Mentors at Your Benchside

Mentors at Your Benchside

A good mentor can be the difference between success and failure. But what to do if you don't have help on hand? Mentors At Your Benchside provides curated help and advice from experienced researchers on various topics, from lab skills and techniques to career progression. Each short episode is bursting with easy-to-access help and advice that can improve your results and help you get the most out of your time in the lab.


September 19, 2023 8 mins

#77  — Have you ever thought about accessibility in science? We don’t always present our science in ways that are accessible to everyone. Nor is lab-based science always accessible.

In this episode of Mentors At Your Benchside, we explore what accessibility is and highlight how we can all make science more accessible and inclusive.

Visit the original article for helpful resources and to revisit the key definitions. [1] Make ...

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#76 — Do you know how the first cells were identified? Or who discovered them? What about why they are called cells? Discover the fascinating history in this enlightening Mentors At Your Benchside episode.

Visit the original article for a timeline of cell biology, [1] discover the most commonly used cell lines, [2] and find out why HeLa cells are surrounded by controversy. [3]  

1. History of Cell Biology. Avai...

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September 5, 2023 6 mins

#75 — Counting your cultured cells is vital to seeding the right density for your experiments, harvesting an appropriate amount of downstream experiments, preparing cells for flow cytometry, and more. Luckily it's pretty easy with a hemocytometer. In this episode of Mentors At Your Benchside, we talk you through the four steps of counting cells using a hemocytometer, including best practices so your count is accurate.


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August 29, 2023 5 mins

#74 — Understanding how a technique works make it simpler to troubleshoot when things go wrong in your experiments. Learn how alkaline lysis works in this short and simple step-by-step run-through of the process.

Check out the original article for links to helpful resources, [1] discover five ways to clean up a DNA sample, [2] and get tips on preparing your vectors for gene cloning. [3]

1. Lab Basics: How The ...

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#73 — PCR is a fundamental technique all biologists rely on, and, for qPCR, we can construct a standard curve that tells us how good or bad our primers are.

In this episode, learn all about qPCR standard curves, what they tell you about your primers, and what to try if something doesn't look correct on your standard curve.

Check out the corresponding online article for an example qPCR curve. [1] For more PCR essentials, down...

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August 15, 2023 10 mins

#72 — Research requires imagination and strategy, and helpful distractions can give us the mental rest we need to recharge. Fun hobbies for scientists can provide inspiration, creativity, fitness, articulacy, and a much-needed break. Discover our top 10 hobbies for scientists, and find a new hobby that could also benefit your research.

Visit the original article for links to related resources [1] and discover why creativit...

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August 8, 2023 4 mins

#71 — A good histology slide can give you beautiful, revealing microscope images of your precious tissue samples. But what goes into preparing slides for histology?

Whether you're new to the game, have only ever sent your samples off for slide preparation, or need a refresher, this episode explains how histology slides are prepared.

Check out the corresponding article for links to related histology resources. [1] Plus, lear...

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#70 — Sterilization is a critical technique in the biology lab. It keeps your cell lines free from contamination, allows safe disposal of used items, and prevents breakouts of phage!

In this episode, we discuss six sterilization techniques and explain how they work.

Read the original article for additional resources on basic lab techniques. [1] If you're curious about how UV light damages DNA, read this article. [2] And ch...

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#69 — Figures are a fundamental way to communicate science and are essential components of journal articles.

In this episode, learn the differences between vector and raster image types, hear the pros and cons of various common file types, and get the lowdown on common parameters such as color models and DPI.

Check out the original article for an easy table that summarizes the key differences between image types. [1] Plus,...

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#68 — Controls are fundamental to getting meaningful data. Especially in long, drawn-out experiments like immunofluorescence imaging. In this episode, we explain 5 types of immunofluorescence control, what they tell you, and why they are critical for your experiments.

Check out the original article for links to loads of related resources [1], and you can access all this information as a beautiful poster for your lab. [2]


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#67 — What are those mysterious extra water molecules at the end of some chemical names? Do they matter to your experiments? And what should you do when they aren't water but are something more intrusive like HCl?

In this episode, we answer all those questions and tell you everything you need to know about water of crystallization.

Check out the original article for handy figures that illustrate water of crystallization in r...

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#66 — Are your plasmid yields low? Not sure what is considered a good yield? Need help boosting the amount of plasmid you get from your preps?

In this episode, we discuss what is a good and bad yield, why your plasmid preps might be sub-optimal, and how you get better yields.

Read the original article for an easy protocol for growing unsaturated cultures. [1] Discover the differences between DNA precipitation and ethanol vs...

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#65 — Delegation is not just for managers! No matter where you are in your research career, there is an opportunity to delegate.

In this episode, we discuss how you can simplify your lab life by delegating, who you can delegate to, and how to do it effectively and without offending anyone!

Read the full article to review everything covered in this episode. [1] If you want a deeper dive into how and when to delegate, listen ...

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#64 — Like many experiments, doing a Western blot typically means comparing half a dozen online protocols, failing completely, triple-checking the recipes of your more suspicious buffers, then remaking them and starting again anyway.

To ease the pain, this episode gives you a reliable ECL reagent recipe so you can prepare your own fresh (and private) stash anytime you need. We also explain what all the components do.

Check ...

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#63 — Are you fed up with Western blots that look like your pen leaked in your pocket? We all are. That's why we've put together our three favorite tips for better Western blot transfers.

Visit the full article for a handy figure illustrating the elements of the transfer stack. [1]  You can also learn more about the different approaches to blotting. [2] Plus, we've got an easy ECL reagent recipe for you too. [3]


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#62 — Do you want to use a cell line but are unsure where to start? Or perhaps you’re just curious about the most commonly used cell lines. Listen to our top 5 most commonly used cell lines to get a feel for the cells that many researchers turn to.

Read the original article, [1] brush up on the harrowing origins of the HeLa cell line, [2] and get advice on how to pick the perfect cell line for your research. [3]


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#61 — Fed up with fighting to put on another pair of gloves with sticky hands? Faced the embarrassment of giving a sweaty handshake? You need to listen to our top tips for handling sweaty glove hands in the lab.

Visit the full article to leave your comments on handling sweaty glove hands, [1] and check out our guide to choosing the right glove. [2]

1. Get a Grip: Dealing with Sweaty Glove Hands.  Available at: ...

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#60 — There's nothing quite as frustrating as imaging a western blot only to find your bands are a wonky mess, your blot is covered in bubbles, or your bands are missing entirely. We've got a solution to help: Ponceau S. This stain gives a midpoint step that can help narrow down the cause of your problems.

Listen to this episode of Mentors At Your Benchside to discover a step-by-step guide for performing Ponceau S staining ...

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#59 — Have you heard of plasmid incompatibility? Should you be worried about it? Listen to this episode of Mentors At Your Benchside to discover exactly what plasmid incompatibility is, how it can affect your research and what you can do to overcome it.

Read the full article for helpful figures, [1] read the review with a list of incompatibility groupings, [2] check out the detailed review by Novick et al. for details on th...

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#58 — One of the most common goals in biology is to prove that two proteins colocalize. Usually, colocalization happens as part of a crucial disease pathway or poorly understood yet fundamental physiological process.

In this episode, we discuss two methods to quantify colocalization: Pearson’s correlation coefficient and Mander’s colocalization coefficient. Listen and learn their use cases and limitations and how to choose ...

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