• Question: What happens if you make a mistake?

    Asked by ella97 to Cat, Daz, Holly, Johnson, Pamela on 14 Jun 2011. This question was also asked by carrietrewern.
    • Photo: Pamela Lithgow

      Pamela Lithgow answered on 13 Jun 2011:

      Hi Ella,

      Mostly if I make a mistake first I have to work it out for myself. I have to look at what I have been doing and see what might have gone wrong. Then I just repeat what I have done. I try not to make too many mistakes but they do happen and it is important to be on the look out for them so I can make sure everything is right!

      Hope that helps

    • Photo: Holly Shelton

      Holly Shelton answered on 13 Jun 2011:

      One of the most important things for a scientist is our lab book!! It’s like a scientists diary, we record everything we do in – how we set up the experiments, the conditions we run the experiments in and of course the results! So if we make a mistake its really useful to look back at what we have done and figure out where it went wrong and what to try next time. Somethings it can take a couple of mistakes to get something right but as long as its all there in your lab book its part of the process. Some people’s mistakes actually turn out to be really lucky. For example Alexander FLemming found penicillin (one of our most important antibiotics against bacteria) by forgetting about a stack of bacteria plates one long weekend. His lab was really messy so he got mold on them but the mold appeared to kill the bacteria and that is how he discovered penicillin!!


    • Photo: Darren Braddick

      Darren Braddick answered on 13 Jun 2011:

      Hi Ella97

      Good question.. Can I ask you what you think? A mistake can be for so many reasons. The main thing is to admit it, whether its in your life or in your work. Mistakes in our work costs money and time, and nearly always change the outcome of an experiment. That mistake can lead to bad data and incorrect conclusions. If someone makes a mistake, they should document everything they did and highlight it. The good news is, nobody is perfect and everybody does make mistakes. Being honest about that is about 95% of the fix though (in most cases..)

      Hope that helps 🙂


    • Photo: Johnson Soronnadi

      Johnson Soronnadi answered on 14 Jun 2011:

      Mistakes can happen at certain point at work, but the most important part is my ability to detect and spot the mistakes on time to avoid more damage to the end users. I try not to make much mistakes but when it do happen i will repeat the steps where the mistakes took place and document it. In the lab we use control reagents to ensure everything is right. mistakes in the lab are documented , investigated and corrective actions taken to avoid a repeat.

      Hope that helps

    • Photo: Cat O'Connor

      Cat O'Connor answered on 14 Jun 2011:

      Great question Ella97!

      Mistakes are inevitable, as you well know, so as scientists we have to make sure that we do our very very best to make sure that they don’t happen but if they do, we have to have checks in place to make sure we become aware if we make a mistake!

      One of the most important things we do is repeat experiments to make sure we get the same results over and over and over again. Sometimes we’ll also ask someone else to run the experiment to make sure they also get the same result!

      Scientists very rarely work by themselves, so there is often a whole team of people around you who are there to help you not make a mistake! Recording EXACTLY what you’ve done in your lab book as Holly said is super important too because it’s very easy to forget a tiny step in an experiment that has loads of different parts. By now you should be starting to get used to writing up experiments in your lab books, I know it may seem like a pain but it’s a very important skill to learn of you ever want to become a Scientist!

      Hope this answers your question,