10 Common Mistakes Made by Newbie Researchers – Part 3

By Zully Santiago, PRISM Undergraduate Researcher, Spring 2013 through Summer 2014SantiagoZully

Part 3 – Be a Responsible Labmate

8)     Mistake: You break something or spill something.

Solution: If you break glass, no big deal. Simply throw the glass out in the glass waste in a safe manner. Try to find all the pieces and so on. However, if there was a corrosive substance (or dangerous substance in anyway) in a container and it is now on the floor, do not touch it. Go ask for help. You can contact your mentor, any professors that may be around on the floor, or call security. Hopefully after your biohazard training, you’ll be able to handle simple spills and have information in order to contact someone for more dangerous spills. Again, know what you are working with and its hazards.

9)     Mistake: You need to go to class, so you rush cleaning, or you don’t clean at all because you’ll come back later.

Solution: If this happens, try to leave your mess in the most convenient way possible so that your lab mates can do their work, and leave a note. If your mess is potentially dangerous, call your mentor or a lab partner to help you take care of it. Nevertheless, make sure you clean up after yourself since the lab is shared. Don’t leave anything for someone else to clean. It isn’t fair or right to do so. Remember, not only are you the researcher, you are also your own lab technician, so no one is responsible for your mess other than yourself.  If you planned properly, you should have more than enough time to clean up after yourself. If someone leaves a mess, try to find out what everything is and clean it up for your own safety, and let your mentor know about it so that it doesn’t happen again.

10)     Mistake: At the end of the experiment, you place everything in a single waste container or attempt to throw the waste down the sink. You know better than this.

Solution: Again, if you understand how your chemicals work in your experiment, you will know how to dispose of them properly. Many chemicals cannot be put down the sink and many other chemicals will continue to react when mixed together, so think carefully. If you have multiple steps in a reaction, think about the intermediates, the chemicals used in each step, and find out if it is safe to put them all together. When in doubt, ask someone or play it safe and make separate waste containers if needed.

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