Congratulations to our 5 FBS Aliquoting Story winners

Read their amazing stories and learn about how crazy and frustrating the process of aliquoting can be...

1st place: Ben Schilling, Nantworks

So Easy a Monkey Could Do It

At a previous lab, our facility had an embedded vivarium near where our core lab was located, technically on the same floor. We were using a large volume of FBS so I would aliquot 2 500 mL bottles of FBS at a time into 20 50 mL conical tubes. We had four biological safety cabinets in our tissue culture room and our security was relatively lax. I would heat inactivate both bottles at the same time, take one into the BSC to aliquot, and leave the other on the counter. I would usually do this late at night right before leaving lab to go home.  Meanwhile, there was a cleaning crew who would clean out the cages in the vivarium at about the same time at night.

One night, the cleaning crew forgot to lock the cage for the snow monkeys. Somehow, a snow monkey managed to escape his cage, exit the vivarium and came down the hallway to our core lab. I discovered later that these snow monkeys were part of a study to see how well they could mimic physical actions performed by humans.

I was by myself and had my headphones in, blasting music. Suddenly, I look in the reflection off the glass on the safety cabinet and see a snow monkey looking right at me. I try to stay calm, I'm right in the middle of aliquoting FBS. He starts imitating me. He's watching my fingers pull the trigger on my pipet. I pour FBS into one of the 50 mL conical tubes, I grab another and repeat the same motion. I pause. He grabs the second bottle of FBS off the counter and takes it into the BSC next to mine. I had already laid out 10 conical tubes in that hood. He uses one hand to open the conical tube the same way that I had been doing. He then grabs a serological pipet and attaches it to the pipet. I can't believe what happens next. He takes the cap off the FBS bottle, sticks the pipet into the bottle of FBS, pulls the trigger on the pipet, FBS goes into the 50 mL serological pipet. He then pulls the other trigger and drops it into the tube, exactly how I was doing it a minute earlier. Then he does it again for a second tube, and then a third.

Fortunately, an alarm at the vivarium had gone off, by now animal control had been contacted. Apparently, someone saw the monkey heading down our hallway and called into animal control. Right as the snow monkey had aliquoted the third tube of FBS, animal control burst into our tissue culture room. They carefully took the snow monkey and brought him back to his cage.

To this day, I will never forget the night a snow monkey helped me aliquot FBS.


2nd place: Dr Nicole King, Wayne State University

Multi-tasking while aliquoting, yikes!

My most cringeworthy story is regarding a person in the lab who was snacking on pizza while prepping the tubes to aliquot FBS. Then he kept answering his cell phone with gloves on and then went back to the hood to finish up aliquoting. He then went to his computer with gloves on and started typing. I don't know how he didn't contaminate his cells.

3rd place: Nancy Lyon, Austin Community College

Mistaken identity

I had an undergrad that thought that the aliquots of FBS were actually aliquots of cell media. He passed his cells in $300/bottle FBS! His cells were happy, but the PI was not.


4th place Matt Rowe: Victoria University of Wellington

Weekend work is tough

It's Saturday morning, and I'm woken by a panicked phone call... A terrified undergraduate student is on the other end of the line. Let’s call him Steve. HELP! I can't find the donkey serum! I carefully explain the stock location, and try to calm Steve down whilst doing my best to pretend to be awake. 'Oh.. and you might need to aliquot' I mention, right before a quick goodbye and instant return to unconsciousness. 

Monday morning rolls around—I get to work in the lab right away. I open the negative 80* to grab my samples. WHAT IS THIS?! Two absolutely GIANT bags of 1 mL Eppendorfs, exquisitely labeled and with a small amount of orangey solution inside.

Steve had thought 'aliquot' meant he had to prepare all the working stocks... There must have been about 2,500 tubes in those bags. Must have taken him the better part of an entire day. Feel sorry for the guy!

5th place Dr Brian Wilson: Boston Children’s Hospital

Initiation gone wrong

We gave the duty of making FBS aliquots to the new PhD student. We thought it was impossible to mess up—wrong! He thawed the bottle as normal, in the water bath, cleaned it as required with ethanol, then aliquoted the whole bottle. But the aliquots were different shades of brown.

Turns out he did not shake the bottle, after thawing, to mix it and distribute the contents equally. Such a rookie mistake, but it could have ruined all of our future experiments for the next few months if I hadn't noticed.


Who do you think has the best aliquoting story?

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