Thursday, October 19, 2006

Life Imitates Videogame: Keys

Sometimes, life imitates videogames. In our lab, an undergraduate (actually, very recent graduate) student runs the occassional PCR reaction for a human-immunglobulins-variation project that Felix is conducting. Sometimes I help, since I have run many, many PCR reactions. Also, Felix pays me.

Christa runs PCR, using primers and reagents found in Felix's lab, and a thermal cycler found in Jamie's lab (Jamie and Felix are married). So, Christa has a key to get into our lab. She assembles everything she needs, then goes to use Jamie's BioSafety Cabinet, located in a small room off of another small room near Jamie's lab (yes, SFU architecture is confusing). She must travel from our lab, to Jamie's lab, get the key to the BioSafety Cabinet room from a desk drawer in Jamie's lab, then access the cabinet-room via the other little room (call it the media prep room). This process actually involves a total of four keys. Imagine the sequence like a typical FPS video game:

1. Access Felix lab using the Red Key (already on keyring, acquired months ago from Campus Security)
2. Assemble components from the 'fridge, freezer, benchtop, etc (in a game, this would probably involve jumping from atop the freezer to the top of the 'fridge, then crawling through a ventilation pipe in the ceiling)
3. Find the Blue Key and the Yellow Key in Felix lab (again, in a game, imagine a secret door leading to a closet containing only one key and a device that temporarily allows you to jump extra high, or something)
4. Travel to Jamie's lab, access Jamie lab using the Blue Key
5. Find the Green Key in a desk in Jamie lab
6. Leave Jamie lab, find the media prep room, access media prep room using the Yellow Key
7. Enter media prep room, access BioSafety Cabinet room using the Green Key
8. Use the BioSafety Cabinet to assemble the PCR (DNA, reagents, Taq, use the pipettors, etc)
At this point in a game, there would probably be some sort of completeness-check, and you'd get a message saying "you don't have any sterile water!" or something
9. Leave the BioSafety Cabinet room with your PCR tubes, access Jamie Lab using the Blue Key again (remember, you're not allowed to leave doors unlocked behind you)
10. Use the PCR machine in Jamie lab (a game would probably require a specific sequence of keystrokes here, a la the harpsicord / sandalwood box play-music sequence in Ultima V)
11. Return the Cabinet room, accessing it using the Yellow and Green keys
12. Collect your stuff (sterile water, reagents, pipettors, etc), and leave, locking two doors behind you
13. Return the Green key to the desk in Jamie's lab, after again using the Blue Key
14. Return to Felix lab, return Yellow and Blue keys to storage locations
15. Exit Felix Lab, encounter "end level" screen that describes your score.

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