“Hey, I won’t be able to make it over for movies tonight. I’ve got to finish these timepoints… Yeah, I know it’s the third time this week, but I promise I’ll leave a early tomorrow… Okay, sorry. Goodnight.”
Gary ends the phone call and sighs. This is not the first time he’s had to cancel a date to finish up an experiment. He’s starting to detect some resentment in his girlfriend’s voice.
As the minutes tick by on his timer, Gary sees lights flip off in the adjacent laboratory bays. Even the postdocs have gone home. Looks like it’ll be another long, lonely night – just him and an incubator full of cells.
He’s scrolling through his phone to find a playlist that can keep him awake for the next few hours when there’s a faint clink of glass somewhere in the darkened part of the lab.
He finds the playlist just as he hears a faint tap, tap, tap coming from the same direction.
“Maybe one of the postdocs left a cage of mice here by accident,” he thinks. He pops out his ear buds and listens again… tap… tap… tap…
But the sound is too rhythmic to be mice.
“They really need to fix that faucet. That thing has been leaking for weeks.”
Tap… tap… tappity tappity tap. Whatever is dripping seems to be coming faster now.
“Is someone there?” Gary asks, feeling stupid for the uncanny tightness now rising in his chest. Tap… tappity tap tap…
The sound that was just dripping is now streaming, a thin drizzle falling onto the soapstone bench.
Gary stands, and keeping his eyes toward the source of the sound, creeps carefully toward the light switch. That’s when a nauseating wave of stench hits his nostrils.
His pupils constrict as he reaches the switch and the lights flash across a viscous puddle slowly growing larger on the bench to his right. The pool has spilled over the edge, dripping foul, sticky liquid onto the floor.
The odor is unmistakable and overpowering. He tears up, each breath a painful struggle to get enough air.
His eyes slowly follow the vile stream to its source…
“Dammit! Who spilled that bottle of β-mercaptoethanol and didn’t clean it up!?”
Little Lab of Horrors
Life in grad school may not have many horror-movie freak-outs, but there are plenty of harrowing and traumatic experiences to thrill even the most stoic scientist.
In celebration of Halloween, we asked our listeners about their lab and grad school horror stories!
We heard chilling tales of fires, floods, and freezers on the fritz. There are stories of dissertations delayed, pilfering PIs, and even explosions! Eeeek!
When you tune in, be sure to sample our new favorite pumpkin ale from Rogue Brewing. It’s the Limited Edition Pumpkin Patch Ale, made from pumpkins they grow themselves!
And here are a few of the resources we mentioned in the show:
Share your laboratory horror stories with us on Twitter (@hellophd) or via email. Happy Halloween!