Monday, July 15, 2013

RET 2013: Labels in the lab

RET SUMMER 2013 has begun!

This summer I decided to go back to the lab - again! In fact all of the RETs are returning participants. We are all coming back to this having enjoyed it a lot last summer and determined to do more research and help make the program even better for the next group. This first blog is just to orient readers with what I see in the lab everyday.

Here is where most of the magic happens:

This one wet bench is used by basically everyone in Dr. Selim Unlu's OCN lab. OCN stands for Optical Characterization and Nanophotonics lab. In this first blog I'm not going into detail on what I have been working on yet, but I want to point out a few highlights in this picture.

Let's start at the bottom. You've probably noticed the refrigerator with the biohazard sign on it. labeling is important because this one lab bench is used by about 25 different people in any given day. We each take a few minutes to set up an experiment and while that experiment runs or washes or incubates, someone else is working on theirs. Labels are an absolute necessity.
 In this lab we work with a number of viruses, all inoculated with UV light so not dangerous, and other biological products that should not be eaten or stored near eatables. You will also notice that all of the drawers are labeled with their contents (though I'm pretty sure that drawer on the right does not have Margo inside of it).

Speaking of labels check out the row of glass bottles on the shelf on the upper right. Each one contains a different clear liquid. Almost every liquid we use in the lab looks just like water to the naked eye. Without labels it would be all too easy to grab the wrong stuff. Each label contains a lot of information. Most have the name of the substance inside the bottle, the concentration (often measured in molarity) of that substance, as well as the initials of the person that prepared it and the date prepared. Can you find all this information on the labels below?


 A few other labels are really important and found throughout the lab. Here are some examples:
This is the label on the door outside the lab. This label tells the fire and safety department all of the hazards they may encounter entering the lab. The diamond on the left gives an assessment of risks (more detail in next picture). The green PPE box denotes the Personal Protective Equipment one is expected to wear in the lab: googles, aprons, gloves. The third box reminds those who enter not to eat or drink and the last box on the right is a warning that this lab uses lasers!

This diamond, created by the National Fire Protection Association, indicated the hazards contained in this lab. The hazards assessed are health (blue), flammability (red), reactivity (yellow), and other hazards (ex. the W means there are substances in the lab that react with water). The numbers go from 0-4 with zero being no hazard and 4 being high risk. I don't love using a wikipedia link but it's much clearer that the NFPA links so, click here if you want to learn more about this symbol.
This is a bottle of deionized water. What do you think that means? Remember what an ion is? What ion is added to public water supplies for the benefit of your dental health? Notice the NFPA symbol has all zeros. 

This is a sharps and biohazard disposal container. We cannot just toss anything we use in the trash or recycling! These barrels tell us where we can put sharps (like glass slides) and where we can dispose of materials we used to test virus.

Now I've made the lab sound a bit dangerous, but it is all these precautions that make it safe to work with these materials in this laboratory!

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