Often when I’m in the lab, I have these gaps of time that are just long enough to promote idleness. For instance, you’re waiting for a centrifuge to spin down your samples (I’ll let Wikipedia explain, if you don’t know what I’m talking about). You have ten minutes of wait time. And you’re doing a lot of spinning today, so you might end up working five minutes, waiting ten minutes, working five minutes, waiting ten minutes, and continue to do so for eternity. You’ve already checked your email, facebook, twitter, wordpress, entire internet life, and now what do you do? (And if you’re me, you’re probably already on your third coffee by this point).
What you should be doing is reading scientific articles and the like, but really, do you want to find out that you’ve already been scooped? Or stumble upon an article that you really should have read six months previously? That sounds too much like what a responsible person would do.
Instead, it’s time to bring on the time wasters. Here are some of my favourites:
1. Look up expensive lab equipment online and dream of ridiculously elaborate experiments you could do with said equipment. Tabulate how much said experiments would cost, and compare it to your stipend. If you manage to go over the amount of your stipend, propose it to your PI (principle investigator… aka your boss) at your next meeting and see how it goes. I have yet to ever get approval for any of my ideas; there’s something satisfying in knowing that I’m worth more than a piece of equipment.
2. Draw a picture of a stick person. Give it a name, like Carl, and a place to live in the lab. Try to convince the undergraduate student that Carl is a real person and they will need to move out of their desk because Carl will be joining the lab soon.
3. Find recipes online that encourage you to use what’s already in your lab. Show the recipes to your coworkers in order to convince them you’re actually going to be doing some experimental cooking. The result? You will never be asked to contribute to any sort of bake sale or potluck.
4. Write a series of love notes telling the story of an ongoing relationship between the refrigerator and the hot water bath. It’s a tragic tale since their love would destroy the lab (or at least cause some major temperature fluctuations – man, are they hot and cold!).
5. Work on your thesis… you must know I’m just joking now, don’t you? That’s not entertaining in the least! Instead, work on your blog and pretend that you’re being productive by typing things like “de-simulating the ionic inversion to stun the temporal phenomenon”.