shitting your pants for science

May 9, 2007 at 5:29 pm | | everyday science, grad life

This is not my story. This is my friend’s story. Let’s call her X. X is dedicated to science. So dedicated that she shit her pants for science. Here’s the story (as best I can remember it)…

At some point in X’s grad-school career, she required some specific protein—some tubulin, I think. Now this tubulin was very expensive: for the amount she needed, her lab would have to pay upwards of $500k. Needless to say, they didn’t have the spare cash to buy a vial of this stuff. The other option for obtaining this tubulin was to purify it themselves … from calf brains.*

So X and two of her colleagues traveled the two hours to the nearest slaughterhouse … for calf brains. Once they got there, the workers discovered that they didn’t have any cow heads small enough to fit into their head-splitter (yes, apparently slaughterhouses have head-splitters on hand, but small ones). So the three scientists had to drive the two hours back to lab empty-handed.

After the third such trip, X and her labmates were successful (if you can call it that) in getting—still warm, mind you—calf brains. They threw the brains on ice and drove quickly back to lab. Unfortunately, all three had some digestion issues, and they had to stop several times on the trip back to use the restroom.</foreshadowing>

Now they had to do each step of the ~20-hour purification without stopping or the protein would be unusable. So X and her labmates were many many hours into this purification. She was doing one repetative pipetting step in the coldroom while her labmates were elsewhere in the lab. Suddenly, she felt a rumbling in her gut and a dreadful loosening of her sphincter. Continuing to pipet, she called out to her labmates. Her yelling was to no avail, because the insulated door to the coldroom blocked her cries for assistance.

A dilemma: to stop the purification and destroy many hours of collective effort and delay an essential experiment, or to shit one’s pants. For X, the decision was clear: she shat her pants between plunges of the pipetter.

When her labmates eventually returned, X excused herself and said she’d be back in an hour or so, went home and cleaned up, then returned to lab to help finish the purification.

You know, I never asked her whether the experiment with the tubulin actually worked…

[Update: X read this post and had this to say: “the only factual correction i would like to contribute is that i didn’t even go home after i shit my pants – we still had protein to harvest, sam, and i couldn’t abandon my colleagues. i just went to the bathroom, threw out the soiled underpants, cleaned up, and went back to the prep.” Now that is dedication! I would have just stolen the $500k at gunpoint from a local bank….

X also said: “i should also come clean and say that the tubulin was only worth $150k. the prep worked great—nice clean bands on a protein gel. finally, i should let you know that a former postdoc in [my old] lab told me that he once participated in a tubulin prep at an institution that didn’t have any cooperative slaughterhouses nearby. this meant that he had to SPLIT THE HEADS HIMSELF WITH A CHAINSAW. seriously. “]

__________

* Just a side note that X is vegetarian. So am I, so I can’t officially condone using animal parts. But, for science, some exceptions to ethical guidelines must be made. Like running stoplights. And using byproducts of the meat industry. Just the other day, I had to buy some gelatin in the name of science. ;)

11 Comments »

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

  1. At least it sounds like biochemistry that is more exciting than pipetting one clear solution into another. Or so I’m told.

    Comment by kendall — May 10, 2007 #

  2. Dedication.

    About you being vegetarian and not condoning the use of animal parts. Does that mean you are against animal trials as well? Good choice going into chemistry, rather than biology then!

    Comment by Mike — May 11, 2007 #

  3. X is one of my best friends, and I never heard the shitting in the pants part of this story, just all the brain acquiring, long prep part. X have you been hiding the best part of the story from me all these years or are you pulling Sam’s leg? Is this the genesis of the Dr. Shitty Pants Faustian bargain?

    Comment by LSC — May 11, 2007 #

  4. It’s true, it’s true. The volume of shit wasn’t large, but shit is shit, and I’ve definitely shit my pants for science.

    The funny thing is that when I tell this story to other scientists, the response almost always starts with… “Oh yeah? You should hear the story about So-and-so from the so-and-so lab when THEY shit their pants for science.” Which is pretty amazing.

    Comment by X — May 11, 2007 #

  5. […] this certainly is dedication to science. […]

    Pingback by how important things can be… at the power of goo — May 12, 2007 #

  6. […] BioCurious — Piled higher. and Deeper. My Master’s thesis is being bound somewhere (or so I’m told), and my days left at Simon Fraser University are winding down. For the next month I’ll continue on the optical tweezers I helped build, extending various short biomolecules to figure out their elastic properties. Leading up to more exciting work, I’m trying to reliably tether and pull on extremely short pieces of double stranded DNA, which is challenging from a technically standpoint. I’m not sure how much it helps, but I’ve started using smaller beads (1 μm), but even then it is very difficult to reliably tether and measure single molecules between the beads. Too many DNA molecules makes the beads stick hopelessly tightly together, and too few means I’m sitting around all day waiting for the unlikely tethering event to occur. But in either case, it’s nowhere near as unpleasant as shitting yourself for science. […]

    Pingback by Planet Musings — May 12, 2007 #

  7. […] way of biocurious.com: https://blog.everydayscientist.com/?p=481 Now that’s dedication to science. amy_________________Us, Robots: a Two Cultures blog […]

    Pingback by LabLit.com :: View topic - I'm too polite to post what this is really about. — May 16, 2007 #

  8. […] My Master’s thesis is being bound somewhere (or so I’m told), and my days left at Simon Fraser University are winding down. For the next month I’ll continue on the optical tweezers I helped build, extending various short biomolecules to figure out their elastic properties. Leading up to more exciting work, I’m trying to reliably tether and pull on extremely short pieces of double stranded DNA, which is challenging from a technically standpoint. I’m not sure how much it helps, but I’ve started using smaller beads (1 μm), but even then it is very difficult to reliably tether and measure single molecules between the beads. Too many DNA molecules makes the beads stick hopelessly tightly together, and too few means I’m sitting around all day waiting for the unlikely tethering event to occur. But in either case, it’s nowhere near as unpleasant as shitting yourself for science. […]

    Pingback by Biocurious: Graduate School — May 17, 2007 #

  9. […] more on pooing in the lab, check out this story over at Everyday […]

    Pingback by Jacks of Science » Blog Archive » Infant Intestinal Interlopers or How to Poo in The Lab and Get Away With It — July 1, 2007 #

  10. […] Everyday Scientist shitting your pants for science […]

    Pingback by "shit her pants" - Eniro — July 10, 2007 #

  11. […] In a rather different situation a woman shits her pants for the good of science! […]

    Pingback by Stories About People Shitting Their Pants | Defective.co.nz - A blog about everything. — December 15, 2008 #

Leave a comment

thanks for the comment

Powered by WordPress, Theme Based on "Pool" by Borja Fernandez
Entries and comments feeds. Valid XHTML and CSS.
^Top^