by Cora Olpe
Today I would like to discuss one of the wet lab scientist’s biggest mental challenges: The 5-minute incubation. Often encountered during immunohistochemistry or western blotting techniques, those incredibly awkward few minutes cannot be filled with anything useful but are simply too long to just stand there idly and twiddle your gloved thumbs. (I mean you can, but sweet Jesus Einstein was SO right about time being relative and all that.)
I personally go mental if I don’t do SOMETHING during those intervals. So, I have come up with a list of at least half-useful activities one can enjoy during these intervals. And because I am feeling generous today I am sharing it with you:
1Go to the toilet.
If it’s close by you can definitely make it for a #1.
2(Related to #1). Take a photocopy of yourself.
(If your photocopier is close by and it’s late at night). I’ve never actually done this one but it does sound somewhat intriguing and I’ve seen it in comic books.
3Empty your bins.
I bet they are spilling over.
4Empty your bench neighbour’s bins.
Wow, a good deed and not being bored, all in one act. Amazing.
5Post a picture on Instagram.
6Look for dinner recipes online.
Can be combined with #5 the next day once you’ve taken a picture of what you’ve cooked.
7Scroll through the news online.
Might be pretty depressing, so I personally only resort to this one if I’m rather desperate.
8Skim through the titles of the latest edition of Nature.
(#keen. Can be combined with #5 by sharing interesting papers on social media)
9Chat to people in your lab
About the weather (if you’re in a British lab). Or the weekend. Or Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest TV show (actually that last one works a treat!)
So there you have it. Never will you ever be bored again during your 5-minute incubations. Apply them in rotation and you will turn into the master of tidiness, small talk, and become a fitness guru at the same time! You could also use dice to determine which one you are going to do next. Might cause slight issues with double #1s, #3s or #4s but I’ll let you figure out a solution for that yourself. You could use a 5 min incubation for that purpose.
About the author
Cora Olpe is a PhD student at the University of Cambridge. She is fascinated by all things related to stem cells. Currently, she is trying to understand how intestinal epithelium turns into a mosaic of mutations as humans age. Cora is a swimmer and author of a brain health book.