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Posted by Karen on April 18th, 2017  ⟩  0 comments

All right, so you’re starting a new project that requires you to use the luciferase assay, and this is your first time. You might have a lot of questions. You might also have a lot of assumptions or misconceptions. So what do you need to know in order to get started? What should you look out for?

  A Crash Course on Luciferase Assays

Relax, sit back. We’ve got you covered. Scroll through our luciferin/luciferase crash course and get the answers to some of your most immediate questions about the luciferase assay.

What’s Covered:

What Is The Luciferin/Luciferase Reaction – How Does It Work?

In nature, bioluminescence occurs when chemical energy is converted into light. Many organisms such as fireflies, fungi and sea organisms use this process for a variety of reasons. The process occurs when luciferase catalyzes the oxidation of luciferin resulting in the emission of light.

The actual reaction below shows the process where luciferin is catalyzed by luciferase in the presence of ATP, oxygen and magnesium. The result yields oxyluciferin, CO, AMP and light.

Luciferin luciferase reaction - a crash course on the luciferase assay

What Is The Primary Purpose Of The Luciferase Assay?

Luciferase is a great way to test the strength and activity of a promoter. If, for example, you wanted to research the transcription within a promoter region, you can put the luciferase gene behind the promoter. When the gene gets transcribed, you will know whether or not you have a strong promoter based on the amount of light produced. More light produced in the assay means more luciferase was transcribed, which means you have a stronger promoter.

Another question you might have is when would you choose the luciferase assay and when would you choose qPCR if you’re examining gene expression. Here’s what to keep in mind: The qPCR method is going to measure your gene’s transcripts. It’s not going to tell you about the control of transcription. With luciferase, however, you can measure promoter activation and transcriptional regulation. Another thing to consider is how deep you want to look at your gene regulation. You might find that performing both techniques are a must in order to understand major aspects of your project.

What Am I Going To Need For The Luciferase Assay?

Before I talk about what you’ll need to perform the luciferase assay, I want to highlight something in case this is still very new territory. The luciferase assay is performed within the cells. Bioluminescence studies with the luciferin-luciferase reaction can also be performed in other models such as mice; however, in that example, it’s called bioluminescence Imaging. BLI still uses luciferin, but the instruments you use and protocols you follow will be significantly different. This article only covers information about the luciferase assay and does not go into more detail about BLI.


You’re going to need your reagents. You can either use a kit, which supplies you with everything you need or shop for the reagents a la carte.

For the necessary reagents if you plan to do this a la carte, refer to either our in vitro Luciferin Handbook. GoldBio provides most of what you’ll need including very high-quality luciferin for the best price around.



As far as equipment, you’ll need a luminometer. You may already have one, and if so, take note of whether it’s a microplate reading luminometer or a single tube luminometer. Find out if your instrument has injectors or not. And find out what wavelengths your instrument works on and at what temperatures. This is all going to help you further down in planning your experiment.

The microplate luminometers allow you to read samples in well plates. This can range usually between 96 and 384. The single tube luminometer, on the other hand, is going to read a single microcentrifuge tube.

Luminometers with injectors are important when you’re working with a flash type assay involving several samples. The flash luciferase assay kits are very common and provide higher sensitivity; however, they have a short half-life. In order to get a consistent read in time, the injectors inject the luciferin into your sample immediately.

If you don’t have injectors in your luminometer, that’s fine. I’ll address that later in the article.

Well Plates/ Tubes

Now you know what kind of luminometer you have, or the one you’re going to buy or borrow. You’ll also need tubes or well plates depending on what instrument you choose. 

luciferase assay crash course - luciferase assay for dummies - choosing your assay

When it comes to well plates, you’re going to encounter some choices here: flat bottom plates, clear plates, white or opaque plates, white plates with clear bottoms and so on.

Flat bottom plates are a must for this assay type (do not use round bottom well plates). They were especially designed for optical measurements and cell culture applications. More information about the flat bottom plate or F-bottom plate can be found at the well plate site. This website also has a more comprehensive list of the different well plate bottoms and what they are designed for.

Clear well plates allow you to see your lysates, but the drawback is that you can get background luminescence from neighboring wells. White well plates prevent that background; however, you can’t see you’re the lysates when you’re working with them. The white plates with clear bottoms are a solution to the visibility and background issues, but they can be expensive. Just keep those factors in mind in deciding what route to take.

What Luciferase Assay Kit Pack Size Should I Buy

The way to answer this question is to understand what constitutes an assay. For example, with our Luciferase Assay Kits, we have kits ranging from 50 assays to 10,000 assays. The question we have encountered is, “does that mean 10,000 plates or 10,000 tubes/wells in a plate?” One assay is one tube (one well/one reaction). Therefore, think about your experiment and the requirements you’re going to have.

Whether you’re using a single tube or a 96-well plate, the volumes used in our protocols will be the same. The protocol is written to accommodate a 96-well plate, but this can just as easily be used in a tube.

Do I Need To Use The Kits? What Do The Luciferase Assay Kits Include?

luciferase assay guide information - do you need to buy a kit?

This is a very simple answer: You don’t need the kits. You can order the luciferin, the ATP, and everything else, and then follow the protocols in order to perform the experiment. If you’re doing your work in vitro, then our D-Luciferin In Vitro Protocol Handbook will be very helpful.

If you are shopping for individual products, then we encourage you to consider quality, especially when it comes to your luciferin. The difference in purity can have an impact.

Other considerations when choosing luciferin can be found in this article, which goes in some detail about solubility considerations, assay considerations and more.

However, the kits present considerable convenience. For example, you don’t have to make the buffer since it’s already provided in the kit. When making your luciferin stock solution, there is no weigh out required because your luciferin is already measured. It also provides uniformity in your experimental setup.

Another advantage the kit offers is clarity on the products you need. For example, you may have almost all the individual products you need except for the luciferin and the buffer. If you’re new to the luciferase assay, you might be unsure about which luciferin to choose (sodium, potassium, free acid, etc.). You might also be unsure about which buffer to choose or how to make the buffer. The kit spares you from a lot of confusion and additional research on what to buy. However, should you need to purchase accessory products, our team is here to help you sort out what you need.

Note: GoldBio does not sell the reaction buffer individually. It is included in the kit, however. Our 5X Luciferase Lysis Buffer is a lysis buffer only. You can refer to pages 4-6 of the In Vitro D-Luciferin Handbook for instructions on how to make the reaction buffer.

Your approach to this decision is going to depend on what you have time for, what you might already have in the lab, what you feel like doing and don’t feel like doing, and what you can spend.

The kit components will vary based on which kit you choose. For example, the IlluminationTM Series Firefly & Renilla Luciferase Enhanced Assay Kit by GoldBio comes with: 5X passive lysis buffer, firefly luciferase assay buffer, GoldBio’s d-luciferin, renilla luciferase assay buffer and enhanced coelenterazine. 

What Are The Basic Steps Of The Luciferase Assay?

The steps of the luciferase assay are going to remain very similar whether you’re doing a dual reporter assay or a single reporter.

Step 1: Choose your luciferase reporter gene (firefly luciferase or renilla luciferase, etc.). I’ll get into the different methods which will factor into your choice further in this article. But for the time being, just remember that if you’re doing a dual reporter assay, your luciferases need to have different spectral measurements.

Step 2: Clone your reporter into your plasmid. If you’re doing a dual reporter assay, then you will clone your other reporter into a separate plasmid.

Step 3: Cotransfect your experimental cells with your plasmid.

Step 4: After an incubation period of 24-48 hours, remove your media and lyse your cells.

Step 5: Add the buffer containing luciferin to the lysate. The light from this reaction can be measured with the luminometer.

These are the general steps you can expect to follow. Your method is going to vary to some degree based on the type of assay you’re performing and the objectives of your experiment.

Which Luciferase Assay Method Do I Choose?

There are different types of luciferase assays to choose from. There are flash types and glowing assays. You could also perform a single assay or a dual luciferase assay (in rare cases, even a triple). You might be wondering how to choose. This is all going to depend on what you need for your experiment.

Flash Assays vs. Glow Assays


The flash type luciferase assay, which is the most common assay type, means that upon adding your substrate, the reaction is going to happen very fast. You have a very limited amount of time to add the substrate and measure the light emission. When working with a single assay (tube), this won’t be much of a problem.

Let’s look at a hypothetical scenario where you would be working with a 96-well plate doing a flash assay. Because the assay runs so fast, if you were using a multichannel pipette, but the time you finish pipetting substrate into the final wells, you’ll have lost maximum sensitivity in your first wells. It would be impossible in that setup to get an accurate reading. Another option, when running your experiment with a 96-well plate is to pipette substrate into a single well, get a reading, and then move on to your next well – 96 times. This is possible to do, but it’s going to take considerable concentration and patterning in your behavior to get the consistent results you need.

As mentioned earlier in this article under the equipment section, some luminometers that measure the light emission from this reaction have been designed with injectors that automate the process of adding substrate, making it immediate and consistent. This ultimately solves the problem you face when working with a lot of samples in a short period of time. But luminometers with injectors require more substrate for an experiment. The reason is because some substrate is always lost, and it prevents the potential for running out.

The benefit of a flash type luciferase assay is that it produces very sensitive results. If this is extremely important for your experiment, and you have the equipment to carry it out, this is the type of luciferase assay you want to choose.


Maybe you don’t have a luminometer with injectors, but you’ve got a lot of samples to work with at a time and you want to ensure consistent results. The glowing luciferase assay is an alternative that buys you time. GoldBio’s Dura-Luc Lyophilized Firefly HTS Assay Kit has a half-life of nearly 3 hours. This allows you to pipette substrate into several wells before the signal fades. Another huge benefit is that it lets you compare results over multiple plates. The glow assay provides you with the accurate, consistent read your experiment needs. The downside, though, is that it is not as sensitive as the flash type.

Single Reporter Assays vs. Dual Reporter Assays

Single Reporter Assay

The reason you might lean toward a single reporter assay is because it cuts cost and time when studying expression. In the single reporter system, you would be using only luciferin (or coelenterazine if you’re working with renilla) as your substrate, and measure emission from that alone.

The drawback to only doing this is the lack of normalization. It’s not going to produce as detailed results as using the dual reporter assay.

Dual Reporter Assay

The dual assay system is most commonly performed with firefly and renilla luciferase. The dual system improves your overall accuracy by normalizing your data.

In this system, one reporter (e.g. firefly luciferase) will look at the experimental promoter activity. The other (e.g. renilla luciferase) is going to be used as your control for transfection efficiency. Therefore, in this experiment, your green firefly luciferase is going to measure experimental conditions, while your blue renilla luciferase is going to be connected with a constitutive promoter, measuring transfection and cell viability. The order can be reversed and firefly luciferase can be used as your control instead.

When performing the dual reporter assay, it’s important to choose reporters with spectral differences (different wavelength emission) in order to get an accurate read.

What to choose

Ultimately, this depends on what you need for your experiment. If you need the setup to be highly accurate and detailed, use the dual-system.

Outside of common practice, researchers have used the dual reporter system to shed light in other, innovative ways (some researchers have even used a triple reporter system).

Additional Resources

This article will only give you a little more clarity on the project ahead. But fear not. GoldBio’s handbooks and other articles might help address questions that arise. Below is a list of other helpful resources that might become useful later down the road:

Resources Description
Luciferin In Vitro Handbook Details the preparation and steps for working with luciferin in in vitro settings.
Luciferin In Vivo Handbook Details the preparation and steps for working with luciferin in in vivo settings.
Beetle vs Firefly Luciferin Firefly luciferin is pretty common, but you might be also hearing “beetle luciferin.” What’s the difference? This article sorts that out.
Luciferin FAQ This FAQ page lists the most common questions pertaining to luciferin.
10 Things and Beyond to Consider When Shopping or Using Luciferin/Luciferase
If you find yourself questioning the difference between various luciferase or luciferin types, this guide will set it all straight. Find out what to look out for when shopping for ...

Does My Chemical's Purity Really Matter?

One of the questions we receive at GoldBio is whether purity really matters when it comes to chemicals. In this article, we go into detail about why it does matter, even examining what a small percent difference can do to luciferin.


96-Well Plate Bottom Shapes - Difference Between Bottom Shapes. (n.d.). Retrieved March 22, 2017, from

Carceles-Cordon, M., Rodriguez-Fernandez, I., Rodriguez-Bravo, V., Cordon-Cardo, C. and Domingo-Domenech, J. (2016). In vivo Bioluminescence Imaging of Luciferase-labeled Cancer Cells. Bio-protocol 6(6): e1762. DOI: 10.21769/BioProtoc.1762; Full Text

Differences between in vitro, in vivo, and in silico studies. (2012, January 03). Retrieved March 24, 2017, from

F-Bottom Shape - Flat Well Bottom - Precise Optical Measurements. (n.d.). Retrieved March 22, 2017, from

Khan, F. (2013, August 26). The Luciferase Reporter Assay: How it works. Retrieved March 23, 2017, from

Ling A, Soares F, Croitoru DO, et al. Post-transcriptional Inhibition of Luciferase Reporter Assays by the Nod-like Receptor Proteins NLRX1 and NLRC3. The Journal of Biological Chemistry. 2012;287(34):28705-28716. doi:10.1074/jbc.M111.333146.

Smalle, T. (2010, May). Luciferase Assay. Retrieved March 24, 2017, from

U-Bottom Shape - Round Shaped Well Bottom - 96-Well Microplate. (n.d.). Retrieved March 22, 2017, from

              Karen Martin
GoldBio Marketing Coordinator

"To understand the universe is to understand math." My 8th grade
math teacher's quote meant nothing to me at the time. Then came
college, and the revelation that the adults in my past were right all
along. But since math feels less tangible, I fell for biology and have
found pure happiness behind my desk at GoldBio, learning, writing
and loving everything science. 

Category Code: 79104 88231 79107 79109 88251

Posted by Rebecca on April 7th, 2017  ⟩  0 comments

Any type of interview can be nerve-wracking and post-doctoral interviews are no exception. While they typically include the traditional interview where you allow the interviewer(s) to get to know you and answer the questions that they have, it may be conducted in a variety of formats. It may be a traditional one-on-one interview with the PI or it may be organized as a group interview with multiple interviews and multiple candidates being interviewed. The postdoctoral interview also generally includes a talk portion, where you have the opportunity to present your thesis to the department. Being prepared for the entirety of your interview can be a great way to stand out from the rest of the candidates. Review our tips below for steps you can take before, during, and after the interview to put your best foot forward along this part of your journey to a post-doctoral position.

Before the Interview

1. Apply to the Right Positions

When you are deciding where to apply for your post-doc fellowship, there are a few things you need to take into consideration. You want to apply for positions that genuinely fit your interests and that are a good fit for you as a scientist. If the researcher you are applying to work with is not doing research in your field of study, you may want to consider looking for other options. Additionally, you want to be sure to apply to positions that are looking for someone with your experience and skill level. A general rule of thumb to use is to apply to safety positions, target positions, and stretch positions. You can read more about these categories of post-doc fellowships and more tips on choosing where to submit applications and find a detailed timeline and guide to applying for postdoctoral positions in our article “A Detailed Guide to your Postdoc Application.”

2. Do Your Research

Once you apply for positions and start scheduling interviews, you need to do your research. This entails learning as much as you can about the PI that you will be working with and the research the lab is currently doing. You should also find information on the people who are working in the PI’s lab with him or her already and the department as a whole. Having an idea of what research is currently being conducted will allow you to better discern how you are a good fit and to advocate for yourself during the interview. This will also give you some great talking points to bring up and questions to ask during the interview day, but I will discuss more on this below.

During the Interview

3. Dress the Part

The first impression you give to your interviewer and the department you wish to work in will make a large impact on whether or not you are offered a position in their lab as a postdoctoral fellow. While researchers do not generally dress professional when working in the lab, it is essential to wear business professional attire on your interview day. This will not only show that you are serious about the position, but will also boost your confidence throughout the interview process. However, dressing the part does not only refer to what you wear, but also refers to the demeanor you have during your talk and interview. As you know, a post-doc position is just one part of the pathway to becoming an academic scientist and teaching will be expected of you. You want to show your interviewers and audience that you will be an effective educator, which requires you carry yourself in a way that ensures your students you are confident in the material you are teaching. You can read more about effectively delivering talks in our article Public Speaking Dos and Don’ts – A Life Scientist’s How-To Guide.

4. Prepare to Answer Questions

While this might seem like an obvious preparation strategy, there are quite a few resources out there that you can use to help you prepare to answer the questions you are asked during your interview. There are a lot of online resources with typical interview questions. Here is a list of sample questions and answers provided by BitesizeBio specific for students doing post-doctoral interviews.

One question that is bound to be asked during the first moments of your interview is “tell me about yourself.” Having an idea of what you will say if and when this is asked can ease your nerves about the interview and ensure it starts off on a good note. Start by giving a brief introduction about yourself, where you are from, and by where you currently are in your career. Are you currently finishing your graduate degree or are you in another position? After you give a brief introduction, tell the interviewer(s) where you see your career going in the future and what goals you have for your career as a whole.

5. Ask Questions

What many post-doctoral position candidates fail to realize is that the interview process is not only about the lab determining if you are a good fit to work with them, but it is also about you figuring out if the PI and lab is a good fit for you and your career. What this means is that while you will be doing most of the question answering during the interview, you should also be asking questions to find out more about the lab, department, and people you will potentially be working with. Many times, questions will arise throughout the conversation and it is important that you feel comfortable to ask them. Sometimes, however, you may find yourself not knowing what questions and this may be partially due to your nerves. One strategy is to have an idea of questions that you can ask before you begin the interview. If you come up with other questions along the way, you don’t necessarily have to use your prepared questions, but you will have them in the back of your mind if you do need them.

Here are two sources you can use that provide a list of questions that may be important to you as you make your decision on where to complete your postdoctoral fellowship. This LinkedIn article provides a list of questions as well as some ideas on how to come up with questions on your own based on what you value in a position. Another source is this article from Nature Jobs that provides you with questions to ask that will help you narrow down the best-fit position for you and your career.

6. Give Your Best Talk

If you’re going to be giving a talk during your interview, you need to be amply prepared. According to one Reddit user who answered my question on best ways to prepare for your talk, you should be prepared to give it in any combination of circumstances—if you’re sleep-deprived, dehydrated, or anything else.

As part of your preparation, you should make sure your talk is well-organized. You will typically be presenting your current research project and will want to present it in a similar way as you would write a journal submission. Begin by stating the questions or problem your research sought to answer—what are your objectives? Then discuss background information and methods. You can follow it up with results, discussion, and conclusion. Be sure to address the significance of your research within your field. You can follow other outlines as well. For example, some people like to begin with the conclusions and then discuss how they got there. How you organize it is up to you, but make sure that it is organized in some way and that leaves you time for your audience to ask questions as the end.

Another Reddit user suggested making sure you have time to meet with the PI and lab members before giving your talk. This can help ease your nerves and get to know more about expectations and moods before you begin presenting your research.

7. Practice

Practicing for your interview is a great way to help calm your nerves and prepare yourself to make a great impression. A great resource you can look into for interview practice is mock interviewing. A lot of universities will have a career or employment center on campus that allows students to schedule free practice interviews where someone who has been trained in interviewing will interview you and provide you with feedback on how you did and ways you can improve before your actual interview comes around.  

If your school does not offer this, partner up with someone else from your program who is also going through the interview process and take turns asking each other questions and providing each other with constructive criticism. You could also do this with a family member or friend if they are more accessible to you.

8. Get to Know the Department

While you are at your interview day, you will likely have a few opportunities to meet others who are working in the lab you are interested and in other labs in the department. Whether it is before or after your talk or during lunch, put in effort to get to know the people you may be working with in the future. While it isn’t a formal part of the interview, the PI will want to know that you can get along with the rest of his team and other colleagues you may end up working with during your postdoc fellowship. He may even ask their opinion of you after the interview is finished. Beginning to form a relationship with them by showing interest in their work and backgrounds can give you the extra boost you need to be offered the position that you want.

Also, it doesn’t hurt to make friends with others early. If you end up choosing to work at that university, you may need some advice on living in a new city and finding housing. The other team members can be a great resource.

After the Interview

9. Don’t Forget to Follow-Up

Following up with a thank you email after your interview is important. It gives you an opportunity to thank the PI for your chance to interview as well as let him or her know how you are a great fit for the position now that you have learned more about it. If there was something you thought of after the interview that you wish you had mentioned, you can include it in the thank you letter as well. This email should be sent to the PI as well as anyone else who interviewed you within 24 hours.

10. Be Patient

After the interview is over and you have sent a thank you letter, be patient. The amount of time it takes for a lab to get back to you can vary depending on where they are in the interview process. If you were the first person they interviewed, it may be quite some time until you hear back, and if you were one of the last interviewees, you may hear sooner. Instead of worrying about when you will hear from the PI, focus on preparing for your next interview. Start researching the next lab and PI so that you can give each position your best impression.

Having a successful postdoctoral interview process is very important and following these tips will help you to paint yourself in the best light. Scheduling your interviews can also play a role in how you do at each one. If you’re really hoping to get a certain position, try not to make that your very first interview because you will be more comfortable and have more practice after you have one under your belt. Good luck!

              Rebecca Talley
         GoldBio Staff Writer

Rebecca is a medical student at the University of Missouri.
She previously worked as a lab technician while studying
biology at Truman State University. As an aspiring
reproductive endocrinologist with an interest in global
health, Rebecca has traveled across Central America on
medical mission trips. With a passion for the life sciences,
she enjoys writing for GoldBio.


Category Code: 79108

Posted by Rebecca on March 24th, 2017  ⟩  0 comments

Life science labs come in many varieties. Some are small with just a couple people and some are very large. According to Nature, the ideal number of members in a lab is 10 to 15. While this number of people has been determined to be great for productivity, it can often be difficult for everyone to get to known each other and come together to work as a team—especially if there is significant turnover of employees. As a lab manager, it is your job to keep everyone working together and motivated, and here we will discuss the best ways for you to successfully fulfill this role.

how to motivate your labmates

Lab Philosophy or Mission

In order for your team to be successful, it is essential that you lay out what your goals are and what the overall mission of the lab is. When you give a purpose to what you are doing and identify certain values that are important to your lab as a whole, everyone on the team will be better able to strive for fulfilling the lab’s philosophy. Without some type of mission explaining the overarching purpose and motivation behind the work you are doing, it will be hard for your team to understand why they are there and why their work matters. When this is present, they can easily identify how their work is contributing to the field and how it will make a difference long-term.

Lay Out Attainable Objectives

Along with forming a mission statement, your lab should lay out obtainable objectives for each project it takes on. Typically, objectives are essential to forming the problem and hypothesis that your research project plans to address; however, they should be slightly more in depth and detailed than just stating what questions your project seeks to answer.

For example, the goals you lay out for your team may have ideal durations that each phase of the research should take and certain standards that you would like to uphold throughout the investigation process. Remember, these should be reachable and reasonable in order to be motivational. If you’re considering using stricter objectives to increase productivity, remember that having goals which are impossible to meet will bring your team down, rather than encouraging them.

Show Appreciation

When your team performs well and meets the goals you have set together, show them your appreciation. There are a variety of ways to do this, but you don’t have to do anything elaborate. Simply acknowledging that they did a great job and saying thank you for their hard work can go a long way in encouraging them to keep performing at their best level. If something goes particularly well and you want to go above a simple thank you to show your appreciation, get creative with your gratitude. Bring in a homemade dessert one day or order lunch in for your team. Letting people know that their work is appreciated is imperative to maintaining a happy research environment.

Avoid Perfectionism

While most lab managers know that perfectionism is impossible in the field of research, many still have that expectation. These high standards are not only held for people who are working under you, but for yourself and your performance as well. If you are constantly expecting perfect work and perfect results, you will be consistently disappointed—research is a field where there are many unknowns and unexpected outcomes. Your team will pick up on the vibes you put off and how you react when things do not go as planned.

If you show, by example, that it is okay when unanticipated events occur and experiments don’t work out perfectly, your team will likely mirror your attitude. This prevents your team from becoming burnt out and losing their motivation after failed experiments, which are sometimes unavoidable.

A good rule of thumb is to hold your team to the same level of performance that you expect from yourself. In a lab, doing your best might not always correlate with results, but it is more about maximum efficiency and knowledge.

Call in Help if Needed

Many life science projects will have certain aspects that the members of your team are not fully experienced and comfortable with doing. In some cases, there may be lengthy statistics that would require a lot of research, practice and time for your team to learn. This may be a case where hiring a temporary statistician would be worth the extra money. Your team can stay focused on doing the type of work they enjoy—science—and the statistician can ensure your research is analyzed and interpreted accurately.

Regular Productive Meetings

Meetings can be incredibly productive or incredibly unproductive. According to an article produced by Inc., the average employee wastes about four hours per week in meetings that don’t benefit the team. Productive meetings on the other hand, are those that only require the presence of those who really need to be there, that start on time, and that end as quickly as possible. This type of meeting allows the team to update one another on their progress and address any unresolved issues.

Outside Activities

Finding ways to encourage further development of your team can be a great motivational strategy. These can be either research-related, knowledge-based developments or team building. For example, you may take your team to a conference to learn about other research that is being done in your field or you may attend training sessions on how to use new equipment that your order for your lab. An outside activity may also simply be having your team over for a BBQ or going out to dinner together to get to know each other outside the lab. Encouraging growth and learning will help increase your team’s overall cooperation and productivity.

Be a Leader, Not a ‘Boss’

Micromanaging a team is a surefire way to foster negativity in your lab. Having been in this situation before, I know it can be extremely difficult to be productive when someone is constantly looking over your shoulder to ensure no mistakes are being made. This can cause unnecessary workplace anxiety and tension. Instead, be a leader. Provide your team with concrete expectations and provide feedback as necessary, but not constantly. While you may have one way of getting a task done, one of your postdocs may have different method that works just as well. Allow your team to figure out what works best for them and give them the autonomy to do so. This will encourage motivation and positivity rather than resentment.

Fair Compensation

While this applies to any position, it is especially applicable in the lab setting where employees are often working semi-independently on one aspect of a team project. Your employees and team should feel that they are being compensated adequately for what they are worth. When people feel that they are being taken advantage of or that they could be paid better elsewhere, they will not have an incentive to perform well in order to stay at your lab.

It is important to note, however, that this may not be applicable to graduate students or someone who is working in the lab as part of their education requirements and not really receiving a salary or hourly wage.

Foster a Positive Atmosphere

Creating a place where employees enjoy coming to work can have a great impact on your research and team productivity. Offer praise to your team members in front of their peers when something goes well, but save criticism for private meetings and keep it constructive. Don’t look at mistakes as failure, but rather learning opportunities and emphasize this with your team. A lot of your lab atmosphere comes down to your attitude. If you’re happy, your lab is more likely to be happy; if you’re motivated, your lab is likely to be motivated.

For more ways to create a positive atmosphere, check out our article on how to  Up Your Lab Manager Game.

But what if you’re not motivated?

As a leader, it is your job to constantly motivate your team. While the above strategies are great for inspiring and leading your team to success, some of them require a fair amount of motivation on your part to work. So what do you do when you are the one who isn’t motivated? Here are some steps you can take to increase your own motivation:

  • Be passionate. Try to remember why you went into this field of science in the first place and what excites you about your research. Take some time to reflect on your own goals and what brought you to where you are today.
  • Recognize your declining motivation early. The earlier you realize you aren’t as motivated as you once were, the sooner you can make a change and prevent your team from losing motivation with you.
  • The lab is not your life. You have to have hobbies and people outside of the lab that can help you relax after a long day or week at work. Having a support group of friends or family can help keep your spirits up. According to Dr. Joelle Jay, a senior manager at a leadership firm and author of “The Inner Edge: The 10 Practices of Personal Leadership,” “when you’re a leader, all of the people below you lean on you…you don’t have anyone above you to lean on.” Family and friends can be great for this, or you can find an outside mentor who is more familiar with your field.
  • Remember that your feelings don’t necessarily have to be reflected in your actions. Even when you aren’t motivated, the bottom line is that it is still your job to keep your team motivated.

Motivation is something that is constantly changing regardless of whether you’re a lab manager or another member of the team. It is important to know that this is normal, and you should not feel guilty if you are in a slump. Instead, use these tips to help pull yourself and your team back up and always encourage positivity—a happy attitude can go a long way, and a negative attitude can cause a lot of unnecessary problems in the lab. If a lack of motivation and cohesion has already occurred and conflicts are arising in your lab, check out our article on  Common Causes and Solutions to Conflicts in the Lab.


Economy, Peter. “9 Super Effective Ways to Motivate Your Team”. Inc. 2016.

Zielinkska, Edyta. “How to Run an Efficient and Creative Lab without Micromanaging”. The Scientist. 2012.

              Rebecca Talley
         GoldBio Staff Writer

Rebecca is a medical student at the University of Missouri.
She previously worked as a lab technician while studying
biology at Truman State University. As an aspiring
reproductive endocrinologist with an interest in global
health, Rebecca has traveled across Central America on
medical mission trips. With a passion for the life sciences,
she enjoys writing for GoldBio.


Category Code: 79107, 79109

Posted by Rebecca on March 10th, 2017  ⟩  0 comments

Whether you’re already in graduate school or you’re an undergrad who will be joining a Ph.D. program soon, you probably have questions about publishing papers. One common saying in grad school is “publish or perish” but is that true? What all do you need to know to get your paper published while you are still a student? I have answered 18 of the most popular questions graduate students have about getting published.

What defines being published? Does a talk or poster count?

When can you say you’re really published? Is it only after your work shows up in a journal? What about your thesis—does the work you did for your senior thesis or poster project mean you’re published?

The answer is simple: Being published means your work was published in a peer-reviewed journal and you’re among the first two authors of the paper (certainly there are exceptions to that rule).

Does coauthoring or an acknowledgement count?

You generally won’t be considered “published” unless you’re one of the first two authors on the paper. Therefore, coauthoring definitely counts as long as you were one of the first two authors listed. This also means that acknowledgements don’t count. Acknowledgements are usually used for people who had minor contributions to the research being published.

Is publishing and being peer-reviewed the same thing?

In most cases—yes. With few exceptions, all scientific journals—open access and otherwise—are peer-reviewed. While most are peer-reviewed prior to being published, some journals use post-publication peer review. In this case, the paper may or may not have undergone peer-review prior to being published, but will be reviewed by invited reviewers or volunteer reviewers. The reviewed paper should be marked as peer-reviewed after this occurs. However, there are some open-access journals that claim to be peer-reviewed but don’t show evidence of it actually occurring. They are commonly called predatory journals and you want to be careful not to publish in a journal like this since it has little to no credibility once the scientific community begins to realize there is not actually a referee process in place.

When should I start?

When you should start publishing scientific papers really depends both on your experience and what field you are in. The obvious answer is to start publishing as soon as you have something to publish. You definitely don’t want to wait to publish something novel because it is possible that someone else could get to it before you. At the same time, you don’t want to publish too early and have a paper of lesser quality in a less respected journal. There is a sweet-spot somewhere in between that you and your mentor can work together to find.

Some students have their first papers published during undergrad, while others wait until graduate school. There is even variance among the year of your Ph.D. education in which you publish—some will be able to get their name on a paper during their first year, while others won’t publish until a few years down the road. It is important to note that quality is more important than quantity so take your time to produce your best work rather than rushing to get your name on the most papers.

What are the steps to getting published?

The first step to getting published is starting a project and getting results, which makes sense because without it, you’d have nothing to write about. Once you have results, you will need to analyze them and determine their significance in your field. If they are significant, you have something to publish! Now it’s time to work with your team to decide who will have which roles in the writing process and who will be authors of the paper so that this is not an issue down the line. The next step is to get all of your charts and graphics ready—often times these are the first or only parts of a paper a person looks over so they can be used to guide your writing. Develop your first draft and then create an abstract for your paper. Edit your paper and have others give you feedback. Once your paper is ready, you will want to adjust the formatting to fit the journal’s requirements before submitting. 

What are publishers looking for?

A lot of what publishers are looking for will depend on the publisher, the field and who makes up a majority of their readers. Almost every journal has an online page with instructions for authors. This page will contain all of the necessary information you need to cater your paper to the particular journal you wish to submit it to. Not following these guidelines would be an easy way for your paper to be rejected without even being considered, so make sure to make adjustments for each journal to which you apply.

Can I submit my paper to multiple journals at one time?

Generally, the answer is no. Most peer-reviewed journals have terms and conditions which require that your paper is not being simultaneously submitted to another journal. This is done to respect the time and effort reviewers and editors put into accepting papers, and ensures that you will not rescind your submission after they have started looking at it. You should submit to your first choice journal first and then if it is not accepted, move to your second choice and so on. By doing so, you will not come to the difficult decision of deciding whether you should publish in one journal or wait to see if another journal will accept your work. Your first choice option will always come first. With that beings said, you should be reasonable about what journals may accept your paper or you will waste a lot of valuable time. Dream big, but stay reasonable.

What journals accept student work?

In theory, students are able to publish in any journal. However, it’s pretty rare for undergraduates to get published at all in highly recognized journals, especially in the first author position.

A lot of getting published as a student has to do with knowing where to submit your work. Try to submit to journals that publish research similar to yours because this will give you the best chance of getting published.

You can look into publishing in second-tier journals as well. These journals are the ones that are less well-known in the field, but are still peer-reviewed and publish quality work. Some students even start by publishing in journals that focus on student research. Look for student-run journals that are dedicated to publishing work of young scientists. Your university may even have a publication of its own that you can submit your work to. If you’re still in undergrad, here is a list of journals publishing student work compiled by the Council on Undergraduate Research.

What do I do after I’ve submitted my paper?

After you’ve submitted your paper, it’s time to play the waiting game. It can take months for reviewers to get to your manuscript, so in the meantime, you can begin to prepare to submit to another journal or get started on another project. Just remember, you usually can’t submit to another journal, unless your proposal is not accepted at the place you are waiting to hear back from. If your article is accepted for review, you will get feedback on your paper. You will then need to make revisions and resubmit the paper. If your paper is accepted for publication, you can make final edits before it is published.

What is the cost of publishing?

The cost of publishing varies depending on the journal you will be publishing in. Some journals have no cost at all, while others can cost up to $3,500. Other journals charge you per page, so the length of your publication can determine the cost. They may charge around $50 per page plus around $300 per color image. There may also be submission fees associated with publishing. While this seems very costly, the good news is your PI will generally take care of publishing costs.

Do I need to publish to graduate (is it really “publish or perish”)?

If you’re an undergrad, the answer is no. However, if you’re a grad student, the answer to this question depends on your institution’s graduation requirements. Some schools require at least one publication before you can graduate, but others have no requirement about this at all. The best thing you can do is become familiar with your institution’s requirements about publishing early on in your time there. If you are aware of all requirements, you can begin to work towards a publication from the beginning and have a plan to get your research published as soon as possible.

Regardless of whether or not there is a publishing requirement, you should make publishing during graduate school one of your top priorities. This will help open doors for your future career as a professional scientist.

Can I get a job without publishing?

This will depend on what type of job you plan to apply for. If you want to go into academia, the answer is no. You will need to start a postdoctoral fellowship and publish during this time. You may even need to complete more than one postdoc to become competitive with others who will be applying for academic positions.

However, if you are looking to get a job outside of academia, having a publication in your name is a lot less important. Most industry positions do not require you to have a publishing background and this holds true for other jobs. Check out my previous article on  alternative careers for life scientists if you are looking to pursue a career outside of the academic world.

Can I just publish my thesis?

Technically speaking, your thesis will be published by your institution. However, this does not count as an official publication. Nevertheless, the best thing a life sciences graduate student can do is publish throughout his or her time as a graduate student. Once you have a few publications and are ready to work on your thesis, you can obtain permission from the journals you published in to compile all of your manuscripts into one document to serve as your thesis.

How does an impact factor work?

A journal’s impact factor is an average of the number of citations the journal receives in the previous year. It has been used to gauge how important a journal is in a certain scientific field, with higher impact scores being associated with more important journals. This can help you to gauge which journals you want to submit to first and which journals may be second-tier that you can try to submit to if your work is not accepted by journals of a higher impact factor. Remember that impact factor is not everything, however. Some journals even artificially elevate their own impact score by publishing a large percentage of review articles that are likely to be cited more often than primary research.

How many papers should I publish?

The number of papers you should aim to publish will depend on the field you are working in. For most life science fields, a good number to shoot for publishing during your Ph.D. program is two papers. Talk to your peers and advisors and find out what is typical of students at your institution and in your department. This will give you a good idea of what is expected of you.

If you’re an undergrad, getting your name on a single paper is a big accomplishment, especially if you go to a small school where less professors are working on research projects.

What are the most common publishing mistakes grad students make?

The most common mistake that we found through crowdsourcing is graduate students putting off writing their manuscripts until it is time for their dissertation. Instead of having published a little at a time along the way, which looks better on your CV, some people try to do it all at once and become overwhelmed. Work on writing throughout your time as a grad student.

What are the biggest challenges when publishing?

One of the biggest challenges you will face as a graduate student trying to publish is inexperience writing a manuscript. This type of writing is different than papers you have written in the past. The best things you can do are read literature from your field to get a feel for how it is written and spend time writing. Learning takes time and the best way you can learn is to start doing writing early on. Your writing will improve immensely by the time your write your thesis for graduation.

What if I’m still an undergrad student?

If you’re still an undergrad, don’t worry. Getting published now is not essential. However, if you are on a research team and have a project that you are interested in publishing, talk to your advisor about his or her recommendations. Where you submit your work will greatly depend on the quality and novelty of your project. Remember to check out the Council on Undergraduate Research as well as look into whether your school has a place where they publish student work. 

              Rebecca Talley
         GoldBio Staff Writer

Rebecca is a medical student at the University of Missouri.
She previously worked as a lab technician while studying
biology at Truman State University. As an aspiring
reproductive endocrinologist with an interest in global
health, Rebecca has traveled across Central America on
medical mission trips. With a passion for the life sciences,
she enjoys writing for GoldBio.


Category Code: 79104, 79108

Posted by Karen on February 28th, 2017  ⟩  1 comments

Ethidium bromide (EtBr) has been the go-to product for nucleic acid staining; however, you’re probably well aware of the risks involved in using this chemical. One of the more popular, safe alternatives is GelRedTM, which GoldBio carries. If you have been doing any kind of research on this product or other alternatives, this article will help answer some of your big questions about GelRedTM sensitivity, safety, usage and troubleshooting.

GelRed - Questions About GelRed, GelRed Safety

GelRedTM is a highly sensitive fluorescent nucleic acid dye that works when excited by a transilluminator. It was designed to replace EtBr, which is considered to be carcinogenic and mutagenic. GelRedTM is also known to be very sensitive without requiring a destaining step. In order for manufacturers to be sure its design is safe, GelRedTM was subjected to various tests, which concluded it is nontoxic, nonmutagenic and nonhazardous, even at very high concentrations. GelRedTM has the advantage of better safety with less disposal headaches while still providing results that are functionally similar to EtBr.

With all these advantages, what are the disadvantages? Is it too good to be true? To answer that, let’s look at some of the most common questions people have before or while they’re working with GelRed TM:

How does GelRed Work?

Like ethidium bromide, GelRedTM is a nucleic acid dye that intercalates with DNA. And it binds exclusively by intercalation.

When UV light is shown, the intercalated GelRed TM will fluoresce producing a bright orange light. Both products have nearly the same spectra; however, GelRedTM is considered a much safer alternative to EtBr and is much more sensitive. Another benefit of GelRedTM is that it is able to work with dsDNA, ssDNA and RNA, and when it comes to dsDNA, it is twice as sensitive as ssDNA and RNA.

If GelRed is an intercalating agent why doesn’t it have the same risk as ethidium bromide?

This is really a great question! It seems logical to wonder how it can truly be safe if it’s still going to bind directly with DNA. While GelRedTM and EtBr both intercalate with DNA, GelRedTM was created so that it does not penetrate the cell membrane. Because it cannot penetrate the cell membrane, GelRedTM is not toxic to living cells.

When GelRed TM and GelGreenTM were developed, scientists focused on creating a product with three major features in mind: it would not be able to penetrate latex gloves, it would not be able to penetrate the cell membrane, and it would be metabolized into compounds that have little interaction with DNA.

To ensure GelRed TM and GelGreenTM accomplished these goals, GelRedTM and GelGreenTM were tested using the glove penetration test, the Ames test, the cell permeability and cytotoxicity test and the environmental safety test.

How does GelRed compare to ethidium bromide?

To answer this question, let’s compare GelRedTM to EtBr in a few different ways:

  • Safety
  • Procedure
  • Cost
  • Sensitivity
  • DNA Migration

Already, the chart below can start to help visualize aspects of the comparison. GelRedTM is clearly known to be safer to use than EtBr, but it also has an equal (if not better) level of sensitivity, excels in disposal ease, but does come up short when it comes to cost.

GelRed vs. Ethidium Bromide EtBr

 Let’s get a deeper look at how these two products compare…

Safety of GelRedTM vs. Ethidium Bromide:

Right away, the most obvious advantage GelRedTM has over ethidium bromide is the safety, especially when it comes to GelRedTM Nucleic Acid Gel stain, 10,000X in water. Because of its safety, GelRedTM is easily disposed directly into the drain. One warning when it comes to disposal, however, is to contact your safety office about local disposal guidelines.

Procedure using GelRedTM vs. Ethidium Bromide:

Another great advantage of GelRedTM is that there is no need for a destaining step. Unlike EtBr, which can sometimes generate background without destaining, GelRedTM provides very clear images

Cost of GelRedTM vs. Ethidium Bromide:

Cost is immediately seen as a disadvantage of GelRedTM over EtBr. However, researchers should factor in the cost and time required for proper disposal of EtBr. When considering the indirect factors along with safety, GelRedTM still offers considerable benefits.

Sensitivity of GelRedTM vs. Ethidium Bromide:

Both GelRedTM and ethidium bromide are very sensitive stains, especially compared to other alternatives on the market.

DNA migration using GelRedTM vs. Ethidium Bromide

The affect GelRedTM has on DNA migration is a common concern among researchers. While EtBr has little to no impact on migration, in certain circumstances, GelRedTM can hinder it. Though migration is a concern, it is not necessarily a disadvantage since there are ways to significantly decrease the impact GelRedTM has on migration (see further in this article for more details).

What are the best conditions to use for GelRed staining? How do you prevent blurred DNA bands? And what filter should I use for GelRed?

Conditions/optimization for GelRedTM

The first big way to make sure you’re optimizing your procedure is to do a post-stain with GelRedTM rather than a precast gel. A post-stain will reduce the risk of GelRedTM interfering with DNA migration and provide you with the best sensitivity. If you are working with polyacrylamide gels, then avoid a precast stain altogether since it is not recommended.

If you have performed a precast stain and are getting blurred bands, you can try a few things to troubleshoot this issue:

  • Reduce the amount of DNA loaded by one-half to one-third (<400ng). GelRedTM is more sensitive than ethidium bromide. Smeared bands are usually the result of overloading, which is commonly observed with DNA ladders.
  • Switch to a post-stain rather than a precast stain.
  • Try pouring a lower percentage gel, especially when working with larger fragments.
  • If you are using TAE buffer, try TBE instead. TBE has a higher buffering capacity than TAE.

See the GelRedTM protocol for more troubleshooting tips.

Emissions Filter for GelRedTM:

An advantage with GelRedTM is its similarity to EtBr. Therefore, you can use the ethidium bromide filter when you’re working with GelRedTM. You can also use the SYBR® filter or the GelStarTM filters during imaging and get great results.

Why does GelRed alter the migration of DNA?

There are a number of reasons why GelRedTM affects the migration of DNA. Remember, that all nucleic acid dyes will have a certain impact on the way DNA moves. GelRedTM is a much heavier dye than EtBr, and GelRed’s affinity for DNA means that the more DNA that is loaded in a gel, the more GelRedTM will bind to DNA and skew the movement of that fragment.

A few recommendations to prevent or minimize the impact GelRedTM has on migration are: use it as a post-stain (we cannot stress this enough). Be sure your GelRedTM stock solution is appropriately diluted. You may also need to reduce the amount of DNA you’re using to minimize the impact of migration interference.

What’s the difference between GelRed and GelGreen?

The first primary difference is the fluorescence from each product. GelRedTM will, as you would expect, give off a red fluorescence much like ethidium bromide. And GelGreenTM, as you would expect, gives off a green fluorescence much like SYBR® Green. Either product can be used with a UV transilluminator.

Another difference is staining sensitivity. GelRedTM is a more sensitive stain (about five times more sensitive) than GelGreenTM, especially for single-stranded nucleic acids.

In terms of application, GelRedTM is compatible for with polyacrylamide gels, whereas that is not recommended for GelGreenTM.

Finally, one advantage of using GelGreenTM is its compatibility with blue light transilluminators, which is helpful if you want to avoid ultra violet exposure.

What’s the difference between DMSO GelRed and water based GelRed?

We offer both GelRedTM and GelGreenTM products in DMSO or water. It is recommended, however, to choose the water formulation which helps to prevent any potential hazards in use since DMSO is able to be absorbed into the skin. Both options are still available to serve researchers who have longstanding protocols that use the DMSO formulation.

Is GelRed compatible with ssDNA and RNA? Is it compatible with Southern blot?

GelRedTM is definitely compatible with single-stranded DNA as well as RNA. However, its sensitivity is two times greater for double-stranded DNA.

When it comes to the Southern blot application, GelRedTM is compatible. But it is highly recommended to use the post-stain protocol if you are doing a blotting application.

What downstream applications is GelRed compatible with?

GelRedTM is structurally similar to ethidium bromide and is compatible with downstream DNA applications including restriction digest, ligation, sequencing and cloning. GelRedTM is also compatible with cesium chloride gradients, use in Southern blot applications and the Comet assay (single cell gel electrophoresis).

Another benefit of GelRedTM is its compatibility with the UV transilluminator, which requires no change in setting; you can use the ethidium bromide filter for GelRedTM. The SYBR® and GelStarTM filters are also compatible with GelRedTM.

How do I troubleshoot issues with GelRed?

Our GelRedTM Nucleic Acid Gel Stain, 10,000X protocol has a lot of troubleshooting information, which is particularly helpful if you’re experiencing issues such as smeared bands in a precast gel, discrepant DNA migration in precast gel or weak fluorescence. Below is the troubleshooting table from the protocol.

GelRed Troubleshooting - Smeared GelRed Bands


Ames, Bruce N., and Lois S. Gold. "The Causes and Prevention of Cancer: The Role of Environment." Biotherapy11 (1998): 205-220.

"Ames Test." Genetics. . Retrieved February 27, 2017 from

Berge, T., Jenkins, N. S., Hopkirk, R. B., Waring, M. J., Edwardson, J. M., & Henderson, R. M. (2002). Structural perturbations in DNA caused by bis-intercalation of ditercalinium visualised by atomic force microscopy. Nucleic Acids Research,30(13), 2980-2986. Retrieved February 15, 2017, from

Crisafuli, F. A., Ramos, E. B., & Rocha, M. S. (2015). Characterizing the interaction between DNA and GelRed fluorescent stain. European Biophysics Journal,44(1), 1-7. doi:10.1007/s00249-014-0995-4

EDVOTEK. (n.d.). EDVOTEK Quick Guide: Visualizing DNA[Brochure]. Washington DC. Retrieved February 14, 2017.

Huang, Q., Baum, L., & Fu, W. L. (2010). Simple and practical staining of DNA with GelRed in agarose gel electrophoresis. Clinical Laboratory,56, 149-152. Retrieved February 14, 2017.

Kimball, J. (2010, December 21). Ames Test [Web blog post]. Retrieved February 14, 2017, from

Kirkwood Community College Math/Science Department (Producer). (2012). Gel Red vs. EtBr [Video file]. Retrieved February 10, 2017, from

Menne, C. (2017, January 13). GelRed Nucleic Acid Gel Stain FAQ [PDF] St. Louis: Gold Biotechnology.

Menne, C. (2017, January 13). GelRed Nucleic Acid Gel Stain, 10,000X Procedure for staining dsDNA, ssDNA or RNA in gels [PDF] St. Louis: Gold Biotechnology.

Oswald, N. (2008, March 03). Ethidium Bromide: The Alternatives [Web blog post]. Retrieved February 15, 2017, from

Product Information [PDF]. (2013, June 13). Hayward: Biotium.

“PulseNet: Under the Microscope” Volume 2 Alternate DNA Stains – Results and Recommendations [PDF]. (n.d.). PulseNet International.

Safety Report of GelRed and GelGreen[PDF]. (2013, October 16). Hayward: Biotium

              Karen Martin
GoldBio Marketing Coordinator

"To understand the universe is to understand math." My 8th grade
math teacher's quote meant nothing to me at the time. Then came
college, and the revelation that the adults in my past were right all
along. But since math feels less tangible, I fell for biology and have
found pure happiness behind my desk at GoldBio, learning, writing
and loving everything science. 

Category Code: 88251 79105 79104 79103 79107 79109