April Fools! Tricks to Play on Unsuspecting Scientists in the Lab

By Adam Ruben, Ph.D.—molecular biologist, television host on the Discovery Channel’s “Outrageous Acts of Science” and author of the book “Surviving Your Stupid, Stupid Decision to Go to Grad School.”

Being stuck in the lab on April Fool’s Day doesn’t mean you can’t have a little fun.  This year, bring some humor to your scientific workplace with these simple, hilarious, morally questionable pranks.

  • JoVE April Fools' DaySwitch the labels on your colleagues’ reagents.  Watch with glee as they try to guess which is which!
  • Secretly white out the Roman numeral “I” to change your labmate’s Phase II grant proposal to a Phase I grant proposal.  Every time he chuckles at his greatly diminished funding, he’ll think of you.
  • Drill a hole near the top of an Erlenmeyer flask.  Then say casually, “Hey, would you mind pouring me 500 mL of bromphenol blue?”  Whoops!
  • Invite the PI from a rival lab to attend your colleague’s scientific seminar.  Encourage them to ask questions, ideally combatively.
  • If your coworker has fallen asleep, get a permanent marker and draw something amusing on her forehead, like the tertiary structure of a Hoogsteen paired RNA quadruplex.  Ha!
  • You know those coiled springy snakes that surprise people when they pop out of peanut cans?  Trip someone, and don’t do anything with the springy snakes.
  • Wear a lab coat and goggles in the lab—it’s hilarious because no one will ever expect it!  Then, if you really want to surprise people, read a Material Safety Data Sheet!

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