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Personally I don’t care if your boyfriend is in the lab…

By Kelly

Most people share a house for at least part of their youth. I believe the experience is  fundamental to the transition into adulthood. You learn that you have ‘quirks’ your family were too kind to tell you about, and that the ‘quirks’ of others aren’t quirky at all. They are often just, bloody annoying.

Sharing lab space is very much like sharing house. For many of us it is a very important space, sacred even, where rituals and traditions can override common sense…  During the last decade I have shared many a house, and many a lab for that matter, and there are distinct parallels between the two. If you are about to enter either tenancy, here’s a list of a few things to avoid:

Don’t use all the …..milk/nitrogen gas! 

I like to have a bottle of UHT milk in the pantry for emergencies, in the same way that I have a spare bottle of high purity nitrogen in the courtyard. I can drink my coffee without milk, but I can’t process my samples without nitrogen. So if you use the nitrogen/milk and it’s getting low, order/buy more or at least tell me! Please. Imagine going to make your coffee and discovering it’ll be 2 days before you can drink it!

Don’t leave empty containers in fridge/store!

Even worse than simply using all the supplies is when the empty bottles are left giving the IMPRESSION you have enough milk/nitrogen only to open them and find you don’t. To add insult to injury you then have to lug the empty bottle down to the courtyard (not so annoying with the milk carton, unless of course it weighs 20kg  and you need a trolley to get it to the bin). Also, if things in the fridge go mouldy, please throw them out. This ACTUALLY happened in a lab I worked in once….the solution I used as a reference standard had something growing in it!!!

Do your dishes/dishes!

Whether it be glassware or beakers, it’s just not polite to constantly leave dirty dishes in the sink. Particularly when glassware runs low and someone has to wash  up before being able to quench thirst/reaction. Imagine you are just about to pour a glass of wine only to discover you need to soak your glass in detergent overnight, then in acid, then rinse and dry it before combusting it in the oven at 400C for three hours. Devastating.

Don’t leave poison out!

Okay so perhaps not quite as applicable for house sharing but in a lab, for the love of Lionel, don’t leave reagents/chemicals unlabeled. What looks like a harmless beaker of water may in fact be a not-so-harmless chemical. It’s not only a potential health hazard but makes it rather difficult to dispose of correctly…like plastic without the recycling symbol on it that explodes if you put it in the wrong bin…

Try and keep your things in your own room/fumehood!

Most of the house/lab is common space so be respectful. Like my bedroom my fume hood and drawer are sometimes a bit of a mess, but that doesn’t impinge on anyone elses space, so it’s not the end of the world (so I tell myself). Having to eat standing up because someones left their food all over the dining table is not cool, particularly if the food is poisonous.

eyebrowsAnd lastly, if you borrow my tweezers MAKE SURE YOU RETURN THEM! I am lost without them. Not only do I contaminate my samples by touching them, but they are often so small I couldn’t pick them up with my fingers even if I wanted to. That and I have eyebrows like my dad. There is an undesirable outcome in either case.