How I Helped A Friend Move His Science Lab, And What I learned From The Experience True Stories

When I was studying neuroscience in college, I needed some extra cash to help pay for luxury items such as clothing, books and the occasional restaurant meal. My friend and fellow researcher Max was two years ahead of me, and one day he approached me with a job offer: His science lab needed to be moved to a larger room to accommodate additional researchers his project leader was hiring, thanks to a couple of new grants for the year.
“I wish we took photos that day, but it was a bit like this!”

“I wish we took photos that day, but it was a bit like this!”

I accepted the assignment immediately. What could be so hard about helping someone move a science lab? What I didn’t realize at the time I accepted the job was that one of our major tasks was to transport more than 500 live lab mice up five stories.

Our building in the university has three rows of elevators, and they are often packed with students, professors and other researchers throughout the day. This meant that we needed to get up at 4:00 a.m. on moving day to give us a few hours before the crowds appeared. I suggested we do the move on the weekend, but my friend couldn’t wait that long. We had to begin work tomorrow.

We couldn’t take the stairs to transport most of these lab mice, because so many of them had electrodes hooked up to their brains and other parts of their bodies. They needed to be handled delicately.

What’s more, we had to keep groups of them separated from one another, because some of the mice were undergoing drug tests. We didn’t know which lab mice were actually being given the drugs being studied and which were receiving placebos or nothing at all.

Because some of these mice were specially bred to lack normal protections, such as a fully functioning nervous system, they were more susceptible to catching a wide variety of diseases. If we didn’t handle them very gently, it was possible that the stress of relocating them could cause them to become ill, injured or even die prematurely.

Needless to say, I was growing a bit worried that I might ruin some of these important experiments.

We set up some padded crates and securely placed each mouse cage inside so that it wouldn’t move back and forth during transport.

Some of the mice were being raised under various environmental conditions. For example, one researcher was testing the effects of extreme cold and heat on how well his mice learned to run through a maze, find a hidden piece of food, or avoid being zapped by an electric shock.

This meant that I had to pack up some of the mice cages in a container with ice packs. Other mice had to go inside a container that was kept warm with multiple heating blankets on the top, bottom and sides. We had to transport all these different mice quickly and gently, making a minimum of noise so as not to upset them too much.

Even though the work itself was quite demanding (consider how many elevator rides we had to take to move 540 mice up five stories before the sun rose!), I learned a lot from this job. However, I feel that at the end of the day it would have been better to look into having a professional lab moving company do the job. I didn’t realize how strict the protocols were for scientific experiments, and the importance of keeping researchers in the dark during double blind experiments.

My friend was not permitted to know which mice were receiving experimental drugs, for example, and which ones were in the control groups. Neither were the people who administered these drugs. They were given syringes marked with code numbers rather than names of drugs or the word “placebo,” for example. This way, no one could inadvertently alter the results of the experiments they were conducting with these mice.