By the Janosik Lab
I am the doors of the Janosik lab, a place of scientific curiosity and exploration. I watch ten scientists come and go every day.
It is still dark outside, but the flip of a switch illuminates the room I guard. Work begins early on field days. The rest of the building is quiet, but I am propped open to allow carts of supplies to leave the lab. Ice chests, gloves, alcohol, and tubes parade by. Destined for a boat, they will protect fragile samples from the outdoors. The first trio of researchers departs, and the lights flip off. It is quiet again, but not for long.
As more lab members arrive, the lights come on again. This time, with help from the windows, the whole room is brightened. Refrigerators and freezers line one wall, holding hundreds of samples within. There are benches in the center, impeccably clean; one bench for DNA extraction and one for PCR amplification. Computers sit in one corner, a scientific journal article still on the printer from the day before. The opposite corner holds a stack of artificial reef modules, built by the lab members, and awaiting their chance to collect ocean life. A hidden nook at the back of the room holds desks and bookshelves.
An undergraduate begins to dissect lionfish egg cases at one bench, slime oozing between her gloved fingers. There is something about these egg cases that deters fish from eating them, but only when the tissues are run through analytical chemistry machines can they tell their secrets. I inspect her work, thankful that the slime is kept away from my handles. Across the room, another undergraduate meticulously dissects tiny clams for DNA extraction. She spends hours there, carefully pipetting, seeking the reason for the beautiful colors of each clam shell.
I see a computer screen flicker to life, displaying colorful graphs of DNA sequences. A graduate student settles in for a morning of analysis. A second graduate student leans forward in her chair to examine charts and dive tables on another computer, studying for her Scientific Diver certification. Throughout the day, other projects are displayed, and the scientists in front of each screen rotate in turn.
As the day goes on, one desk at the back of the room is covered with piles of scientific articles, textbooks, and laboratory protocols. I can barely see the scientist hidden among the stacks working on a thesis proposal, driven by curiosity and coffee. Another graduate student, headphones in, works on lectures and grading rubrics for the undergraduate lab courses she teaches.
Scientists continue to come and go. The windows darken again, but the lights are still on. There is always more research to be done. I watch over the scientists as they work, dedicated to their pursuit of knowledge. Hours later, a single student remains. At last, she puts her supplies away, and leaves. With the flick of a switch, I am again cloaked in silence. Well, not quite. The freezers hum, and throughout the night PCR machines beep proudly when they too have completed their work. I wait for morning, and the scientists to return once more.