NOTE: This Module is currently being updated.







    The work carried out in a research laboratory is usually expensive!  An ongoing research program requires occasional purchases of equipment and frequent purchases of consumable supplies.  The latter includes items such as disposable labware, Kimwipes, pipettor tips, Parafilm, labeling tape, routine chemicals, and sometimes special items such as photographic or X-ray film, particular antibodies or perhaps radiolabelled biochemicals.  Obviously, such purchases cannot be made without $$, and thus all research projects require financial resources.  Biosciences research funding is typically obtained from one or more of the following: the College or University, the State, Federal Government Agencies such as the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, private philanthropic foundations such as the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and National Societies such as the American Cancer Society and the National Heart Association.


     Nearly all research grants at a College or University are made to professors, working either individually or collaboratively with other researchers at their own or sometimes other Institutions.  The professor (or other individual) who has applied for and obtained the grant funding is called the "Principal Investigator", abbreviated "PI".  The PI has a number of responsibilities, including (a) overseeing all of the work (design and conduct of experiments), (b) presenting the research findings via seminars, scientific meetings, and publications, (c) writing progress reports to the granting agencies (if required), and (d) making sure that the grant funds are spent properly.  With respect to the last, regardless of the source of funds, part of the routine business in a research lab involves making purchases and keeping track of funds spent and funds still available.




     As a member of a research lab group, it is important for you to note what items are getting to be in short supply, and to inform the person responsible for ordering them.  In some labs, you may even be given some direct role in ordering supplies or small equipment items for your own work and/or that of others.  The purpose of this module is to introduce you to typical lab purchasing procedures, and to the catalogues of various biomedical supply companies.  These catalogues are often packed with useful information not readily obtained elsewhere.  They also contain ordering information, and "800" telephone numbers that you can utilize without charge.  In addition, many companies provide technical information services (also with 800 tel. numbers) that you can call to ask questions related to use of the products they sell.  This can be extremely helpful (for example, you might need to know how long you can store a given chemical solution before it deteriorates).


     Efficient laboratory research requires that you have the needed materials on hand, at the right time, and in the right amounts.  As you can imagine, this requires planning.


     The exercises in this module involve obtaining ordering information for several items, possibly including some of the supplies which may be lacking here at the Techniques Facility.





     There are many companies that produce and/or sell products used in biomedical research, ranging from chemical compounds to strains of bacteria.  Becoming familiar with a few of their catalogs will help you to know where to look for an item in the future.  Different companies specialize in different product lines.  For example, Sigma Chemical Company has a large inventory of biochemicals, whereas Thomas Scientific carries more labware and laboratory equipment.


     Different catalogs have their contents categorized in different ways. For example the Fisher catalog has an alphabetical listing of chemical compounds and also has chemicals listed by areas of use, such as chromatography, which includes solvents, reagents and columns used in chromatography.  In the Sigma catalog one finds areas such as immunochemicals, molecular biology, and radioactive chemicals.  The Thomas catalog has everything categorized alphabetically and color coded.




 Take a look at the table of contents of each of these catalogs to familiarize yourself with their organization.


     Each of these companies has their own order form and most also offer the option to order by phone.  However, in most cases one uses an order form specific the purchasing institution (i.e., in our case, the Research Foundation of CUNY).





     When doing an experiment, a researcher almost always following a "protocol".  A protocol is a step-by-step description of the procedure that you expect to follow, and it typically includes detailed information on the chemicals and materials needed, their amounts, and the order of steps to follow.


     Protocols have a variety of sources: they might be designed by you or someone in your lab, they may be obtained from a published source, or they may even be included with company products and kits that have been purchased.


In the next exercise you will obtain ordering information for ATP.




(1) Obtain the Sigma Chemical Company catalog from the Tech Facility reference shelf.


(2) Find ATP under its full name ADENOSINE 5'TRIPHOSPHATE.


(3) Find Grade II, disodium salt, 100 grams.


(4) What is the catalog number and price for that item?  Record the information in your Tech Facility notebook.




     Continue using the Sigma catalog, recording information in notebook.


(1)  Are there other, different salts of ATP available?  What is one other salt of ATP, and what is its catalog number?


(2)  What is the 800 telephone number for placing orders with this company? (The 800 telephone calls are free).


(3)  What is the 800 telephone number for obtaining technical information from this company?




     Note the purchase order form at the back of the Sigma catalog.  Although many companies provide such order forms, we are going to use our own standard purchase order form.  Most work performed under a grant makes use of purchase forms provided by the Research Foundation of the City University of New York.  The Research Foundation acts as a kind of banker for all units of CUNY, keeping track of grant accounts and making payments approved by the Principal Investigators.




1) Obtain a copy of a Research Foundation purchase order form  from your Tech Facility supervisor.  Fill in the requested ordering information for ATP, as obtained in Exercise #2.

2) Under purchase order number, write "TF-1".

3) Fill in the vendor, i.e., the name of the company you are ordering from.

4) Fill in the delivery address, which, for purposes here, can read "Techniques Facility", at the address given in notes at the end of this module (A-3).  In a research lab,the delivery address would be that of your sponsoring professor.

5) For the billing address, fill in "Same As Above" (i.e., same as delivery address).




     Imagine that you are going to follow a protocol that calls for growing bacteria in standard Petri dishes.  Each experiment will require 10 dishes, and you expect to perform approximately 4 experiments per week for 12 weeks.


     The protocol and plan provides the following information:

(1)  Number of Petri dishes needed for these experiments = ~500.

(2)  Size = standard = 60 X 15 mm.

(3)  Sterility needed?  Yes.

(4)  The Petri dishes should be "treated" (this is discussed further, below).


     Although Petri dishes can probably be purchased from Sigma and some other biochemical companies, lower labware prices are likely to be found in a general scientific supply company catalog, such as that of Fisher, Thomas, VWR, etc.  In addition, some of these companies have special contracts with the State of New York that give considerable discounts from their catalog price to workers at CUNY or other institutions in NY.




     In this case, we will not fill out a Purchase Order form.  Instead, we will prepare for the option to telephone in the order (used only for relatively low cost items).


(1) Obtain the Fisher catalogue from the reference shelf and

find the listing for a package of 500 Corning ( = brand name) Petri Dishes: "treated", sterile, 60 x 15 mm.  Such dishes are also known as culture dishes.




(2) Does the catalog tell you what treatment the term "treated" refers to?

(3) What is the Fisher catalog no. and price for the item?

(4) What is the 800 tel. no. for Fisher?

(5) What purchase order number will you give them when they ask for it? (see A-1, at end of module)

(6) Whose name should appear on the "Shipping Address" (A-2), and to what address should it be shipped (A-3)

(7) What is the billing name and address? (The bill, otherwise known as the invoice, is sent separately from the material) (A-4)

(8) Are there any special "customer account numbers" needed?


NOTE:  Some companies require individual customer accounts to be set up; this number must then be given at the start of the telephone conversation.  Sigma is one such company.


For a telephone order, you would keep in mind the following additional considerations:


(9) The company person taking the telephone order will usually ask for your name and tel. no. (in case you are disconnected, or there is later confusion over who ordered the item)

(10) Remember to ask whether there are any NY State discounts available.  Also, a local company representative for the area can sometimes arrange a discount.

(11) Shipping: Remember to ask when the material is likely to arrive.  Is special shipping needed, like overnight?  What day do you want delivery?  Note that you should avoid weekend delivery, as no one is likely to be at the College to receive the package.




       Look on the Techniques Facility bulletin board to

find the list of "TF needs".  If anything is listed as needing to be ordered, find the specific product in one of the catalogs.  You can ask your TF supervisor for advice about catalog selection if you are not sure.  Once you have found the item, enter the ordering information in your TF notebook.  Then obtain and fill out a CUNY Research Foundation order form, and give it to your TF supervisor.  Thank you for saving us the work!



A-1 For routine items, the P.O. no. is usually the Research Foundation grant account no. followed by running no. chosen by the lab (121, 122, 123, etc.). You would need to obtain the P.O. no. from the P.I. or P.I. assistant.

A-2 The professor's, or P.I.

A-3 Department of Biological Sciences, Hunter College, 695 Park Ave., New York, NY 10021.

A-4 Billing name and address is usually, but not always, the same as the shipping ones.