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December 28, 2006
Cleans Down to What Should Be the Shine
One of the main things I'm going to have to do when I get back to my lab is clean it up. That's not something that I spend much time on, under ordinary conditions. For one thing, I don't run as many reactions as I used to, so it doesn't get dirty as fast. But I'm not someone who makes a clean lab bench my goal at the end of each working day, that's for sure. There are messier people at the Wonder Drug Factory, but there are neater, too.
In fact, I distrust lab benches that look as if you could safely make a sandwich on them. Those, as far as I can see, indicate too much cleaning and not enough real work - or, in the larger sense, too much of a concern for appearances at the expense of what matters. You don't want your lab bench to be a tourist attraction (or a standing joke), much less a safety hazard. But it doesn't (shouldn't!) be a showpiece, either, because to people who really understand the way research works, you're sending the wrong message.
I remember straightening up my lab once at a former job, and afterwards I noticed several people outside in the hall near my door. "What are you people doing loitering around?" I called out, and Stu McCombie (yep, that McCombie - he worked down the hall from me) answered "We're taking bets on how long your lab is going to look like that!"
"Well," I told him, "as soon as I start doing some real work in here it's going to go straight downhill." "That's what makes it a sporting bet," said Stu, "No one know when that's going to be!"
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