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Fly-Wrangling and Undesirable Snacks

A humorous Twitter hashtag helps paint a picture of what science initiation rituals might look like.

By | September 3, 2013

WIKIMEDIA, J.J.Early September—school is starting back up, students are joining new labs, and scientists are using the Twitter hashtag #labhazing to imagine the hypothetical pranks they might play on unsuspecting newbies.

Science writers John Rennie (@tvjrennie) and Jeffrey Perkel (@J_perkel) kicked off the trend on September 1 after Perkel tweeted: “Paging @NerdyChristie @scicurious @tvjrennie: today’s game: fave lab hazing rituals? Eg, find the keys to the PCR machine. Go!”

Soon after, others were joining in with suggestions that ranged from mostly benign to downright terrifying. Rennie, who summarized the exchange on his PLOS blog The Gleaming Retort, noted that labs aren’t exactly hazing hotbeds but that surely scientists play the occasional prank. “If nothing else, during the long hours that scientists and technicians often spend waiting in their labs or doing mindless tasks, their imaginations have plenty of time to conjure up fantasies about pranks they could pull but probably never would,” he wrote.

Here are some of our favorite tweets from the conversation:

Jamie Lynn Wood @JamieLynnWood
What do you mean a #Drosophila flew out of the vial?! Search the lab until you find it!! #labhazing

giroofasaurus vexed @tehpet
@scicurious @tvjrennie we ask new kids to make 10X water stocks, or to make a 1X water aliquot from the 10X water. #labhazing

Sci Curious @scicurious
@j_perkel @tvjrennie @NerdyChristie Tme for rodent mating! Don't forget the pink mood lighting and Elvis. They like Elvis. #labhazing

Christie Wilcox @NerdyChristie
@j_perkel @scicurious @tvjrennie Chug a shot from the plankton net.

Janet D. Stemwedel @docfreeride
Please bring me the left-handed scoopula and the metric weighing boats. #labhazing

Carl Carruthers @ProteinWrangler
Instructions in undergrad worker lab manual: "Rehydrate 58.4 g NaCl with 1L 55.5 M diH2O" #LabHazing

Jeffrey Perkel @j_perkel
Did you taste-test that culture medium? #labhazing @tvjrennie @scicurious

Geeky Girl Engineer @gkygirlengineer
Tell student to check for radiation leaks from geology X-ray lab. Don't tell student about huge uranium ore sample next door. #labhazing

Jokes aside, some participants alluded to the dangers of hazing.

Deborah Blum @deborahblum
This #labhazing thread is hilarious. Smart. Maybe a little scary.

Bill Hooker @sennoma
@docfreeride The very concept of "lab hazing" makes me boiling angry. If I ever see that […] happening the explosion will be EPIC.

Chemist-turned-philosopher Janet Stemwedel (@docfreeride) pointed out that perhaps deliberate initiation ceremonies are unnecessary in the lab, considering the inherent difficulties of learning how to be a scientist. “Seriously. As if setting up an experiment from published materials & methods weren't #labhazing enough,” she tweeted.

Today (September 3), a new Twitter hashtag has emerged: scientists are now tweeting their most horrifying mistakes under the hashtag #labsafety.

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