Five Things N00bs Should Avoid In The School Lab
RustyApplesauce's post reminds us why we spent so much time dry-heaving in Biology class. Ah, the memories.—Sparkitors
School laboratories are dangerous places. You might have had childhood dreams of test tubes filled with green liquid bubbling merrily, emitting tendrils of grey smoke, but do not be fooled; there are terrible things afoot near those Bunsen burners. This is a comprehensive guide of what to watch out for in the laboratory.
Preserved dead things: You know, those baby sheep fetuses (or feti, if you will) floating in formalin that seem to be slumbering peacefully in their neatly aligned jars. In reality they are, I assure you, quite dead and have likely been so for the past ten years. While they are fascinating to look at, these lurid animal corpses are best left unshaken and unstirred. As for the weak-stomached, you may be tempted to peer into the murky depths of a jar containing a premature piglet, but do try to resist the urge–there is no guarantee you will reach a barf basin in time.
Rusty scalpels: These things are pretty much useless for anything besides buttering bread, although that isn't recommended either. If you're doing a dissection, always try to procure a sharp, shiny scalpel to avoid unnecessary subject-hacking and mutilation. You also don’t want to discover that you are inadequately immunized against tetanus, so keep far away from these things or consider investing in a pair of impermeable dragon-skin gloves.
Deranged lab partners: This point speaks for itself. It's always best to pair up with someone who has recently won a biology olympiad or is an aspiring doctor/surgeon/coroner/taxidermist. If you do somehow end up with an unhinged or unbalanced partner, maintain possession of the scalpel at all times–this should reduce the risk of possible lacerations, stabbings, and lifelong disfigurement to both you and the subject.
Stagnant water: This is possibly one of the ickiest things you can find in the lab, particularly if the previous class had a lesson in dissection. If the water has a reddish hue or has unidentifiable lumps floating in it, beware. Who knows how many deadly viruses and microorganisms are growing in that sink?
Clean up duty: I've learned from experience that it is best to leave this task to others. While it is all fine and well to want to be helpful, volunteering for this should not be taken lightly; it could leave you with a permanent phobia of pig organs. But if you don't mind spending a perilous ten minutes fishing rusty scalpels out of a basin of cloudy, blood-tinted water with pieces of chopped-up heart floating in it—using your bare hands, mind you—then by all means, go ahead.
Never shall we volunteer for clean-up duty again. What's your least favorite part about lab classes?
Related post: How to Survive a Group Dissection