Lab Talk: First Time in a Lab

What’s it like to walk into a lab for the first time?

The first time I walked into a molecular biology lab was the summer after my freshman year of college. I had no research experience, and I hadn’t even taken Bio 101 yet. I certainly wasn’t expecting what I got. Since then, I’ve been exposed to a lot more labs and now it all looks normal to me. But I do remember, vaguely, being surprised the first time I walked into a real research lab.

What was I expecting, anyway? Honestly, I think I expected it to look more like a high school chem lab, since that was what I had exposure to. I mean, I technically had a bio lab class in high school too, but it wasn’t really lab-y. So the chem lab would have been the closest exposure I had to a lab setting. So, my young, inexperienced self was thinking something like this:

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I’m pretty sure that nothing in my pre-undergraduate career gave me the impression that a mol bio lab would look like this:

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Or like this:

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What do you guys expect a lab to look like? Or different labs to look like?


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2 Responses to Lab Talk: First Time in a Lab

  1. Psycho Gecko says:

    I have a little experience with what a bio lab looks like. Due to a bad coincidence and a lack of good ones, I wound up taking a beginning Biology course in college to handle my science credit. It was a weed out course, which is why I should have gotten out of there right after the first exam. I’m too stubborn for my good, though. I passed, which even the head of the course said was unusual for someone who flunked the first exam.

    As for the lab portion, I did not have an easy time. My group was made of people who did not mesh well. We were supposed to change up the groups after the first experiment, but the professor was lazy and didn’t want to bother, so I got stuck with them again. He was lazy about a lot of things. In one case, another professor had to come in and correct his instructions which would have completely messed up the experiments we had to do. And then there was the big problem with him not bothering to tell people that he moved up the date a paper was due in class just because he changed it on his personal website that he expected us all to follow.

    And then they started using a new edition of my bio textbook, so I couldn’t even sell it back. The horror!

    • Marie Erving says:

      I’m definitely sorry for your bad experience. I know for a fact that bad class experiences can turn people off of subjects they might otherwise have been interested in.

      I don’t think I hear of people enjoying lab classes too often though, and being in a lab class is definitely very different than being in an actual research lab. For one, in the latter, you don’t do the actual experiments with people. Unless you’re being trained by someone with more experience, but that’s different. For another, it feels very different when you’re working on your own project and the results actually mean something. But that’s a little off topic.

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