• Question: How many science experiments do you normally do in a day, and how long are they normally ;)

    Asked by gibsonol02 to Amelia, Richard, Prateek, Liz, Jim on 15 Jun 2011.
    • Photo: Prateek Buch

      Prateek Buch answered on 14 Jun 2011:

      this is a good question. I normally do experiments that last several days if not several weeks – so usually it’s more a case of doing three or four bits of different experiments in one day, then waiting for a while for results – can be hard to keep track 🙂

    • Photo: Jim Caryl

      Jim Caryl answered on 14 Jun 2011:

      It’s quite tricky to say really as our science experiments aren’t really like the practical work done in schools. The quickest of my experiments usually involves about 2 hours of manual work, and if something goes wrong I usually have time to figure out what went wrong, and repeat it. Most of my experiments take over a week to perform. This is because I make bacteria compete against each other in a race to see who can grow the fastest, but we continue to grow them (and give them more food) every day for a week, before working out who won.

    • Photo: Amelia Markey

      Amelia Markey answered on 14 Jun 2011:

      The experiments I do most often with my device last most of the day.

      I mix the chemicals with the DNA which takes about 30 minutes by the time I’ve got everything together. Then I put it all on my device and leave it for 4 hours 10 minutes then I collect it which takes about 30 minutes. When I then look to see if my DNA has been copied that can take about 2 or 3 hours.

      There’s also lots of bits to do to prepare your experiments so I have to grow my cells and keep checking them to make sure they are happy 🙂 I also have to get the DNA out of them which takes up to an hour. Things like making my device and the equipment I need to make it work usually take the longest because I need other people to help me (which depends how busy they are) and it takes time to get the right materials.

      If I can I try and run a few experiments at the same time but that’s usually a recipe for disaster as I can’t keep track of everything that’s going on…

    • Photo: Richard Badge

      Richard Badge answered on 14 Jun 2011:

      It varies according to the type of experiment, but the shortest ones – for example analysing some human DNA to see if the people have a particular jumping gene might take just a morning.

      If we need to look at a lot of people, we usually do 100 or so samples at once – the biggest experiment I’ve ever done personally involved analysing over a 1000 people in 4 different regions of their DNA and took about two months.

      Finally some experiments that generate a lot of data usually take longer – we are working on an experiment at the moment that we started nearly 9 months ago. A lot of this time was experiments to make sure we prepared the DNA correctly, then we collected nearly a million pieces of DNA using an expensive machine (cost £250,000!). Getting the raw data took 10 hrs and processing it took nearly 2 days on our most powerful computer.

      Finally analysing the results has kept us busy for the best part of 2 months…


    • Photo: Lizzard O'Day

      Lizzard O'Day answered on 15 Jun 2011:

      it can depend… somedays you can race around and you may screen 100s if not 1000s of potential drug compounds (robots make this a lot easier) other days it may take 4 days for you just to finish 1 experiment.. and there’s a lot of prep work that goes into everything.. you need to carefully plan out your experiment– time management is crucial to being a scientist, there’s always another experiment you can do but often there’s not enough hours in the day to do it!