BISC219/F13:Guidelines for maintaining your lab notebook

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Keeping a Lab Notebook

You must purchase and maintain a lab notebook for this class. Although your lab notebook will not be graded or checked, it will be an important and useful resource for you when you write the scientific research reports on your projects. If you don't keep a careful record of the progress of your experiments in your lab notebook, it will be much harder for you to write about your findings because you will have to try to reconstruct and locate information about the experiments after the fact.

Many scientific companies require that their employee’s laboratory notebooks be dated, signed, and witnessed since notebooks can be used as evidence in a patent dispute to establish the timing of a discovery. You will not be required to have your notebooks witnessed, but the front cover should have your name, Genetics BISC219, your lab section, and some information that will help your notebook get returned to you if you lose it. Each page of your notebook should have a page number and date. You must use a pen to write in your lab notebook. It would not be of much use as a legal document, if it were written in pencil.

Organizing your Lab Notebook for Genetics:
There are many ways to organize a lab notebook but, for this course, an exclusively chronological approach is not the best scheme. Leave a few blank pages at the front of the notebook and start a table of contents that has three parts: Series 1- Patterns of Inheritance, Series 2-Forward Genetics, and Series 3-Reverse Genetics. Number all the pages in your lab notebook before the first lab. Divide your notebook into 3 sections, one for each of the 3 projects you will do this semester. Place Tabs at the beginning of each series section. You can divide the notebook into three equal sections, or give the most pages to series 2. Start the Table of Contents, leaving a lot of room for sub-headings and for possible sub-sub-headings. Fill in the page numbers for the beginning page of each Series. Leave room for the main-subheadings for Series 2 and Series 3 in the Table of Contents and record the start page of each sub-heading. You should leave LOTS of pages in your notebook between the main subheadings and for other sub-divisions. In those blank pages you will eventually make your protocol flow diagrams, record your results and make observations and conclusions. Leave room to take notes during the lab introductions.
The Table of Contents for your first two projects might look like this:

I. Series 1- Investigating Patterns of Inheritance
II. Series 2- Forward Genetics: Investigating the genetic mutation & gene product defect causing a mutant phenotype in C. elegans
   A. Locating the Mutation Responsible for the Phenotype
      1. Linkage Analysis
      2. Mapping the Mutation on the Linkage Group
   B. Characterizing the Mutation
      1. Complementation Analysis
      2. DNA Sequencing Analysis
      3. Bioinformatics
III. Series 3- Reverse Genetics: Investigating gene function using RNAi in C. elegans

Before you come to lab each time (including when you come in between labs to set up crosses or score them), condense the protocols in the wiki into outlines or schematic diagrams of the procedures you will do. These are called “flow diagrams”. DO NOT print out and paste into your notebook the full protocols from the wiki! You will have a hard copy of the lab manual in the lab that you can use to access the full step by step directions. Information that should be recorded in your lab notebook includes the manufacturer and lot number of all kits and purchased reagents, the ingredients and concentration of all stock reagents that you use that were made by the lab specialists for you, the effective concentration of reagents that are diluted in reactions that you set up, and LOTS of descriptions, sketches, and notes about what you see under the microscope as you study the worms we use as our model organism in each step of your experiments. Take lots of photographs of your worms as you set up and assess the progeny of your crosses and paste these digital photo print outs into your notebook. Make sketches about important phenotypes. Set up tables for your scoring results BEFORE you come to lab to score. Make sure those tables have titles and full legend information so you will know what the counts mean and from which crosses the numbers come. Whenever you use a new mutant worm strain, make sure you record the strain information and source in your lab notebook! Sometimes you may have to ask your instructor to write that information on the board because it may not be found in the wiki. Being proactive about recording relevant information at the time you use reagents or living organisms will save you a LOT of time later when you are writing Materials and Methods or trying to remember what you did to get the data you are making conclusions from.

Your lab notebook is the place to record any deviations from expectations, so if you had trouble setting up a cross or if you think a cross of yours didn't work, write down what you did and why you think it may mean that your results may be questionable. Record any unexpected happenings during lab (for example if you have male progeny from a hermaphrodite self-cross). Don’t expect to remember exactly what happened later, since chances are good that you won’t.

Your notebook is also the place to perform any calculations, showing all work. It is much more difficult to recreate what you’ve done in lab if parts of your experiments are written on scraps of paper instead of in your notebook. Since science is founded on the ability to reproduce the results of an experiment, it is vital that the details of the experiment be accurately and completely recorded.

Your notebook is the best resource for writing your papers.

Good luck!