Budget Freeze

On a trip to Legoland with my son, I got a call from a colleague that my ultracold (-80°) freezer was dying. A few quick iPhone moments and the damage was controlled, thanks to colleagues and students moving my samples to available freezers quickly. That left me with a very expensive freezer to fix, but no lost stuff (I hope).

As it turns out, the University fired the few physical plant employees who were certified to work on these freezers last year. To save the school money, of course. Now, I pay the same 48.5% in overhead on my grants as always, but when my freezer dies the university doesn’t have my back anymore. A private contractor had to be called in, and long story short this will cost one of my grants nearly $6000. (Suggesting there is about $3000 in overhead that is covering the 10 burned-out 100W incandescent bulbs in the ceiling of my lecture hall? Or maybe that money could be used to repair the swimming pool on campus?).

Well, okay, I get it. State schools are strapped for money. Research costs money, and thankfully I have some NSF funds that will cover this so we can get back to work. But the math here doesn’t add up well.

In the meantime, my remaining freezers are packed to the gills and of course much of that needs to be re-organized, but we are also now at about the 8-year mark of my lab being open, and that means there is likely to be some stuff in there that just doesn’t need to be:

That’s one full 50-gallon trashcan just from one of the -20 freezers. There are some things that are hard to let go of, but need to be. For example, the box on top labeled ‘Tectura testudinalis’ are all of the samples (only about 35) that I collected of this limpet for my dissertation. But the sample is small enough that there is simply nothing useful to be done with them, beyond the freebie paper (see “Baby It’s Cold Outside”) I published on this blog last year!

Former and current students and postdocs: I assure you I’ve thrown nothing away that was properly labeled or appeared to be from the past, say, 4 years. But frostbitten 96-well plates with no labeling: gone!