It is completely understandable that you wouldn’t know what to expect from your first proper laboratory experience. In absolute truth, this needn’t be the case and I’d like to dispel these worries throughout this blog!
I fully admit, looking at the pictures of the labs online before getting to Bath for the first time I felt like they were super imposing. You’re looking at an immaculate, gigantic room, filled with rows of worktops and lab equipment, none of which you’ve seen before. In truth, when you have ninety people in the room including all the demonstrators and lecturers who are there solely to help you, it seems much more comfortable and you are certainly grateful for the space!
A key thing to remember is that no one in their right mind would throw a student into a lab full of expensive equipment and say, 'Get on with it!'. No, quite the opposite is, in fact, the case. The first few practicals you will undertake are specifically designed to allow you to orientate yourself in the lab, allowing you to get your bearings. For instance, the microbiology practicals comprehensively develop your practical technique in handling bacteria in aseptic conditions. They also involve the use of very common gram staining techniques and viewing cells effectively using high-quality light microscopy. This allows you to develop some finesse for practicals to come and nothing gets too much harder from those basic techniques!
As I mentioned before, expensive equipment seems super daunting to start handling, but actually, you quickly develop confidence in what you’re doing with items like UV-Spectrophotometers (for measuring set light wavelength absorbance through a sample), Microfuges (mini centrifuges), Vortexers (for mixing samples vigorously). Of course, the piece of equipment you’ll see the most of is the Gilson Pipette. The Gilson comes in four main variants that you will see; p20, p200, p1000 and p5000. These will be your staples for accurately making up solutions using microlitres (µl) of solutions. All of these you will have a lot of contact with and your fluidity in using them quickly increases. For more information, click on each name to see specific pages for the equipment!
What Support Will I Get?
There are always demonstrators and the lecturer running the practical in the room. They are there primarily to help guide you in the right direction. They won’t simply tell you the answers as that would be pointless. However, when it comes to technique, they have years of experience behind them to teach you how to be more efficient in the lab. It is worth asking any questions no matter how silly it might sound to you! They were all in our position too at one point and are very good at spotting when you’re not quite sure what you’re doing.
Hopefully, this, with the aid of the video, helps give you some perspective on what the lab experience is like at Bath.
Please do leave any questions you have in the comments below too and I will happily answer anything!