Tips for Working in a Lab for the First Time

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Tips for Working in a Lab for the First Time

College brings a lot of firsts. It may be the first time you’re living on your own and making food choices for yourself. You have free choice of going to class and studying hard. Some of these classes may be entirely new experiences, including some science classes. Many science courses have required lab segments, which can be challenging if you’ve never been in a lab before. Read on for some tips for working in a lab for the first time.

Don’t Be Afraid To Ask Questions

When you’re in a lab for the first time, there will be a lot of stuff you’re unfamiliar with. Laboratories have strict procedures and safety measures so that everyone is safe and does the correct tasks, but it can still be a confusing environment. Sometimes, instructors forget to mention something, or they may take students’ experience for granted and fail to explain the correct way to do a task.

If you are uncertain of how to proceed with a task and there are no clear instructions, do not hesitate to ask questions. Asking questions shows initiative and an eagerness to do everything correctly. However, remember that you shouldn’t ignore instructions only to ask questions later—listen to initial instructions, and if there’s any confusion, you can ask follow-up questions.

Safety First

The first time you step into a lab, you’ll encounter a lot of unfamiliar equipment and technology. Most of it is fairly standard and self-explanatory, but you should never take anything for granted. Safety is important everywhere, but especially in laboratories. A lot of equipment may be dangerous if improperly handled. For example, some laboratories use lasers, and there are plenty of precautions you must take when working with diode lasers, including wearing safety glasses. If it is your first time in the lab, there will be instructors and teaching assistants to guide you through safety precautions.

Keep to Yourself

In a laboratory environment, lab partners may work on a project together, but you should always delegate responsibilities to work efficiently on projects. Additionally, you shouldn’t interfere with other people working on their projects or let them interfere with yours. When you’re in a laboratory, you are working on something specific for the science course, and any outside variables can quickly disrupt your project and hurt your results. Never crowd a process, and be respectful of everyone else’s boundaries so you don’t accidentally cause someone to make a mistake. You can ask your partner or other students questions, but don’t disturb their projects.

Working in a lab for the first time can be intimidating, but with these tips, you’ll have a better idea of what you’re doing, and you’ll know how to stay safe and focus on learning. It still won’t be easy, but know that you’re in there to learn, ask questions, and develop as a student.

Image Credit: Students watching lecturer in the lab By WavebreakMediaMicro #76146240

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