Being a scientist is a dream that lots of little boys and girls hold close to their hearts. The magic of discovery and getting to play with cool chemicals makes working in a laboratory one of the most exciting and rewarding careers for people who are fascinated by science.
As with any job though, it has its good moments and its not so good moments. If you’ve always wondered what really goes on behind those test tubes, white coats, and fetchingly attractive goggles, then read on, because we’ve rounded up the very worst bits about working in a lab.
- No One Understands What You Do
- You’re Clumsy and Labs Are Expensive
- Sometimes It Doesn’t Work
- You Always Look a Bit Like a Bond Villain
- Endlessly Waiting For Timers To Go Off
- Anti-social Hours
- Not Being Able to Wash Literally Everything in Ethanol at Home
- The Fear of Accidentally Spilling Deadly Chemicals
No One Understands What You Do
Obviously they do, until you start explaining the ins and outs of your research, what your hoping to prove, and how you might not actually prove anything. What’s more, science lingo and abbreviated chemical names only contribute to the confusion. Best to laugh at the “why haven’t you cured cancer?” jokes and fight the urge to explain that it’s a little more complicated than that…
Basically everything in a lab is made of various types of glass, so your tendency to smash everything you touch into a thousand irreparable pieces is about as welcome here as it was in your mum’s kitchen. Plus, a lot of this equipment costs even more than your mum’s Royal Doulton bowls, which is saying something. It’s best to make sure you’ve got a tight hold on everything, and never literally “chuck” John that beaker.
Sometimes it doesn’t work and no one knows why, even though your one job is to know why. Sometimes it doesn’t work even though it worked before. Is there something wrong with the thesis? Is there something wrong with the experiment? Did you breathe too heavily? Did an eyelash fall into it? Spend the rest of your life trying to work out what happened and why. Ah, science.
Dresses, suits and casual trousers aren’t for you; instead, you get a lovely white coat. It makes you look like the latest villain in the James Bond franchise and goes particularly well with your stylish goggles. Especially when said goggles are starting to mist up from the heat. Did someone say sexy?
Whoever said timing is everything had clearly worked in a lab. You spend your entire life setting timers, watching timers, and fighting the urge to smash timers when they go off as you pour a deadly chemical. A few seconds can be the difference between a successful experiment and an absolute disaster that leaves you cowering in the corner, your hair slightly smoking. Needless to say, keep your eye on the timers.
Sometimes that constellation is only visible at 3am. Sometimes you have to perform the experiment when the rats are most active. Sometimes everything takes longer than planned and you can never, ever go home again. Okay, that’s a little dramatic, but science answers to no man, and definitely no man’s pub timetable, so expect to leave your friends to it while you analyse cellular structures and dissect rodents.
Ethanol, that glorious substance. Douse anything in it and it’s good to go. Squirt a bit on that glassware, give that test tube a wipe with it, rinse that DNA with some. One of the worst things about working in a lab is that you can’t take that stuff back to your kitchen and give everything a good scrub with it.
We’ve all seen Terminator where Arnie’s face melts off, but lab work is one of the few professions where this is an actual everyday possibility. Just one spillage can lead to severe burns, serious illness, or, you know, a massive explosion. Being careful with your safety equipment is a must, although it can still make you itch just thinking about getting sodium hydroxide on you.
If you want to make your laboratory the best possible place to work, contact the leading team of research suite suppliers and fitters at InterFocus via our homepage or by calling 01223 894833 for some expert advice on how to smooth out the little niggles of working in a lab.