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Lab Rats

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Working days of a scientist [Dec. 26th, 2011|03:47 pm]
Lab Rats


[mood |aggravatedaggravated]

It is cold. Those unsung heroes that still make it to the lab are sitting in overcoats and typing in gloves. There are two portable heaters per student, but they don't help very much. The ink in our pens doesn't freeze only because we do not use pens. Lasers and computers are happy, they don't overheat. Other instruments don't really care: they have their own heaters. We are warming our hands on mugs of hot tea and reading e-mails from our administration. They send us reminders from the the warm South that we should be grateful, because electricity could be shut off, as well.

Our high-resolution TEM  (transmission electron microscope), worth a handsome but unspecified sum money (more than a million), shut off for the umpteenth time. Starting it up takes a few days. Like every other electrical device more complicated than an iron, it requires stability. It also needs cooling water. The water pump is on the roof. Some times it is blown away by the wind, other times it drowns in rain water and short-circuits. In other words, many times we have no microscope.

On the positive side, we can now keep precious reagents right on our lab benches: the temperature is about the same as in the fridge. That is what I call freedom!