It’s a brand new year and as tradition dictates, a time when we make impossible promises we have absolutely no intention of keeping. So in keeping with this time-honoured ritual (which apparently dates back to the Babylonians) below are my resolutions for 2015. While they are based on my experience and many, many failings, I feel that they are something we should all try out, or at the very least say we’ll try out – and then go for coffee.
1. Label stuff properly
Okay, so this is Lab Practice 101 but I’m still guilty of not clearly labelling all the little vials I use. Basically, the small kid in me is too tempted to mysteriously label things with a sinister X. It makes me feel like an evil Bond villain, well that and the stuffed cat… So from the 1st of January, I will do my best to make sure every tube is labeled with the contents, my initials, date and a strange eclectic code system I’ll reinvent every few months. Next year I plan on upgrading this resolution by doing it with legible handwriting.
2. Stop hoarding things
I think at some point I have to admit that I don’t need to keep every sample of every synthesis I’ve ever been given. I have an entire spectrum of mysterious yellow powders which I honestly can’t think of any use for, aside from filling out my sparse cupboard space. Partly, this hoard is the result of not wanting to dispose of something that might come in useful one day but there is also an element of not wanting to have to work out how to safely dispose of some of them without accidentally causing a major environmental incident. In retrospect I really should have labeled them properly…
3. Sort out my lab paperwork
Speaking of major environmental incidents, I’ve really got to sort out my lab paperwork. Since switching to Evernote, my lab note book is actually in great shape but all my operating procedures are hopelessly out of date (one has references to a computer that was thrown away 2 years ago!) and that’s not even mentioning the hopelessly disorganised MSDS sheets. I think the time has come to boldly pick up all this paperwork, say ‘enough is enough!’ – and give it to a student to sort out.
4. Stock take
Okay, this is cheating a bit, as my stock taking is great! I have an awesome Google spreadsheet that shows all the chemicals and reagents stored in my lab, where they are and when they were purchased. The only slight problem is that it was only accurate for about 2 weeks after I did the stock take last January. Basically, whenever a new material came in, I was so excited about using it that I didn’t update the stock list. So this year I’m going to do better – I’m going to boldly promise to do TWO stock takes!
5. Write reports promptly
Yeah, okay – this is just a fever dream. Like any normal scientist, I’ll probably just continue to write up my projects at the last minute. But in an ideal world (which would have more cute bunnies for a start) I should write out plans and breakdowns weeks before my deadlines, not leave it till the last minute. For example, I sat down to write this column about 1 hour before my deadline, not at any other point during the FOUR weeks I had to write this! But I’m worried that changing my magical writing formulae of ‘slamming it out at the last minute’ might ruin the excellent quwality.