Accidents happen. As any scientist knows, plenty can go wrong when working with potentially dangerous microbes, chemicals, or equipment. Last week (April 17), Reddit user mmm_whatcha_say opened a thread asking scientists to share “the worst thing that has happened in their lab.” The thread has attracted nearly 2,800 comments. Among the top 500:

Food-related flubs

AnthraxCat: “We had a grad student working with a relatively benign strain of Vibrio cholerae who didn’t wear gloves, or wash her hands before eating lunch. She got cholera. The doctors were baffled.”

Jfmorrison: “Postdoc ordered a pizza and ate part. Put the rest in the -80 C freezer. Next night, wants a snack, puts in microwave on defrost for a couple minutes. Cheese looks melted so he takes a bite. The center is still frozen solid and he gets ice burns on his tongue, mouth, and lips.”

Physics 101...

Plasmonical: “Grad student decides to use an ultracentrifuge, needing to spin at about 1,000,000g (~9800km/s2). Decides to load it with all his samples on one side of the drum (unbalanced). During spin up, the drum rips itself off the motor arm and shreds the interior machinery as it bounced around. RIP ultracentrifuge.”

Costly catastrophes

Blackday44: “There was a communication issue, and someone threw out about $20,000 worth of samples.”

LabMoneyWaster: “Added the wrong chemical to a 300L solution that compromised an experiment and wasted $150,000 of company money.”

Fashion accident

Au_Struck_Geologist: “Bought new white shoes. Spilled nitric acid on new white shoes. Result: new white and yellow shoes.”

Share your lab bloopers

Humorous confessions aside, lab safety is a serious issue. In the spirit of sharing, The Scientist asks: What’s the worst #labblooper you’ve witnessed? Tweet @TheScientistLLC using the hashtag.

Interested in reading more?

The Scientist ARCHIVES

Become a Member of

Receive full access to more than 35 years of archives, as well as TS Digest, digital editions of The Scientist, feature stories, and much more!
Already a member?