Pipetting doesn’t make you a scientist!

Spending hours pipetting in the lab makes some people think they do big science. Well, they don’t. Not likely. It’s not about how much you pipette. It’s about what you pipette and what you do with it afterwards.

Now that I’m a post-doc, all I can think of while sitting and pipetting are all the grants I am not writing and papers I’d rather be working on. It feels like time wasted. And unfortunately lately, having a lot of optimizing to do, I feel like I’m a technician and not a scientist. Which worries me and makes me rethink my scheduling and my approach.

It is something people tend to get confused about. My own boss tells me that he finds it funny that in some labs post-docs have technicians working for them. I often think I really wouldn’t mind: let someone do my piepetting while I can do… well… the actual science.

It is what you do with your data that matters, not how much of it you manufacture. And don’t we all know it? The countless PCRs and Western blots that don’t account to anything? So, isn’t it smarter to sit down and do your homework: read, plan, design, analyse. Then, go to lab and pipette these few experiments that will actually matter.

Trouble is, working hard in lab is an easy excuse. Very often it is a perfect escape route into… procrastination. Yes! When you have to do your writing or data analysis, spending long hours in the lab or finding yet another experiment to perform is just a way away from the actual Science work you have to do.

And in the end, what will make you, are not the pipette-hours you put in, but the concepts you develop, the novelty you contribute and the… well, yes… papers you publish.

Conclusions… I suppose:

  • Whether you have the technician pipette for you or not, stop for a moment, sit down and read that paper stuck on your desktop for weeks; let it inspire you!
  • Plan your next experiment so that it means something…
  • …and maybe make a figure of it and write it down.
  • Science is done with heads, not with thumbs!
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