True science

This week has produced an odd result that no one in our lab can understand. It is a great example of how most things in experimental science don’t go smoothly. Here’s what’s going on in summary.

  • We have a protocol that has as an end result two fragments of DNA
  • We then stick (ligate) these two pieces of DNA together
  • We expect one, new, piece of DNA
Red box — my colleague’s resulting DNA. Blue box — my resulting DNA.

The image shows an agarose gel electrophoresis result. The DNA is plonked in the top of the gel and then an electric field pulls the DNA through some jelly like substance, agarose. Different sizes and shapes of DNA travel different distances so you see bands where you have distinct populations of DNA.

The important columns here and outlined in red and blue. In the red column we have my colleagues stuck together DNA and in the blue column we have my stuck together DNA. Same protocol, same ingredients very different results! Why? Why would it do this? I have an extra, unwanted, population.

I could understand if this was two different laboratories in different places trying to replicate the same thing which is often problematic (a story for another time). However, myself and the other lab member share a bench, use the same ‘ingredients’ and the same tools!

This is science. This is what academics do, day in, day out, and lie awake at night for – spend a lot of time trying to understand an odd result.

P.S. For those wanting a bit more detail - the other 2 columns in the group of four are mixes of the the 2 constituent parts. i.e. part A from me + part B from colleague and vice versa. Weird!