Whose Lab Kung Fu is Best?

Jon Wetzel

Now that you have Carl Douglas’s or Cee-Lo Green’s “Kung Fu Fighting” stuck in your head let’s talk about if you’ve been acting like a true Lab Kung Fu Master.

My lab Kung Fu is much better than yours!

As a fan of the 70’s Kung Fu movie era, I have realized how similar they are to the scientific lab environment.

Lab techs often talk about the skills they’ve mastered, however, sometimes they get very focused on their own skills and display a total disregard for the skills of others.

Lab Kung-Fu dialogue (Imagine the exaggerated English dubbing) 

Lab Master 1 – My Qiagen technique is very fast and more accurate compared to yours.  You would lose, I have no doubt.

Lab Master 2 – Impossible… my crouching Gentra Kit can isolate much more RNA with higher purity.  You are wrong. 

This is similar to the type of discussion you might hear at some of the AACR meetings or even from people of different departments within the same company.


While a lively discussion can be helpful, what needs to happen next is a comparison of the two techniques to test the results.

In Kung Fu movies there is often a fight or sparring match comparing the different styles to see whose skills are superior.

The Lab Master should do the same thing and try the different techniques and protocols to see which one actually gives the best results. 

  • Vortexing vs Inverting tubes
  • Kit vs Homemade reagents
  • Incubation times, elution volumes, temperatures

Being a Lab Master is about Learning

In the movies no single person ever had the best Kung-Fu right from the start of the film.  There were strikes on both sides and you saw that they quickly learned the strengths and weaknesses about themselves and their opponent.

The information you gather by comparing different protocols will help you understand the strengths and weaknesses of your assays.  This will in turn help you construct a better process than the one you started with and improve your skill set overall.

For those wondering, I was on the bench for many years in both academia and commercial companies.  I haven’t practiced my Lab Kung-Fu in a long time and would be defeated in a match today.

My Lean Kung-Fu however is very good and I’m always looking for someone to spar with to improve my technique.


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