It’s an exciting time to be a chemist, as innovations in fields ranging from pharmacology to food science and everything in-between make unprecedented advances. There’s more demand for environmental chemists studying soil makeup and water chemistry than ever, too. Global society’s decision to act on climate change after decades of sitting on the issue is good for everyone, but it’s a direct source of work for these scientists.
Whatever your field, you need a quality, well-organized chemistry lab that runs like a well-oiled machine. The right lab will help you reach peak efficiency and do the most work you can. As with many other aspects of chemistry (or any other experimental science, for that matter), achieving that goal is easier said than done.
There are a number of vital steps any chemistry lab director must take to run a successful chemistry lab. Take a look at this list of tips for lab success that you need to keep in mind.
- Outfit Your Chemistry Lab With the Right Safety Equipment
The potential for emergencies exists no matter what kind of laboratory you work in. Apart from the risks that exist in any building, such as leaking pipes and electrical fires, each chemistry lab comes with unique risks that vary based on what’s studied there and which reagents the laboratory contains. For this reason, it’s vital to understand how to stay safe in a chemistry lab before you get to work.
You may not buy anything toxic when purchasing chemicals and don’t feel like you need emergency equipment like an eyewash and safety shower station. Even if that’s the case, there are still good reasons to include these features in your lab.
For one thing, you may explore different avenues of research or later in your career. If you’re a teacher, you might change up your lesson plan and use hazardous materials at some point.
An eyewash or safety shower can solve other tricky situations, too, like mishaps with basic cleaning products. Last but not least, if you or your employer ever sells the facility, many buyers will expect this kind of standard safety equipment.
Another kind of protective equipment you may want to invest in is a fume hood. They provide a sterile and safe environment in which you can work with hazardous materials.
Whether you use a fume hood or not, make sure your lab has good ventilation. If possible, including filtration to ensure the air stays free of contaminants is good for all laboratories.
Make easy-to-read labels for everything and don’t forget stickers and placards that alert lab users to any present dangers. Door stickers or signs telling other people in the building about the hazards within are also a must for safety.
- Be Ready With Safety Know-How and Emergency Plans and Drills
Once you have your laboratory outfitted with the right safety equipment, make sure everyone in the lab knows how to use it. There’s no point in spending thousands on protection for your lab—and, by extension, for your building—if you mishandle the equipment and don’t get the effect you want.
Read all the instructions that come with new safety equipment and find manuals for older equipment online. Knowing the ins and outs of everything in your lab cuts down on human error that ruins experiments and leads to devastating accidents.
- Don’t Get Lazy About Lab Etiquette
A lab can have all the safety equipment and plans in the world, but it doesn’t matter if students or lab workers don’t pay enough attention to personal safety habits.
Anyone entering the lab should wear close-toed shoes and clothes that cover their skin. It’s wise to do this even when not working with caustic chemicals. Observing proper lab etiquette prepares you to visit and work in labs that do use hazardous materials and shows respect for the industry.
People with long hair should make sure it’s tied up and/or covered. This helps avoid contamination and protects lab users from hazards. Unrestrained long hair can catch fire or dip into dangerous substances.
Scientific personal protective equipment (PPE) is always a must when running a chemistry lab. Basic PPE for chemistry labs includes goggles, jackets or aprons, and gloves.
During the time of COVID-19, wear a mask in the lab to protect against viral particles. In normal times, high-quality masks are handy for protecting your airways from particulates and noxious gases.
When working with combustible materials, everyone in the lab should wear fire suits. Chemists investigating biohazards, among others, may benefit from hazmat suits.
The ultimate takeaway is that when it comes to PPE, never guess what kind of gear you need. Take a close look at your work and the related risks and use that information to pick out the right PPE for your laboratory.
Online shopping gives you access to PPE of all brands and prices. Make sure that all the supplies you buy do what you need them to, and don’t be cheap. You might enjoy saving on chemistry PPE now, but you’ll have a lot of regrets if an accident happens and you lack protection.
- Source From Trusted Chemical Suppliers
Successful chemistry research, education, and manufacturing start with high-quality materials. Finding suppliers you can trust for all your reagents is a must for maintaining safety and getting consistent results. That may sound like a simple task, but it sometimes takes months of research and planning to put it in effect.
Some specialties have more of a challenge in this area than others do. In sports science and pharmacology, for example, there are countless shady companies distributing lesser-quality and illicit substances used as supplements.
It’s hard for a lab to buy sarms and know with certainty that they’re getting a quality product. This is important because it’s a sure way to make sure you are not buying fake CBD oil. Make sure these third party CBD Laboratory use the right equipment like sintered discs with highest filtration possible to minimize odors and chemicals. The lab results will show the potency of the oil, the amount of THC, and the level of contaminants in the oil.
Apart from quality assurance, there are some other benefits to developing relationships with trusted chemical suppliers. Consider these reasons to consider taking that route instead of jumping from supplier to supplier:
After some time working with a company, they may offer discounts or be more open to negotiation than a company new to you would be.
When lab directors are model clients or find a supplier known for their excellent service, they sometimes get the privilege of a direct line to a company representative. Labs with connections like that tend to enjoy speedy assistance and resolve issues much faster than they could alone.
- Shop Around for the Best Prices on Lab Equipment
One often-overlooked key to running a successful chemistry lab is making sure you don’t overshoot your budget. If you lack a reliable source of funding and problems arise, they could devastate your work and even your health.
Hanging on to plenty of extra money is a nice idea, but doing so isn’t always realistic. Depending on your subspecialty, grants and other funding for your chemistry laboratory may be hard to pin down.
If money is at all a limitation and you’re on the hook for ordering supplies, consider putting in the extra work to find the best prices. Never trade quality for cost, but look at less popular brands with good reviews.
In some cases, big brands do make the best product. Many times, items from unfamiliar manufacturers are every bit as good as the brand name equivalents. Buying those instead is a good way to save money you can then put towards other needs.
- Don’t Let Equipment Get Too Old and Wear Out
The right to repair movement is gaining steam as greedy corporations take planned obsolescence to new heights. Keeping and using goods as long as you can, repairing things when possible, and reusing items saves money and is good for the environment.
The movement is best-known as it relates to home life and personal electronics but applies to chemistry labs too. You can save money and reduce the laboratory’s carbon footprint by joining in.
However much you strive to keep as much as you can for as long as you’re able, it’s important to recognize when something isn’t usable in the lab. Letting your equipment get old and wear out before replacing it is a dangerous game.
Well-used labware affects measurements and other results if you use it until it’s warped or otherwise damaged. Equipment breaking down often damages other expensive machinery and lab goods. A bigger concern is that chemistry lab equipment breakdowns can lead to serious, dangerous consequences.
An incident might release dangerous chemicals into the environment and harm the outside world and/or human health. A fire could break out and turn into a massive, horrific tragedy in no time at all, depending on what’s in your lab. Reagents you never meant to combine could mix and combust, corrode things, or otherwise cause damage.
You can avoid disaster with very little effort by fixing equipment as it starts showing major signs of wear and tear, and replacing things when you can’t restore them to full working condition. Doing so will improve your results’ accuracy and protect all the tools and information stored in your lab. In short, making sure your equipment stays in good shape is insurance for your entire career.
- Do It All Over Again
A key part of experimental science that’s too often ignored in the modern era is reproducibility. Repeating experiments and studies and comparing results is essential. The more data you collect, the better understanding you have of your study’s focus.
This step is important no matter what kind of chemistry you do or who you work for. Laboratories that place proper importance on reproducibility get more trustworthy and more useful results.
If you run a study in such a way that can’t be repeated, nobody can check your method or results. At the end of the day, the issue boils down to this: You can’t—or shouldn’t—rely on studies you can’t repeat. Yet, thousands if not millions of irresponsible scientists do chemistry work this way.
There was a massive outcry during the COVID-19 pandemic about “bad science.” The irony of the matter is that while people honed in on COVID-related stories, most major COVID-19 studies were done well. On the other hand, the majority of people never consider that science’s reproducibility crisis harms other medical research and product development that starts in chemistry labs.
The cause of much of the problem is simple: Money rules science these days, and it takes flashy, unique studies to get funding and be published.
The biggest issue with this is that science isn’t about being flashy and unique. It’s not about doing one exciting study and moving on to the next shiny story. Doing science the responsible way means doing endless boring things a billion times over.
It’ll take a lot of institutional change to fix this crisis because journals and the industry at large push scientists to keep the harmful trend going. Keep this in mind as you work and do all you can to fix the issue in your chemistry lab.
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Now that you know these tips for running an effective chemistry lab, you’re ready to stay safe while doing valuable work.
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