I knew what the sequence was, I couldn’t figure out why this was happening.  Finally, I looked over the sequence files for the insert from the first step and lo and behold, there are restriction sites I didn’t think were there.”  Mrswhatsit had tried to be clever and PCR amplify her insert from a construct she made several years ago.  “The extra sites hadn’t mattered when I first made this construct, but now that I was trying PCR amplify something from it, it mattered a great deal.  I went back to my lab notebook and found that the way I made the vector was not the way I reported it in the database entry which was what I was basing my cloning strategy on.  I have corrected the database entry, but that doesn’t give me back the weekend I spent in the lab trying to do this damn cloning.”

Mrswhatsit credits her organized lab notebook for helping her get to the root of the problem.  “If I hadn’t had a table of contents, it would’ve taken me hours to find that details of making that old construct.  As it was, it took me about 10 minutes.  Too bad I didn’t look it up earlier.”

When asked for advice for future lab generations, Mrswhatsit had this to say, “Trust no one–and that includes yourself.”

4 thoughts on “This just in!

  1. I had a great episode of this last week: ‘Senior Grad Student Digests Plasmid, Discovers Bizarre Sites, Swears at People Who Never Deposited Complete Sequence.’ Seriously. We don’t even know what the sequence is!!! Aaaaaa!

    It’s amazing how damn long cloning always takes. Also how older profs who’ve never cloned? Don’t get it. Not even a little.

  2. We make laboratory notebooks for 9 of the world’s top 12 pharmaceutical companies, and thousands of other companies. They still rely on physical lab notebooks to document their intellectual property and to protect their patents in litigation. This story is an interesting example of the value of lab notebooks and disciplined procedures. The best in class laboratories have learned this over time.

  3. Also, I found out yesterday that a plasmid (made by a former member) that I really wanted to use as a control for a different project was never put in the collection. And–get this–we still have plasmid preps from this person, BUT, he in in possession of his lab notebooks and he is currently out of the country. We’re guessing he didn’t take his notebooks with him. Apparently, this was our PI’s idea (“He’ll be able to find things in it much better than anyone else can,” was the reasoning).

    I can’t decide if things were always this bad and I never noticed or it’s gotten worse over time.

  4. Pingback: Cloning is sucking my will to live « I Love Science, Really

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