I must have spent many many Saturdays passaging cells during the course of my grad school and postdoc career. Like everyone, I’ve bitched over the feeding and care of cells in culture. I’ve dragged myself to work to feed them when I’d rather be anywhere but. And then I left research, and didn’t see cell culture again for more than three years.
This afternoon I drove to my new lab to split some cells, and it felt oddly like coming home.
I started my new job this past Monday. It’s been exciting, disorienting, both busy and slow. I’m still trying to figure out where everything is, as I suspect I will be doing for at least a month. I still don’t have a lab coat, although my timer and eppendorf racks (bright red!) came in on Thursday. I have an empty lab bench, and a blank lab notebook waiting to be filled. I have a brand new set of pipetmans (pipetmen?) I have colleagues who appear genuinely supportive and wonderful, a PI who is beyond awesome, an environment that seems to offer all that I could dream of. Did I mention the shiny new toys? There are some AWESOME toys in this lab.
I am aware that I am in the new lab/new job/honeymoon phase, a phase that I have gone through with every single one of my positions. I will also say that I honestly believe there is ample objective evidence that this lab really is what I feel it to be. And maybe it’s partly a reaction to my time away—but I can’t remember the infatuation ever biting me so hard.
There’s a steep learning curve ahead. I will be learning new technologies as well as a new field. siRNA? I’ve seen you around, of course. I followed you when you first burst onto the scene, and you started appearing in all the sexy journals. Of course, you’re now ubiquitous, a common tramp. But I’ve yet to lay hands on you myself. Or to have touched a number of the methods in use in this lab.
But I thawed out a new vial of cells this week, and they took just fine. I looked at them daily under the scope, seeing with approval the familiar growth patterns and cobblestone morphology of this particular cell line. And today I passaged them, my hands moving with confidence in old rhythms. Touch has a memory, as they say. And I was reminded that there is something soothing about cell culture work—a kind of mindless focus that is needed, an attention to detail and awareness of your movements—but in a non-taxing, simultaneously thoughtless kind of way.
We’re just see if those cells are still growing normally on Monday.