Lab Freezer Organization

My freezers at home are fairly well organized. The one in my fridge is pretty full, but we have a good sense of what is in there. The chest freezer in the basement is very well organized after we did a purge last year and decided to organize by main ingredient. We can tell quickly when we are running out of something and need to buy more.

I’m in the process of doing the same for my lab freezers. We have a -20°C chest freezer in the lab that we use for storing various biological samples. I recently purchased 2 additional vertical racks and a bunch of 2 inch tall freezer boxes since the samples from my students’ projects have massively increased in the 5 years that I’ve been working here. These boxes work great for samples that fit in 1.5-2 mL tubes, but aren’t so super for biochemicals that I need to store at this temperature. I’m currently experimenting with various plastic containers in order to find a system that works for us.

We currently store our more sensitive/long-term storage samples in a rack in a shared -80°C freezer. A fellow faculty member has been very kind in letting us squat in the freezer for the past 5 years. Last week I was able to purchase a freezer of my own (oh, happy day!) and am proactively planning how we will store our samples. Our current set up is a rack that holds 16 2 inch boxes which has worked well for samples, but isn’t so great for several molecular biology kits that we regularly use. I’m happy to be getting our own freezer as I’ve been dismayed by the storage behaviours of other researchers who share the freezer. Pro tip: unlabelled baggies are not an effective storage tool! I’m also quite territorial when it comes to my freezer rack. I’ve been really angry when others have taken my boxes out of my rack and replaced them with their own boxes. Not cool!!

We will also be switching over to a labelling system that actually uses freezer safe labels. Previously we had been writing on our tubes with extra-fine Sharpie markers, but this is difficult. I’ve recently purchased various labels from GA International and I’ve been impressed with the quality and performance so far. The colour dots in particular will save us lots of time when locating DNA vs. RNA vs. protein samples in our storage boxes.

A logical freezer organization system will save you valuable time. I think that we’ve all had that experience where we got lazy or sloppy and are then cursing ourselves later when we can’t find that important sample in the freezer. It can sometimes take hours, days, or weeks to generate a biological sample depending on your experiments. It makes sense to store the sample so that it maintains integrity and you know where to find it when you need it.

What approaches have other PIs taken to storing your biological samples in freezers?

 

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