Three Pipette Horror Stories in the Lab
As little ghosts and goblins prepare to carry their high-capacity pillowcases through their neighborhoods to grab as much sugar as they can carry, we thought we would share some real life horror stories from our experiences providing services to vital laboratory tools. While we aren’t quite reaching the depths of twisted science like Dr. Frankenstein, there are three practices we see regularly that will chill the bones of anyone dedicated to solid, high quality liquid handling practices in the lab…
Aspirating liquid into your pipette and forgetting about it
As a trained pipette calibration technician, I service around 5,000 of the over 60,000 pipettes TTE Laboratories services each year. I see it all, and I keep seeing it. It’s very common to open a pipette (which we do during every service) and find unimaginable gunk inside. We wonder how this instrument could be reliable and repeatedly used in the lab shortly before we serviced it! If you make this mistake, don’t risk contamination or an expensive repair by continuing to use it - have it serviced right away!
Never servicing your pipette; or worse: Getting it serviced incorrectly or incompletely
Pipettes are mechanical instruments much like cars are. If you never change the oil in your car, you can’t expect it to last very long. The same goes for your pipette. A proper and correct service saves you from the expense of pipette errors that repeat themselves and cause delays, repeated assays and other problems.
Secondly, a true horror story is that many people believe all pipette service providers are the same. Did you know that pipette calibration is governed by one defined procedure and most providers do not follow it? Deviating from this procedure can tune your instrument to an uncertain measurement value causing you a false sense of security! Choose a provider that will only follow directions on your behalf - learn about ISO:8655, and what it means to you!
Using your pipette for other unintended tasks
PIpettes are not hammers, microcentrifuge tube openers, stirring rods, or pokers. They are simply liquid measurement devices that are capable of 2% accuracy or less in the hands of a skilled scientist. Just as your car is most likely not built to compete in the Indianapolis 500, your pipette isn’t made for abuse or misuse. Treat your pipette well, and it will last for years to come!