Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Freezer

OK, this is a great example of a small college issue. Where I was trained, both for my PhD and Postdoc, the -80 degree freezer was the holy grail. The material in there (plasmids, glycerol stocks, brain samples, competent cells, you name it) represented months if not years of work. They had backup systems for their backup systems, and they were the first thing to check in a power failure. Not only that, but they were clean. RNA, bacterial stocks, etc., were all sensitive to contamination and treated that way.

Today was the annual freezer clean out. We only have one for both the biology and chemistry departments. An e-mail went out: do you need anything in the -80? It will all be thrown out if you don't respond. I was surprised that I was the only one who responded... I have competent cells, which are very sensitive to temperature changes, RNA kits which can't be touched, and bacterial glycerol stocks which cannot be cross contaminated. When I opened the freezer, there was dirt from the freshman chemistry project, ----DIRT, soil, earth--- strewn everywhere, and some had gotten through the tiny holes in my freezer boxes for my bacterial stocks. Moreover, the clean-up crew (who really are competent, no complaints, but don't understand what the fuss is about) had only gotten a handful of dry ice to put the competent cells on while they let the freezer come up to room temp. Luckily, my RNA kits had been moved. There also were dead animals and cut up squash (critter food) in broken baggies all over. I'm trying not to be a drama queen, but DIRT??? DEAD ANIMALS??? MY IRREPLACEABLE PLASMIDS?!?!?

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