Lab life.

11 everyday essentials of a stem cell biologist.

Lab life means there are a whole heap of tools I need to use to do experiments and make those exciting discoveries! But only a handful of these are everyday essentials, that without them would make my PhD journey unbearably difficult.

In this weeks blog, I want to show you a slightly different take on my PhD life by showing you some of the things I use everyday that I probably take for granted! So here are 11 of the things on the front line of my PhD battles.

So, in no particular order…

1) The Lab Coat.

If I told you to draw a scientist, you would probably draw an old man in a long white coat. Am I right? Unfortunately, the stereotype still exists in part. A lab coat, although completely unflattering, is an essential for any lab work. In our lab, they are mostly the traditional white coats. But our tissue culture labs need coats that are only worn in those rooms – so we have gone a bit wild and got blue and yellow coats instead! Does anyone have any other colour lab coats?

2) Lab Gloves.

Again – this one is probably something that you would expect to find scientists in the lab wearing, but I bet you didn’t expect to see blue and purple gloves? Another everyday essential that I need to perform all my experiments and to protect me from any ‘nasties’ I may have to work with, and more importantly protects my cells and samples from me.

3) The Pipette.

A very basic explanation – but most of what I spend my time in the lab doing is taking different volumes of various reagents, chemicals and water and combining them together to see what happens. Pipettes come in different sizes depending on the volume of liquid I need – usually less than a millilitre, sometimes as little as half a microlitre (that’s 2000th of a millilitre!) – but they are what I need to mix everything together. They need to be INCREDIBLY accurate otherwise it could cause problems down the line in my experiments.

4) The Pipette Buoy.

Carrying on from the pipette, the pipette buoy is answering the same question – moving a volume of liquid and mixing it with another. But it is different to the pipette, as I can move larger volumes! I usually use this when I am making up buffers and stock solutions!

5) The Centrifuge.

A piece of equipment I need for sample preparation or simply to pool any remaining reagent in the bottom of the tube and make sure I use every last drop! Tubes are put in each of the holes and spun at speeds of 10,000 rotations per minute!!! It works using the sedimentation principle – the centripetal force from it spinning causes denser substances to move outwards and collect at the bottom of the tube. You need to remember to keep it balanced though! Two samples on one side, another two directly opposite.

6) The Cell Culture Plate.

Now if you’ve read my blog before, or you work in a lab yourself, you would have seen these before in my ‘Feeding time in the lab’ post. These are the home to my cells and as my cells need looking after each day, the cell culture plate is something I use on a daily basis! I usually use the 6 well version, but we sometimes use the 12 and 24 well versions too!

7) The 96 Well Plate.

Again – this continues from the previous everyday essential! Except we have scaled up! These come in a few different variations too – flat bottomed and U-bottomed to name a few! I mainly use these for my Bradford assays to calculate the protein concentration of my protein samples as shown here, a PCR experiment to look at RNA expression in my samples or for some of my metabolism assays.

8) The Timer.

Or more accurately, the timers! To try and get the most out of my day, there are usually a few different experiments going at once, and each step takes a different amount of time so I’ve usually got two timers on the go to know when I need to go back which experiment!

9) The Microscope.

Another everyday essential that you would expect to see in the lab. I’m often found looking down the lens to check on my cells and deciding whether they need feeding or splitting. This one is a simple light microscope, but sometimes I’m on a more high tech fluorescence microscope taking images of my immunocytochemistry as seen here.


10) Hand Cream.

Now, I know this one isn’t really lab based but it is my number one everyday essential for lab life! It is my saviour! Spending most days putting lab gloves on, taking them off and putting them back on and so….. it ruins my nails and my hands. So this little beauty is stashed on my desk for that daily moisturise! Does anyone else have any tips to save your nails and hands when wearing lab gloves?


11) The Notebooks.

Last but not least is the researchers best friend – the notebook! I have different notebooks for different purposes. My everyday notebook which is basically my ‘To Do’ list for each day and any calculations I do whilst in the lab. I have a meetings notebook so I can keep track of any hints, tips and advice I get given by my supervisors or my peers. And finally, the most important one – the lab book! This is where I need to write down all the details of each and every experiment that I do so I can repeat it at a later date and to prove I actually did the experiments I say I did!


Making this list to share with you has made me realise that there are so many different things I rely on every day in my lab life. The list could go on and on….

What are your everyday lab essentials? What could you not live without in the lab?

Hopefully it’s given you another little insight into what my everyday life in the lab as a stem cell biologist is like 🔬☺️



7 thoughts on “11 everyday essentials of a stem cell biologist.”

  1. I shared this post. It’s a basic honest look at the basic tools in trade.of a scientist in the lab. The only device I’m not familiar with is the.pipette float. I was pipetting in my dreams by the end of Honours. I’m so happy you’re following your dream Sophie. All of this science blogging and.tweeting makes me want to gp back to study!

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