Any general tips for working in a lab?

  • Wear appropriate clothing. If you work in a biochemical lab with toxic materials and glassware, be sure not to wear shorts or especially sandals. Some labs also require lab coats to be worn. If you are working on a field study, ask for a list of recommendations for proper gear and equipment.
  • Be conscious of where you leave food and drink. You don’t want your food to become contaminated. Labs that deal with radioactive materials (this includes biological tracer isotopes) or severe biological contaminants or toxins have regular visits from inspectors, sometimes without warning. Any foods or drinks found in these designated hazardous materials areas are a serious violation that may cost your lab a substaintial penalty. As an undergraduate, you especially do not want to the cause of this type of problem.
  • Have good appliance habits! This cannot be emphasized enough. Remember that you share space in freezers, incubators, centrifuges, autoclave machines, and other large equipment with others in your lab, and possibly the entire building or department. Forgetting to close freezer or incubator doors can put other researchers’ projects in serious jeopardy. Autoclave machines, if not properly set and secured, can in some cases explode, causing serious damage. It is generally advisable to make a paper or mental list of all equipment in the lab you have used during the day and to check each one before you leave the building.
  • Try to be neat and organized. As an undergraduate, you may be sharing bench space with other researchers or undergraduates, and certainly sharing equipment with others. Don’t leave a mess or move things around where others cannot locate them.
A Brief Explanation of "The Lab"