How to identify a scientist according to their bench

We’ve all walked into a lab and seen benches in varying states of disarray. Now you can tell who’s who thanks to my new handy guide.

1. The ‘Organised’ Bench

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There are two main possibilities as to who this very neat bench belongs to. The first is a new PhD student, desperate to start in the lab but with absolutely no idea what to do. To make themselves look somewhat busy, they resort to tidying their new bench.

The second is any established lab member who is currently on holiday. Prior to leaving the lab, and in the wind down period pre-holiday, this lab member spends an inordinate amount of time rearranging the tip boxes and neatly putting everything away. The length of time this bench has been alone for can be determined by how few consumables are left. Pillaging bench neighbours will resort to using the holidaying persons stocks before walking the 20 extra steps to the cupboard to restock their own bench. Only when all tips, stripettes and falcon tubes are gone will bench neighbours bother to restock their own, but leaving the holiday-bench much emptier than before. This will inevitably lead to frustrations upon the lab member returning from holiday to find they have to restock all consumables and buffers before being able to restart experimenting.

2. The ‘Trying to look busy’ Bench

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This bench is distinguishable from the empty bench by one key factor. There will be several falcon tubes or bottles strewn across it. This lab member has prehaps been away for a while, and in an effort to look busy during their post-holiday melancholy has rearranged their tidy bench. This most likely happened when looking for a buffer that was used by pillaging bench-neighbours during their absence. Not being able to find said buffer, this lab member then gave up looking and returned to their desk for more coffee, the sweet nectar of life that is the only thing that can get you through a post-holiday work day. This bench will remain in this state for a minimum of a week, sometimes up to two weeks. Around these benches you will often find the owner hanging around in an almost comatose state, having forgotten what they came in to do, and wondering why they aren’t still on a beach.

3. The ‘I’m too busy to tidy’ Bench

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This bench belongs to a lab member who has just realised how much time they have left on their grant. Mostly PhD students with no hope of extensions, experimentation goes into overdrive. This leaves no time for useless things such as tidying or cleaning. Instead, downtime will be spent on social media and blogs under the guise of #scicomm. The state of this bench will deteriorate over time, undoubtedly being left for the next inhabitant to tidy upon the current owners departure. This also applies to the owners freezer. An unknowing PhD student will be assigned this freezer drawer with no knowledge of the previous owners research. This will inevitably result in precious samples and results being thrown away,with no hope of replication.

4. The ‘Permanent contract’ Bench

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This bench is what every scientist one day hopes to achieve: the permanent contract. The down side of this is shown above. This lab member has occupied this space seemingly since time began.The concept of organisation does not apply to the permenant contract. Only the owner can identify what the various tubes are, and where to find them. This bench also acts as a defense mechanism against pillaging neighbours. Unable to find what they’re looking for, pillagers will move on to the next bench. There is a high probability that the owner of the bench is in fact hiding under the mounds of protocols and files, avoiding the never-ending questioning of the PhD students.

What type of bench are you?

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