Dear Tech Serv, Thank You!

It’s that time of year again. Time to be thankful and show gratitude for those special people in your life. The undergrad who does the dishes, the labmate who shares their buffers when yours runs out, the collaborator that sends you data on a Saturday… Take a moment this week to say thank you, or send them an email to show your appreciation.

Today, we want to thank our Technical Services team. They work hard to help researchers choose the right assay for their needs, understand results and troubleshoot technical problems. They strive to provide the best service for those in need. Many on the receiving end have sent thankful messages:

“I deeply appreciate the help you have been and the email you just sent. I think with the information here, I may have sorted out an issue that has plagued our lab for the past few months.”

“Cannot tell you how grateful I am–you’ve been a tremendous help.”

“You are super sharp and caught critical errors in my protocol (the calculation and dilution errors you referenced below). While few of my colleagues run kinase assays, I did consult 6 of them, and none caught the errors you did. You’re clearly an expert and I truly appreciate how you’ve tailored everything for my ‘beginner’ level.”

“Wow, I cannot thank you enough! You have NO idea how helpful this is! You guys are absolutely great.”

Here’s one heart-warming story we had to share in which Tech Serv helped a group of students turn frowns into smiles.

In April, Tech Serv received a message from a professor from a university in Michigan regarding an issue with the pGEM Vector System. He was teaching a cell and molecular biology course and his students were unable to generate any colonies. “I have a very disappointed group of seniors on my hands. Please see the photo attached. All those sad faces trying to exude how hard they’ve worked with nothing to show for it. Any insight would be greatly appreciated,” he wrote.

“I understand the frustation of a kit that is not working, the students look so sad!” replied the Tech Serv team. Turns out, the cells may have been past expiration or subjected to repeated freeze thaws that caused the cells to lose competence. Tech Serv sent them a replacement kit with a photo of the team for encouragement.

“We greatly appreciate you replacing what we have and aim to turn those frowns into happy faces before graduation,” the professor replied.

Two weeks later, they got their colonies and wrote back: “It worked very well! We were able to make the most of this and they experienced a very good exercise in troubleshooting. I would say the group would view all that happened as a success. Thank you, we will continue to order from Promega as you’ve always proven to be a very client-friendly company!”

Nothing brings more happiness to the Tech Serv team than your success, so don’t hesitate to contact them with any questions you may have. They’re here to help.

Thanks, Tech Serv!

The Art of Eating: Embrace the Nap

Celebrating Thanksgiving Copyright: rawpixel / 123RF Stock Photo

Celebrating Thanksgiving Copyright: rawpixel / 123RF Stock Photo

In the United States, Thanksgiving Day originated as an opportunity to give thanks for blessing of the harvest and to toast to a plentiful harvest the next year. Fitting with its origins, the modern Thanksgiving holiday is centered on food. Although we are grateful for this day of eating, why does it have to make us so sleepy?

L-tryptophan, commonly known as just tryptophan, is an amino acid found in many of the foods typically found at a Thanksgiving feast. You’ve probably heard one of your relatives cite it as the reason they fell asleep during the football game. Tryptophan is essential for the normal growth in infants and to balance nitrogen levels in adults. It is mostly found in proteins like turkey, chicken, dairy products and brown rice. Once the amino acid is consumed, the body converts it to 5-hydroxy-tryptophan (5-HTP), which is then turned into serotonin. Serotonin is the biochemical messenger that is associated with naps.

But tryptophan can’t do it alone. Tryptophan is not an essential amino acid, and it has to compete to get to the brain. Most of the time it gets kicked out of the way by other essential amino acids also traveling to the brain. So, why does it zip up to the brain on Thanksgiving? Carbohydrates. Continue reading

What Things Are You Thankful for in Science?

What are you thankful for in science?

What are you thankful for in science?

As the social media lead for Promega, I keep my eye on trends in new media. I have personal accounts that I keep mostly to see what other people are doing. I try hangouts, social networking and other things so that I have an idea of developing practices outside of the biotechnology industry. One activity that has been popular over the last couple of years during the month of November in the United States is the Facebook post of “30 days of thanksgiving”.

I wondered what “thanksgiving” looks like to the research scientist. So I asked:

What are the things you are thankful for in science?

The answers have been as varied as the people I talked to ranging from little things like water bath floats to really big things, like the renewal of your research funding or achieving tenure.

Here are some of the answers from my informal inquiries:

“Tube floaties for water baths.”

—E.V., genomics product manager

“I was always thankful for Geiger counters.”

—K. G., science writer

“Thermal cyclers and Taq Polymerase. As an undergrad I watched someone sit with a timer and move their tubes between water baths at 3 different temperatures, opening tubes and adding polymerase at the end of each cycle. Modern PCR is SOOO much easier.”

—M.M., research scientist

“I am thankful for competent cells. I remember preparing the CaCl2 and doing slow centrifugation. Also thankful for serum-compatible transfection, rapid ligations and online journal access (no longer have to traipse over to the university library to get papers photocopied- uuurrrgggghhh).”

—R.D., technical services scientist

“How about T-vectors for cloning? I was no molecular biologist, but could make a T-vector work.”

—K.K., science writer

“I am thankful for open-access journals and the ability to read the full article without an institutional subscription.”

—S.K., science writer

“I am ever so thankful for ONLINE ORDERING! So awesome. Throw in online technical manuals, on-line support tools, on-line calculators – all are awesome!!”

—A.P., director, scientific courses

“I am thankful for automated sequencing- manual sequencing was laborious and hazardous!!!”

—R.G., technical services scientist

Do any of these resonate with you? What are you thankful for as a scientist? Let us know in the comments.

The Pursuit of Poultry Perfection

Cooked turkey

Next Thursday, November 25th, many of us (here in the United States, at least) will celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday. We’ll gather with family and friends and gorge ourselves on food and drink and probably watch a football game or two. There will be loosened belts and much napping and someone will probably drink a little too much Beaujolais Nouveau. I’ll be celebrating in Arizona with my husband, dad, stepmom, grandmother, brother and future sister-in-law. I’m looking forward to the trip, for many reasons. In fact, in planning that trip and dealing with a busy schedule at work, I kind of forgot all about writing a blog post for today. Whoops. Bad blogger! Bad! So, since I’ve got Thanksgiving on the brain, I figured I’d write about the perfect way to cook a turkey.

Ahem. There is no perfect way to cook a turkey. Continue reading