Put that snack down you fools!
For all those that partake in the occasional lab-based munch, Dr Matthew Partridge has some gentle advice for you…
I have a confession. Despite years of terrible paper work, awful online training, tedious training days and being very sarcastic online I am actually a stickler for health and safety (H&S to cool people).
I like being alive and I like that some people have spent quite a lot of time thinking of ways I might accidentally kill myself and then explaining that I shouldn't do those things.
Don't get me wrong there are plenty of H&S rules that are eye brow-raisingly weird and pointless. To this day I don't understand why my 40 ul vial of colourless antibody solution had to be looked at by a vet on import for 'safety assessment'. But the vast majority make perfect sense.
For example one of the simplest, and to me most reasonable, is no food and drink in the lab.
Firstly, labs contain lots of pretty horrible things and often horrible things that you might not actually be aware of. Mostly the horrible things aren't all that horrible if they are kept outside your body. Sticking stuff into your body while in the lab gives the horrible things a nice easy route past your skin and right down in your horrible thing-phobic organs. It's kind of like the city of Troy not waiting for the Trojans to build a horse but going out and buying one themselves and then dragging it into the city.
Secondly, humans are frankly disgusting when we eat food. Unless we try very hard indeed it's practically impossible to eat any food without some small crumb, flake or micro drop flying from our mouths. For you personally, perhaps dropping crumbs is at worst food wastage. But for the horrible things it is not something you want happening. Some horrible things get very excited when you add extra bits to them. High powered lasers for example get really quite agitated if you add crumbs and have the tendency to become 'fiesty'. Also it can be hard to tell if your testing of the horrible things is causing a change in the horrible thing or if the doughnut you just dropped into it is.
Both of these seem somewhat obvious and hopefully in reading this you are nodding along going go ‘yup makes sense’. Although, I'm aware lots of you won't be because...
I keep constantly seeing people eating in the god damnd lab!
No experimental setup is improved by bits of blueberry muffin and no blueberry muffin is improved by being dunked in PBS buffer. Testing that theory isn't science, trust me it's been tested... extensively. I know it's hard to got literally any time at all without a bag of crisps or flat white mocha decaf soy latte but can we all please collectively agree that we don't eat them in the lab.
This will sometimes means going without snacks for upwards of 2 hours but people often say science requires sacrifice and that sacrifice is your ability to snack constantly. If that is too high a price to pay then I suggest you switch to a subject where your snacking won't either kill you or cause something the fire-brigade will later describe as "the incident".
[caption id="attachment_83608" align="alignnone" width="179"] Dr Matthew Partridge is a senior Research Fellow at the Optoelectronics Research Centre at the University of Southampton but describes himself as a biochemist who has accidentally ended up working with optical sensor systems.[/caption]