Denise Helbling

Diary of a Natural Scientist

The literati aren't the only ones who keep diaries!

Scientists use a lab journal every day of their career. They note down every step of every experiment in meticulous detail – whether it's the methods they use, the exact way in which they perform an experiment (including the chemical reagents used), or the new findings they arrive at in the lab. The lab journal serves as a memory aid in case, later on, you need to check exactly what was done during an experiment. It also functions as a point of departure for further experiments, since the results of preceding experiments can offer new ideas or suggest what to try next.

It's important to be careful when keeping a lab journal so that others can follow along or, years later, even repeat the same experiments. It's an indispensable tool not only for the scientist, but also for further generations of researchers.

In our lab, we want to understand how the nervous system develops – from a fertilized egg cell to a fully functional nervous system. For that reason, we use the chicken embryo as a model system. In our lab journals, you can find out how we handled those embryos and how we processed them.

For her Ph.D. at the Institute of Molecular Life Sciences of the University of Zurich, Denise Helbling is researching a specific kind of molecule, which can be found where two nerve cells, or so called synapses, meet.

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