Laboratory Drudgery

National Blog Posting Month – January 2014 – Pressure

Prompt – What are you currently feeling pressure to do that you don’t particularly enjoy?


Well, now this is easy.

The thing I’m most pressured to do right now is to get a ton of work done in the laboratory. Unpleasant work. The work that I have employees that I pay to do, but since they’re all on vacation right now, I have to do it.

It’s a fact of running an academic laboratory. I have paid student employees. They work a few hours a week to help me stay on top of the work that needs to move through the lab. They’re great during the school year, but during academic holidays, they all go home, leaving me to run the lab entirely by myself.

Most years, this isn’t that big of a deal. Alas, this year I was bogged down with teaching and other external problems that cut back on my ability to get things done in the lab. Now that the semester is over and my personal life has calmed down a little, I find myself scrambling to run a bunch of analyses that should have been done months ago. With no employees, I have to do all the drudgery bits, like weighing samples, doing chemical pre-treatments, and washing glassware.

It’s no fault of my employees, mind you, and I’m not upset with them. And even though I describe the tasks as drudgery, they are actually really, really important things that need to be done correctly. I just wish my employees were around to do these things (and get paid for their time), so that I could focus on the important technical tasks that also need to be done – like tuning a mass spectrometer.

Ordinarily, I might just blow off these tasks until the beginning of next semester, so that the employees can do them and get a little extra jingle in their pockets. But now I’m stuck with customers (we’re a contract lab) who’d like their data, plus a potential power shut-down in a week. So I have to get these things done absolutely as fast as possible.

At least I can say I’m nearly done with a batch of samples that have been looming over me for months now. It’ll be nice to have all that behind me…

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