It’s either your best friend or your worst nightmare… Gen Chem I Lab (CHM 2045L). Exaggerations aside, labs can be a bit confusing before you adjust to the various rules and techniques necessary for lab work. So, what can you do to prepare?
1. Always wear PPE!
Personal Protection Equipment, or PPE, is essential for lab work. This includes your lab coat with elastic wristbands and snap button enclosures and splash proof goggles. Gloves are given in the lab of course, but other steps you must take include making sure you’re wearing long pants that cover your ankles, enclosed shoes (no Toms!), and tying back long hair if you have it. Your TA won’t hesitate to call you out if you’ve got rips in your jeans or pants that are cropped. After all, you might be dealing with some dangerous chemicals.
2. Keep in contact with your group members.
Starting a group chat with your lab partners can help loads. You can help each other out with calculations or any unfamiliar content you find in your manual. Especially when you have group projects, having them to contact will make your life and your group’s lives easier. Teamwork counts, in and out of the lab.
3. Know the lab room inside and out.
Being fully informed about where each item is located and what it is used for will help speed up the process exponentially. Simple things like which glassware is best for your project and where to find it can shed time off your lab work, and you may be able to leave the lab early, depending on the TA you have. This also means to make sure you know how to clean up! Learn that lab manual and all of its contents!
4. Distribute your lab work.
Nothing’s worse than a lab partner that doesn’t attempt to help in any of the procedures. Find out what all your lab members are good at, and distribute the work among everyone based on each person’s ability. If someone prefers writing, they can be the recorder for the group. If one of your group members can make the best accurate measurements, see if they want to measure the chemicals! Tailor the needs of the project to the people involved. By performing with everyone’s strengths, you’re allowing for the most efficient lab possible.
5. Ask questions.
Never be shy when you have a question about a specific part of your project. Some things in your lab manual may be a bit vague, and asking your TA for clarification doesn’t hurt. Your TA will appreciate you coming to them for help as well, since they are trained to assist you, and of course, enjoy Chemistry! There are plenty of resources you can access from your lab manual, but in-person help during your lab can be the best way to get the answers you need.
If this is your first lab you’re doing, don’t worry. Your lab partners will be there with you every step of the way and your TA is there for any concerns you might have. Just be prepared, and you’ll have a great semester.