Four Tips for Lab Safety with Dr. Yu
Hello, my name is Dr. Yu. I am one of the scientists working for Science Interactive, dedicated to designing cutting-edge online curriculum for students across the United States. We specialize in creating hands-on lab kits for students who study in remote learning environments. This of course comes with safety concerns—concerns we can happily address!
The hazards of conducting an experiment at home are much the same as those of an experiment in a proper scientific laboratory.
Unlike an on-campus laboratory though, our homes aren’t reserved for this type of use, and require some extra mindfulness to ensure your safety while running an experiment. As an instructor, be sure to share these tips with your students; and for students, keep these in mind when using one of our kits.
- Examine the safety features of your space before you dive into an experiment.
If this experiment is being done in a kitchen, make sure it is near your sink, for example. Review access to your space to ensure children, pets, or parents will not interrupt. Better to take five minutes to make sure you’re not setting up on a wooden tabletop than to discover singe marks later!
- Ensure you have adequate ventilation in your space before you open any items for your experiment.
A fan in a bathroom can provide a constant pull of air. A window can do the same, but ensure that no gusts of air, like from a reciprocating fan or a windy day, will blow on powders or flames.
- Examine the glassware you are using before each experiment.
Damaged glass can be hard to spot and can fool even a seasoned researcher; even hairline fractures in glassware cause big issues. Not only can cracks leak and broken edges cut you, but whenever glass is heated, the expansion of the material can cause imperfections to exacerbate suddenly. This can lead to a beaker or test tube shattering in the middle of an experiment. If the glassware contains hot liquid or chemicals, this can be a real hazard!
- Make sure you’re dressing for the occasion!
Home is often a place to be as casual as possible, but comfy needs to take a backseat to safe attire when preparing to perform a lab. Make sure any long hair is pinned back or secured. No floppy articles like bell sleeves, scarves, or draping jewelry have a place in the home lab, as they could drag through chemicals when you reach across a table or tip over items. Limit your exposed skin with long sleeves, high-necked shirts, and long pants. To our instructors, this may seem apparent:, lab safety is not something to be shirked!
Science experiments are an amazing way for your students to gain perspective and observe scientific phenomena in action. Reminding them of some forethought and mindfulness about the safety of their environment goes a long way towards being able to give them the hands-on skills they need without incident!
Dr. Yu obtained her PhD in organic chemistry from the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. Her interests include small molecule synthesis and drug development. With a strong pedagogical background that includes a teaching certificate and instructing students from 6th grade through graduate school, she has over a decade of teaching experience to draw from. She joined Science Interactive in 2020 as a subject matter expert.