Laboratory Loves

We asked our secret agents which gadgets they can’t live without in the lab.

Ke Xu: Microscope

Xu says this is “a deceptively simple technology” that’s quite sophisticated in what it does.

Daniel Fitzpatrick:
Raspberry Pi


“It’s a great little [do-it-yourself] computer that lets me control all my lab equipment remotely, collect data from pretty much anything … and what’s best of all is it only costs £28!”

Renã Robinson: Orbitrap mass spectrometer

Robinson says it’s the primary technique used in her lab to carry out large-scale analysis of proteins.

Alex Spokoyny:


This simple but beloved tool enables his lab members to draw molecules and other doodles on their fume hood sashes for discussion.

Alison Narayan: Ultraperformance liquid chromatograph

“It’s our go-to instrument for analyzing small-scale biocatalytic reactions.”

Luis Campos: Personal protective equipment


Safety first. Campos values this gear for keeping himself and his team members out of harm’s way.

Anthony Estrada and Bill Morandi: Radio or music player

Listening to tunes helps keep each of these chemists pumped about the molecules they’re building. Much to the chagrin of his coworkers, Morandi recalls, “I was literally listening at least once a day to the same old Radiohead album—‘OK Computer’—when I was still working in the lab.”

Lili He: Raman spectrometer

This is the “central tool” He’s lab uses to detect contaminants in food.

Karena Chapman: Kapton


Chapman uses this X-ray transparent polymer—available in forms such as tape and foam—for doing things like building sample holders and constructing battery membranes.

Juan Pablo Maianti: DNA sequencers and mass spectrometers

“Definitely some of the most impactful instruments that have enabled chemical biology as we know it over the past decade.”

Lauren Austin: Calculator


Austin hearts her “old school” TI-83 calculator. “It’s been with me since high school and has helped me through a lot of exams and experiments.”

Name That Machine

Using the hashtag #machinegoesping, scientists on Twitter shared the nicknames of their lab equipment back in March. Now some of our operatives have revealed the codenames for their own beloved lab gadgets.

Daniel Fitzpatrick

Fume hood: Captain McBeepy

Alison Narayan

Freezers: Freezy Puff Jr., Snowcone, Snowpocalypse, Lil’ Chill, Freezy McFreezer Face, and Freezer 4

Alex Spokoyny

Microwave reactor: Jigglypuff

Juan Pablo Maianti

Duo of DNA sequencers: Calvin and Hobbes

Ke Xu

Superresolution fluorescence microscope: Tardis