Städdag (aka cleaning day)

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Today was “städdag” at work, aka cleaning day. Apparently, next week we will have inspection and everything should be clean and tidy which, in a biochemistry lab, isn’t exactly… easy.

Many people have this idea about scientists and their lab where it is always dirty, with dust piling up on old equipment, mold growing in the fridges, bacterial cultures and reagents which have been standing there for years, desks piling with articles and grant applications, … .

I will tell you this: it is all true.

My working space... it only looks this nice after cleaning day.

I have worked in 4 labs until now, and it has been the same everywhere I went. In theory everything is perfectly organized, but reality shows a different picture … . I don’t know where this stems from: whether we are just so occupied with our work we don’t have time to clean, whether we are immune for dirt and just ignore it, or whether it is simply because we have to clean our own desks. The thing is: in most companies there are cleaning ladies/gentlemen who take care of the hygienic situation at work and who clean the desks etc. In a lab, however, that is not possible. You cannot simply throw everything out in the sink or the bin, go over it with a sponge and that’s that – there’s some toxic substances around, which should be disposed of properly, and other substances which are not exactly toxic, but could cause trouble when mixed. Basically, you need a masters degree to be able to clean up a lab. In others words: we need to do it ourselves. And thus, every so often, a day is organized on which everybody puts on their lab coats, disposes of molded cultures, old buffers, and cleans up a drawer or two (the rest is for next time).

We had to be in the lab at 9. I woke up at 9.45. I’ve always been great at making good impressions on crucial days. So, to make up for my being late, I took on the kitchen. And whoever thinks that was the easiest part in the lab, think again. We found cereals that expired in 2002 (I must have been in kindergarten when those where bought), and some Tupperware boxes have been thrown directly in the bin: there is no way they could have been sanitized ever again, and I’m pretty sure inhalation of the spores of whatever was inside would have had us landed in hospital had we dared to open them.

Anyway, we survived (and got free pizza from the department for lunch!), but I just hope the inspection here is not half as strict as it was back in Ghent, cause I don’t think we would pass… .

But best of all – tonight I finally managed to ask my professor about Christmas holidays: I was planning on taking the last week of December and come back January 3rd because he didn’t seem too happy on me taking a week of to be with T last time, and I didn’t want to piss him off… but he suggested himself I’d take the first week of January also because, well, nobody would be in the lab anyway. So I’ll actually have TWO WEEKS of Christmas holidays! Yey for me!

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2 responses »

  1. Congrats on a great job done! Your office looks good (and at first sight, I thought it was a work station for graphic designers! I also wondered whether you’d hate for people to make jokes about IKEA: you know the furniture and, well, your being in Sweden right now…)

    I knew someone who was a biology PhD student: when we were hanging out at the bars, he always had to excuse himself because he needed to go check on the bacteria he’s growing. It’s like he had babies. I guess your research is different otherwise 2 weeks away would not have been possible!

    • If you can’t joke about something, you shouldn’t be talking about it, really ;). So sure, jokes are allowed, and actually, I’m preparing a post on the IKEA-thing… my apartment (and the lab…) are full of it, but somehow it doesn’t come together as it does in the shop displays :D.

      And ask my friends – I’ve been known to go into the lab after a party at 3am… more than once… . It depends on the experiment you’re doing, it’s a matter of timing and a good research topic – plus I’m a post-doc now so I can take it a bit easier :).

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