What’s cooking?

Followers of this blog will be familiar with our digressions into slow food, epicurean travel and even the culinary delights of good food closer to home. But in the white heat of clinical science, we have to make do with coffee fumes and the occasional thought of home cooking.

The holiday season has provided the Micrognome and colleagues ample opportunity to get back into the kitchen and rediscover the pleasure of serving up good food to family and friends. Sometime, just sometimes, the watched pot hasn’t done its stuff quickly enough to stop the mind racing back to the lab. On one such occasion the MicroGnome paused to consider how much cooking technology we use in the molecular biology lab.

Here’s a short list of lab gear and kitchen equivalents:

Molecular biology Domestic kitchen
Electronic balance Digital scales
Hotplate Ceramic hob
Microwave oven Microwave oven
Vortex mixer Food mixer
Spin columns Sieve
Automatic pipettes Measuring cups, spoons, jugs
Robotic extractor Food processor
Thermocycler Induction cooktop


The big difference, obviously is the scale of operation. So why do we sweat the small stuff in the lab, then need so much cold storage space? The average sized -20’C freezer in a domestic kitchen is dwarfed by the -80’C freezers we use to store stuff. Maybe we make up for the small scale by hoarding more, longer.

Given this re-connection with the MicroGnome’s inner chef, readers will not be surprised to learn that cutlery tidies make excellent containers for automatic pipettes, colour-coded cutting boards are suitable for molecular contamination control, and stacking food boxes are good eyeline tidies for the likes of tips, 1.5mL tubes and 96 well trays.

Not all of this works well in a lab without walls, but maybe we should think about taking over the camp kitchen when we need to hitch up a bunsen.

What’s your lab cooking today?



  1. Centrifuge = lettuce spinner
    Stains = food dye (some equally hard to wash off your skin if your gloves break)
    Agar = Jelly
    Microtome – Pro V vegetable slicer

    Maybe you could do some decorative cake icing with a multichannel pipette?

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