One day my adviser asked me to accompany him to an unoccupied lab whose former occupant had retired. It was like entering a well-appointed haunted house: glassware on the shelves, awaiting use; chemicals in the hood, fuming; gel boxes idling on the bench. It was a lab, but its eeriness was unsettling; it felt somehow wrong to be there without the owner. I was snapped out of my thoughts by my adviser, who turned suddenly and asked, "What do you think of this centrifuge?" Now I understood why we had brought a cart along.

It's often a sad day when a colleague leaves the department and the lab must pack up and go. We always mourn.

For about 10 minutes.

Weeks before the move, the subtle little comments start: "That's a really nice centrifuge," or "That PCR machine must be two years old, you can afford better now." As the...

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