So today I showed up, half an hour early – and too nervous to go inside to reception, so I decided to wait outside for Alan to arrive. When he got there we sneaked in behind someone who had a swipe card, and soon Jenny came down to meet us in reception. As we went up into her lab for the first time we noticed an interesting smell … I was quite glad I had a blocked nose, as apparently it was quite bad according to the others!
I really enjoyed what we did today. Jenny explained how to do our experiment and how it worked, but before we could put on our lab coats and leap into action we had to learn how to use some of the equipment. Practicing with water, we learned how to use the pipetteman and the pipetteboy (Alan kindly demonstrated why the pipetteboy had that name by pretending it was a gun). We then tried (and I personally failed) to open flasks with one hand; I watched with envy as Alan calmly unscrewed the lid and expertly put it back on, whereas I could just about manage to take the lid off but failed to put it back on again. Jenny had to keep holding my right hand down, but I got it eventually.
But after just a little messing around we got straight to work, with Jenny helping a lot of course. Today we knocked out a gene in a cell, and then on Friday we get to see how the absence of the protein that this gene coded for has affected the cell. In brief, we took some cancer cells (and by some I mean probably several thousand) and we mixed them with a solution to separate them from each other and from the dish they were on. We then had to count them using a slide with a grid, which in itself was no problem at all – but alas, after having done no maths for several weeks we had fun trying to work out how much liquid we had to add/take away to get to the concentration we were supposed to have. Needless to say we eventually got the right concentration, but not before we discovered that we actually got it wrong the first time when Alan added his cells and there were way too many!
Finally after centrifuging, incubating and lots of pipetting RNA and some medium from plastic tubes onto our slide, we were able to put our slides away and start the 3 day wait.
I had so much fun today – I got to do a real, proper lab experiment! Things that are probably the most every-day in the world to a lot of scientists, but it was completely new and an amazing experience for me, knowing that this wasn’t just a practical in school but some real lab work! And it was particularly funny when Jenny kept randomly appearing with her video camera filming some of our stressful yet successful endeavours. There was one special moment where Jenny accidentally dropped a bottle of saline solution, though to be fair, she had severe jet-lag. It was only when I got home when I realized how absolutely exhausted I was! But I can’t wait to go back tomorrow. 🙂