Zitzmann Lab Olympics

During the London 2012 Olympics, the Zitzmann lab had their very own lab-based Olympics.

Quick Links

The teams
The opening ceremony
Outdoor events 
Indoor events
The medals
Final results
The Rules




zitzmann lab olympics

The Zitzmann Lab Olympics logo: The rings represent liposomes which are currently being investigated in the Zitzmann group for drug delivery. The dots represent the phospholipid heads and the wavy lines represent phospholipid tails.

The teams  
Three teams were chosen (Team GB, Eurozone and CANZUS) with 5 scientific athletes in each team.  

Team GB


Angeliki Antonakaki

Michelle Hill

Steve Woodhouse

Simon Spiro

Bevin Gangadharan

team gb



Juan Bolivar Gonzalez

Melanie Beer

Ben Oestringer

Nicole Zitzmann

Dina Fotinou

team eurozone



Emma Dixon

Jo Miller

J.L. Kiappes

Alex Caputo

Andrew Sayce

Several Olympic Committee meetings were held prior to the Lab Olympics to organise teams, ceremonies, medals, events and timetabling of events. Four Olympic Sub-Committees were made to set rules for each event.

BiathlonAccuracy + speed of pipetting into rows of a 96 well plate with a run between pipetting each row.

ben oestringer adjusts a p200

Ben Oestringer adjusts a P200 while blindfolded in the biathlon.

Weight lifting – Accuracy and speed of measured by weighing out 50 milligrams and 3 grams of salt.

simon spiro tesco salt

Simon Spiro weighing out 50mg of Tesco Value salt.

The Gauntlet – Fastest at putting on rubber gloves with wet hands.

emma dixon gauntlet

Emma Dixon and Michelle Hill go head-to-head in the gauntlet.

The opening ceremony

The Zitzmann lab Olympics Opening Ceremony was held on 1st August 2012 at 12:30GMT which included an opening speech given by Jo Miller (El Presidente of the Zitzmann lab Olympics), marches of teams in their kit + flags, team anthems and a spectacular display of pyrotechnics by JL Kiappes. The Master of the Ceremony was Simon Spiro.

opening ceremony by kiappes

The opening ceremony by J.L. Kiappes


The events

Outdoor events in the University Parks:


Shot putt – Furthest throw of a 50ml Falcon tube filled with Milli Q water.

Javelin – Furthest throw of a 25ml pipette.

stevewoodhouse shotput

Steve Woodhouse launching a MilliQ filled 50ml Falcon tube

jo miller pipette

Jo Miller launching a 25ml pipette

Outdoor event at the mid-Olympic barbeque:  

Archery – Accuracy of ejecting a pipette tip five times from a P1000 in the same place.


drew sayce scorekeeping

Drew Sayce calculating the competitor’s score (R) in the pipette archery event.

Indoor events in the Oxford Glycobiology Institute:

Tip box filling – A relay event with 4 people per team where each person fills a row of pipettes into a box.

Parafilm stretch – Furthest stretch of a piece of Parafilm.

Sailing – Sinking weight boats floating in a water bath sonicator using water filled 5ml Bijous.

For more details about the events, see the Official Zitzmann Lab Olympics Rules below.



The Medals

Medals were awarded to scientific athletes after each event and were as follows:

1st position: 79Au (aurum; aka Gold)

2nd position: 47Ag (argentum; aka Silver)

3rd position: 29Cu/50Sn: (alloy of cuprum (copper) and stannum (tin); aka Bronze).

nicolezitzmann medal

Raymond Dwek awards Nicole Zitzmann with a gold medal.


Final Results





Tip box filling


Team GB


Parafilm stretch

Team GB

Team GB


Shot putt - female


Team GB

Team GB

Shot putt - male



Team GB

Javelin - female

Team GB



Javelin - male



Team GB



Team GB





Team GB



Team GB


Weight lifting


Team GB

Team GB




Team GB

team flag raising

Raising of team flags on the podium after an event

It was decided to use a scoring system with Au as 5 points, Ag as 3 points and Cu/Sn as 1 point. The cumulative medal tally is below (with the cumulative points in parentheses):







6 (30)

0 (0)

2 (2)

8 (32)


3 (15)

5 (15)

3 (3)

11 (33)

Team GB

2 (10)

6 (18)

6 (6)

14 (34)



The Official Zitzmann Lab Olympics Rules:

25ml pipette javelin – maximum anticipated time of 1hr, likely 30-45min

  • Competitors shall throw one (1) unmodified, freshly opened, individually sealed, empty 25ml pipette in an overhand manner in an attempt to induce minimal pitch.

  • The throw shall take place from behind the line of the gravel path into a grassy field within a 1 meter-square box demarcated on said path.

  • Competitors will be randomly ordered via Excel random number generator into flights.

  • Each competitor will perform one throw per flight and the competition shall run for 3 flights.

  • The best individual attempt will count as their distance

  • The furthest distance will be judged to be the winner

  • Faults shall be:

  • considered to occur when any part of a person crosses the line and makes contact with the grass on the other side

  • judged by a marshall to be appointed from the pool of individuals not from the competitor’s team

  • indicated by the raising of a red flag

  • Distance shall be judged by one member of the competitor’s team and one member of a different team and recorded by the placing of a flag/marker only when a valid throw is performed (as indicated by the raising of a white flag from the marshall)

  • Distance should be measured from the nearest point of impact and not where the marker finishes in meters.

  • Measurement of distances shall be conducted after the final round for the marks that appear to be in contention for medal positions.


50ml Falcon shot put – maxiumum anticipated time of 1hr, likely 30-45 min


  • all measurements and rules should be the same as for javelin

  • exceptions:


    launch is a 50ml Falcon filled with 50ml of water; container sealed with Parafilm

  • both, glide and spinning, techniques should be valid methods


Pipette archery – significant prep time on the day (exp 30min), 30 mins for competition, 30min-1hr for scoring (can be performed later)


  • A single p1000 shall be used by all competitors: one person from each team to agree which pipette to use
  • New, unfiltered, blue 1000 tips shall be dipped minimally and uniformly in paint and will then ejected by the participant sitting at a table onto a large sheet of paper
  • On a table will be a line drawn indicating the position of one’s elbow
  • The forearm should be elevated in a perpendicular position and the tip ejected using any portion of the hand
  • Each competitor shall eject exactly 5 tips and the position shall be marked by the first contact of the painted portion of the tip with the paper. The manner of tip loading shall be at the discretion of each competitor as (s)he sees fit.
  • The location of all marks shall be transferred to graph paper and mapped onto x-y coordinates.
  • The centroid of this distribution shall be calculated by averaging all coordinates (xn,yn) and this centroid (xc,yc)shall be subtracted from all points such that {xn’,yn’} possesses xc’,yc’=(0,0)
  • Example:

5 points are obtained {xn,yn}






Yielding centroid, xc,yc=(1.8,0.4)

Therefore points are re-centered to {xn’,yn’}







  • These x-y coordinates shall be translated into polar coordinate space and the sum of rn (R) shall be each competitor’s score
  • Example (continued

(xn’,yn’) to (rn,qn)




The lowest value of R shall be deemed the winner.


Event “Parafilm stretching”

(estimated time: 1hr)

Judges: two; judges prepare two Olympic standard parafilm squares (approx. 2 inches square) each with 2 small dots (marker pen – smaller dots are best), backing removed, per athlete.

Event: 30 seconds per parafilm rectangle, two per athlete. Maximum free resting length between the dots(i.e. put on the bench without touching) and measured with an Olympic standard plastic ruler to be obtained from Steve’s drawer (no imperial measurements).

Heat: All team members allowed. Multiple rounds of 2 athletes/round. Top 8 enter finals, maximum two per team plus next 2 longest stretches. No double entries allowed.

Final: To be held in inverse order of pole position (ie. those with longest length from heat compete in final first).

Winner: One judge to measure within 5 secs of end of event, while althete holds parafilm. In case of close calls meaning lengths within in 1 mm, second judge will measure again and decide. In case of a draw, repeat once more for the golden stretch (one more rectangle each, 15 seconds; same rules apply). Disqualification in case of going over time and/or ripping the rectangle.


Event “tight, wet squeeze”

(estimated time: 30 mins)

Judges: three (one to be supplied from each team).

Entries: two per team, no double entries.

Rounds: one round.

Event: Gloves put next to water beakers by judges. Athletes commence event with hands submerged to the wrist in H20 in supplied beakers. Timer starts on the call of a judge. Shaking hands is fine, wiping is not.

Winner: Athlete who has both hands in the gloves the furthest after 20 seconds. Dry run to be performed beforehand for judges to confirm each athletes competition glove size (yes, size does matter!).

Judges: Decisions are final. No input from the audience as to whose fingers are most deeply in their gloves. If not unanimous, majority decides. Fingertips of the gloves should be tight. The interdigital base of the glove needs to be down a minimum of ¾ length of the finger.

Athletes: Kamasutra positions allowed. No lube.

Event “sailing or actually sinking”

(estimated time: 60 mins)

Judges: one judge per heat and two in the final, decision are final (chocolate or alcohol bribes accepted).

Entries: All team members allowed. Four heats of 3 people, one from each team in each heat. Winners of each heat proceed to final.

Event: Each athlete is issued with one two inch square Olympic Standard weigh boat from the draw under the gel stuff. Athletes MUST decorate/label boats; labels have to be in accordance with the IOC convention for weigh boat labelling and the international convention against discrimination. Athletes launch boats at pre-labelled launching sites in the big bad-ass sonicator (filled to standard Olympic water depth). Athletes stand one metric meter (judges please mark on ground with tape, no ventral bending, i.e. body must be vertical) and fire provided “cannonballs” (five mL Bijous filled with four mL of H20). Althetes in each heat all get at least one throw. Once your boat is sunk, you can no longer throw cannonballs. If you boat is still afloat (even partially) you continue taking turns firing cannonballs, trying to sink opponents boats. The order athletes fire in is to be determined by a pre-event on land, based on drawing straws.

Winner: One shot per athlete until only one boat remains floating. Third last boat floating awarded bronze, second last silver, final boat floating awarded gold.


Event “Weight Lifting”

Judges: Two: one for time, one for accuracy

Entries: 2 per team

Event: Salt from Tesco will be measured out in two different sub events: Light weights (50 mg) and heavy weights (3 g). The 50 mg will be weighed into a 1.5-mL eppendorf, while the 3 g will be into a standard weigh boat.

Winner: Each competitor will receive a score out of 15 points. 5 of these points will be for time, 10 for accuracy. All competitors are invited to participate in heats to determine the cutoffs in the formulae as follows:


oxavddev time points


oxavddev accuracy points

Total time: 15-20 minutes


Event “Tip Box Relay”

Judges: two

Entries: 4 per team as a team

Event: Each person will fill one row of pipette tips into a box. Once a pipette tip has been dropped, it can no longer be used and a time penalty is incurred. After the first person has filled their row, they tag the next team member who proceeds. Etc.

The rows must be filled in the following order:

Attach rack => Row 1 => Row 3 => Row 4 => Row 2

Winner: Fastest team to have all 4 rows filled (after taking penalties into consideration) wins.
Total time: 5-10 minutes


Event “Figure 8 Wheelie Race”

Judges: One judge per team

Entries: Must sign a safety waver; Must wear a helmet. 4 per team

Event: Take place on ground floor in 10.07. Each person will have to do one figure 8 lap. Along the way, there will be one check point per person (turning a device on/off or something similar). Once the first person returns to the starting point, they get off the chair, the second person sits down and does their lap, etc

Touching any of the “walls” (benches in the middle or at edge of room) results in automatic disqualification.

Winner: Fastest team time.

Total time: 15-20 minutes (?)


Event “Biathlon”

Judges: Three (one per team).

Entries: One per team, where course is completed in succession by individual from each team in random order.


3 x 96 well plates

2 x 200 uL pipettes

1 x 200 uL pipette tip box (full)

1 x used pipette tip receptacle

1 x blind fold

1 x official 2012 Lab Olympic timer

1 x 500 mL MilliQ water in 500 mL Schott bottle (replenished between rounds)


  1. Competitor will begin with both hands placed palm down in the marked zone on Steve’s bench.
  2. When ready, the competitor will then be signalled by one of the judges to begin, at which point they press “start” on the official 2012 Lab Olympics timer on Steve’s bench.
  3. Competitor will then make their way to the pipetting station (Kelly’s old bench) where there will be two 200uL pipettes both set to 200uL, a pre-weighed 96 well plate and a blind fold.
  4. Using the pipette on the left, competitors will pipette 12 wells with 200uL of MilliQ water (18.2 MΩ) starting with well A1 working to A12. The pipette tip must be changed between each well and used tips must be ejected into the receptacle provided. Competitors may use hands to put wayward ejected tips into the receptacle. Any rogue tips not in the receptacle by the end of the event will result in 1 point deduction.
  5. Once completed, competitors will return to Steve’s bench, placing both hands, palm down, in the marked zone on Steve’s bench. Both hands must being in contact with the bench simultaneously
  6. Competitor must then return to pipetting station where they will put on the blindfold provided. Once blindfolded, they will be handed the second 200uL pipette by one of the judges. The competitor must set the pipette to 100uL as best they can.
  7. Once set, the competitor must take off the blindfold. Once the blindfold is removed, no further adjustment to the dial can be made. Competitor must then pipette 12 wells with the set volume of MilliQ water (18.2 MΩ) starting with well B1 working to B12. Pipette tip changing/ejecting rules are as step 5.
  8. Repeat step 5.
  9. Competitor must then return to pipette station and repeat step 4 this time starting with well C1 working to C12.
  10. Once completed, the competitor must return to Steve’s bench and press “stop” on the Olympic regulation timer signaling the end of the event. For each competitor, all three judges will weigh a 96 well plate on the Sartorius MC1 analytic AC 210 S scale. The average (mean) of the three recorded weights will be used as the “preweighed weight” (to 3 decimal places). During the event, two judges will be required (one from both non-competing team). These judges will set the 200uL pipettes. Furthermore, one will regulate “palm touch” and timing on Steve’s bench, the other will regulate blindfolding and pipetting station.

 For each competitor, all three judges will weigh a 96 well plate on the Sartorius MC1 analytic AC 210 S scale. The average (mean) of the three recorded weights will be used as the “preweighed weight” (to 3 decimal places). During the event, two judges will be required (one from both non-competing team). These judges will set the 200uL pipettes. Furthermore, one will regulate “palm touch” and timing on Steve’s bench, the other will regulate blindfolding and pipetting station.

Winner: Winning team will be the team with the highest score, which will be deduced as follows:

1 – Time: The final time will be recorded from the timer as 00:00:00 (minutes:seconds:milliseconds). The times will be ranked in order 1 to 3 with 1 being the fastest.

2 - The resultant 96 well plate will be weighed using Sartorius MC1 analytic AC 210 S scale by all three judges. The average (mean) of the three recorded weights will be used as the final weight. Final weight should equal: preweighed weight + 6.000 g. Deviation from the calculated weight will be taken as an absolute value. The smaller this deviation value the more accurate the pipetting. The accuracy will be ranked in order 1 to 3, with 3 being the most accurate.

Points will be awarded as follows:


Points awarded


Fastest time

Most accurate pipetting




















Total time: 45 minutes

MEDALS: Add 5 minutes to each event for medal ceremony