Friday, April 1, 2011

Matching Music With Scientific Experiments...



This post will interest no one :-)

I do science. 

Or at least, I attempt to do it. 
I'm a graduate student in a molecular and cellular biology program and I do research in a mouse genetics and molecular biology laboratory. 
It is like a regular job, only not considered so by corporate bio-pharma companies (or anyone else for that matter... ), but to us, it is. I come early to the lab and work long hours (including weekends) and usually the experiments either don't work or show that my initial hypothesis was wrong; so it feels like a lot of work for nothing. There's so much frustration in this path, that one must ask oneself serious questions about one's sanity and the reasons behind choosing to pursue such a despair-inducing "career".
There's lots more to say about this scientific course of life, but this is not the aim of this post and blog (plus others have said this much better than me).

What I was aiming with this, is that through music, the pains and anguish of unsuccessful endeavours and dead-end experiments can be softened by talking to friends, drinking, and for me, with music!

Given the lab setting, one can freely listen to music on their personal devices while working. Which is what I do (go ahead, call me anti-social, why don't you). I listen to lots of music during the day; lots of albums, different styles, atmospheres and energy levels. But I need to match the music I listen to with the experiment I'm doing.

While most would not put heavy and rhythmic music while preparing a 384-well qPCR plate, this is exactly what I like to do. Listening to Equilibrium's Rekreatur gives me the much needed block of the outer world and its distractions (post-docs and technicians working beside me, talking, walking by, trying to ask me questions...).

Listening to Moonsorrow's Voimasta Ja Kuniasta while doing tissue culture work on primary neuronal cultures is a much needed boost in an otherwise boring and long process. It also makes me thing what would happen if I put on the music for these neurons to listen to... (now is the time other scientists will chime in saying, there's no gateway for the sonic input, so nothing will happen. My answer - t'was a joke, but I'll try it now anyway).

It's very soothing to listen to The Beautiful Schizophrenic or Greg Haines while using the confocal microscope taking pictures of the brain sections I stained with three antibodies and DAPI, looking for my protein of interest and two other markers. The music helps relieve the slightly depressing and lonesome experience of sitting in the dark for 4-6 hours, taking pictures of all possible regions, trying to see if there are any differences between the wild-type and knock-out mice brains (up to now, about 100 hours later, no difference whatsoever...).

I usually come early enough before everyone is here (around 6-6:30 am), and so I like to put the music loud on my logitech speakers (3.1) here. There's nothing like listening to Maneige's Les Porches loud in the morning with no one around, while I prepare my gels for Western Blotting.

Sometimes it's quite refreshing to listen to 80s pop (Dead Or Aline, Duran Duran, Bronski Beat, Inxs, Depeche Mode - love these guys, I'll dedicate a post to three of their albums, and others) music while doing phenol-chloroform DNA extraction for subsequent genotyping.

It's always uplifting to do to colony lift-ups to check for successful transfection as part of cloning, while enjoying the sonic manifestations in the music of Bonobo, Ez3keil or Hidria Spacefolk.

There's nothing more invigorating than having Filteria, Infected Mushroom's Vicious Delicious or Hallucinogen's Twisted played loud when doing a Chromatin Immunoprecipitation (ChIP).

So, I don't match the music to the experiments, I match the music to my current mood and see if it fits the overall experience. Sometimes it doesn't work. 
But for the most part, it does. It makes the day seem brighter, my mood more tolerable by others (and myself), the experience more pleasant and bearable and the pain of failure, duller. 

Obviously, I also listen to music in other surroundings and context, just in case it's not clear.

So, do you like to have music on when working?
If so, what's your musical drug? How and where do you use and abuse it?
If not, when do you listen to music?

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