Sometimes my job is not fun

People sometimes think that my job as the acting director of a biomedical research institute is somehow glamorous or exciting. People who know the realities of my job know better.

This week has been long. It started with the 2AM phone call Monday to inform me that the air conditioning in my work was not functioning. We use a local service to walk our building at night to ensure that all of the lab equipment is functioning appropriately. If a -80 C freezer goes down in the night, scientific careers can literally end. So, while we have some equipment on electronic monitors, we also pay to have human beings tour the facility. This week their services have been worth every dime.

In most places loss of an air conditioner would be inconvenient but not a disaster. However, we have some unique genetically engineered mice that model human disorders in our building. It would take years to replace or recreate some of these. Mice can survive cold much more easily than heat. Luckily, the mice survived the temperature spike and the temperature has been stable since then.

Mid-week, I got the same 2AM phone call this time telling me that there was some water on a basement floor & there appeared to be a leak. Luckily this turned out to be a humidifier problem in our ventilation system. Not a lot of water, no damage.

Today’s 2 AM call was much more exciting. The walk-through person noticed a small amount of water on a laboratory floor that had damaged some card-board boxes that were stacked there. He could not tell where the water was coming from as the areas under the two nearby sinks looked dry. He could not tell me the room number and given the floor location I feared it was my laboratory. I dragged my husband with me to go see the problem.

We found this.


Minor I thought, nothing to worry about and not my laboratory. We moved the wet boxes up on the counters & I notified the director of this laboratory so he could assess the damage. Whew.

But then I decided that we should check upstairs (un-renovated floor) to see where the leak was coming from, since like the security folks, we could not find the source of the leak inside the laboratory. We found water pouring in from the ceiling and pooling in the hallway. I could have cried. Luckily we have many large rolling trash bins and I was able to put these under the major drip locations.


I realized that I needed to check that location (NE corner) in the building on every floor. The worst hit area was our conference room. The other laboratory floors had minimal leakage like the first picture. I think the floor drains on those floors help.


Luckily our facilities folks are on emergency pagers and their cell phone numbers are posted around the building. Within about an hour, a liaison was on site. We discovered that a roof drain had clogged and the pooled roof water was leaking in. The drain was re-opened and the rain had stopped so the flow of new water into the facility also  stopped. By the time I left a company that remediates water damage was on its way. My husband and I got home just as the sun was rising.

I just got a call from another scientist that the remediation was on-going (fans & dehumidifiers everywhere) and there did not seem to be any major areas of concern or damage. We got lucky.