• Question: How did you turn the lab pink?!:)

    Asked by Sarah_McHale to Laura on 18 Nov 2014.
    • Photo: Laura Tobin

      Laura Tobin answered on 18 Nov 2014:

      Hi Sarah! I managed to turn the lab pink through clumsiness, bad maths and sheer stupidity!

      Backstory: I work in a dark room lab. This means that there are no windows and I generally turn off all the lights except one, in this case it was a laser to do my experiments (see photos in my profile). Lasers are pretty cool because they have only one wavelength (colour), so I use different wavelengths to see if the material I’m testing has a different reaction. So in this experiment I was using a dye called Erythrosine B (EB) which is pink and shining I think a green laser on it. For the experiment I make up a solution (like making a glass of Ribena or Mi-Wadi) of EB in PVA glue and I stick in on to a glass microscope slide and shine the laser on it.

      To make the solution I use some dye in powder form and add it in a glass of water to dissolve it. I use the wrong concentration – I got my maths wrong and made it too strong. When making up the solution we work in the dark – but we do have a small red light that we use so we aren’t totally blind. I managed to knock the glass beaker and spill some dye, so in the dark I wiped it up and threw the mixture down the sink because I had to start all over again.

      Fast forward to when I finish the experiment and turn on the main lights. I looked at the bench to make sure I had cleaned up all the dye and realised that it was stained pink. Not just pink but really really really pink. By wiping it up I had made it worse, the whole bench was pink. I looked in the sink and it too was pink and all the glass ware (beakers, pipettes, funnels) were, you guessed it, PINK! I panicked. I tried to clean it up with acetone (the stuff in nail varnish remover), no joy. I tried everything but it still wouldn’t come off. I had to tell my boss and he was cool about it. So three years on, my lab is still bright pink. I like to think I customised it. No one else has a cool pink lab like mine 😀