About this Author
DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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In the Pipeline: Don't miss Derek Lowe's excellent commentary on drug discovery and the pharma industry in general at In the Pipeline

In the Pipeline

« The Consolations of Pure Research | Main | What Ails the Germans? »

April 25, 2005

Live The Stereotype!

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Posted by Derek

Now I know why all the biologists I know are half-sane at best: it's all that pipetting. I set up my experiment today, in a 96-well plate (here's one similar to what I was using, if you don't know the beasts), and spent a good chunk of the afternoon pipetting in a few microliters of this and a few microliters of that. Over and over. A multichannel gizmo (like this one) would have helped, but only in the beginning. Everything else was special-ordered for each well, so this was going to take some time, no matter what.

Still, I'm glad to have finally fulfilled my research destiny. The biologist-holding-a-pipet shot is third in the pantheon of Cheap Scientific Shorthand images. Just ahead of it is Peering Insightfully Into the Microscope, and at number one (as I've written about before) is Looking at a Raised Erlenmeyer With A Thoughtful Expression.

The experiment will run until Wednesday morning. Then it goes to my colleagues downstairs for analysis, and it's possible that I'll start getting results on Wednesday afternoon. Otherwise, I'll just sit around on Thursday and stare at the phone until it rings. That always works.

Comments (6) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Birth of an Idea


1. The Novice Chemist on April 25, 2005 10:10 PM writes...

So I've been reading 'In the Pipeline' for a long, long time (since it was Lagniappe). I think Derek's been working on this idea (whatever it is -- he won't say...) for quite a while (as his remarks reveal.) But here's the thing -- what is he doing with a the dreaded Pipetman? We all know that such a tool is that of the dreaded biologist, and not of the righteous chemist. (Tips won't hold up to solvent, see.) Hmmm.....

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2. biologist jeff on April 26, 2005 11:05 AM writes...

What do chemists use for micorliter volumes if you don't use pipettes?

Btw. My wrists now sound like a wheel with bad bearings after washing hundreds (probably a few thousand) of 12-well plates with a multichannel pipetman. For all the high tech science out there, biology is still a numbers game.

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3. biologist jeff on April 26, 2005 11:06 AM writes...

What do chemists use for micorliter volumes if you don't use pipettes?

Btw. My wrists now sound like a wheel with bad bearings after washing hundreds (probably a few thousand) of 12-well plates with a multichannel pipetman. For all the high tech science out there, biology is still a numbers game.

Usually, a few techs are cheaper than a robot.

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4. Derek Lowe on April 26, 2005 11:26 AM writes...

We're usually trying to make at least 10 mg of any new compound (for screening, etc.), and usually more. So for the most part, we just don't work on microliter volume scale.

When we do, we sometimes use pipettes, or we use glass microliter syringes (for reactive things that would eat those wimpy plastic tips.)

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5. Doug Sundseth on April 27, 2005 12:03 PM writes...

Since you said "Cheap Scientific Shorthand images" rather than "Cheap Chemist Shorthand images", I'll say that I think that number one is the scientist standing off to the side of a blackboard (or whiteboard) covered with cryptic equations and gesturing as he speaks. Another popular image is the scientist seated (occasionally standing) in front of a large telescope and looking off to the side of the camera.

It sort of reminds me of the old joke about prisoners calling out jokes by numbers. "Let's use the number seven pose this time." "Do you think so? I'd have thought that the number four was more apt, but you're the image guy." [BTW, I dislike the way your comment software strips out paragraph markers.]

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6. James on April 27, 2005 5:32 PM writes...


12-channel pipettes are for grad students.

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