DIY Lab Safety Seminar
The ACS International Student Chapter at Dr. Ambedkar College, Deekshabhoomi, in Nagpur, Maharashtra, India, held its first symposium dedicated to ensuring classmates had the safety skills they need for independent lab work in graduate school and the workplace. Titled “Developing laboratory safety skills in graduating students,” the summer event drew 150 undergraduate and master’s program students along with departmental faculty and staff.
inChemistry talked to chapter members about the seminar and what they learned about organizing a symposium.
How did you go about organizing the symposium?
At one of our regular chapter meetings, we decided it was important to conduct an activity focused on safety skills. To pull it together, we distributed tasks among the members.
Our chapter president, Luv Gupta, vice president Shibona Jangale, and chapter members Snehal Apturkar and Layashree Dhargave worked on collecting data about selected topics for their respective groups. PowerPoint presentations were prepared by chapter secretary Manashree Dongre, chapter joint secretary Richa Jaiswal, and chapter members Aarti Gupta, Prerana Bhoyar, and Akhilesh Shastrakar. Nikita Kakde, Apturkar, Dongre, and Gupta visited other science departments to invite them to the event.
We also had help from Dr. Ratnadeep Sawant, assistant professor in the postgraduate department of chemistry at Dr. Ambedkar College, who arranged for us to use the college auditorium and served as the seminar moderator.
What topics did you cover?
We decided to include key points such as laboratory safety, clothing and equipment, flammable and combustible solvents, SDSs (safety data sheets), how to handle acids and bases, and precautions that should be taken while handling hazardous chemicals. We included information on different types of eye protection, gloves, shoes, lab coats, and other protective gear.
We discussed handling flammable materials and the importance of covering containers and keeping them away from flame and other ignition sources. We went into the hazardous nature of a few solvents, such as the carcinogenic nature of benzene. We showed how to dilute acids and bases and how to safely handle sodium metal. In addition, we discussed hazards/accidents attributable to human error as well as electrical maintenance, proper storage of chemicals, GHS labeling of chemicals, and more.
All presenters aare student chapter members pursuing postgraduate studies in chemistry.
- Introductions (Neha Guntapeliwar, Richa Jaiswal, Shibona Jangale)
- Flammable and combustible solvents (Luv Gupta)
- How to handle acids and bases (Shibona Jangale, Manashree Dongre)
- Laboratory safety and clothing (Snehal Apturkar)
- Laboratory equipment (Aarti Gupta)
- MSDS and pictograms (Aishwarya Ashtankar)
- Demonstration of rainbow flame formation (Neha Guntapeliwar, Richa Jaiswal)
- Demonstration of elephant toothpaste (Prerarna Bhoyar, Sharvari Kulkarni)
How long did it take to prepare the symposium? What did you have to do to prepare?
It took about one month. We discussed what concepts we wanted to cover in the seminar and formed groups for each topic. To prepare talks, we studied the concepts, developed PowerPoint presentations, and practiced. Most of the work was done at chapter meetings.
Our faculty advisor, Dr. Deepa Panhekar, who heads the department of chemistry, provided us with a link to ACS safety resources (www.acs.org/safety), which we used to create our presentations. We also used ACS guidelines, including Guidelines for Chemical Laboratory Safety in Academic Institutions, Safety in Academic Chemistry Laboratories: Best Practices for First- and Second-Year University Students, and Identifying and Evaluating Hazards in Research Laboratories. We also referred to local policies such as the Indian Institute of Science Education & Research (IISER) Tirupati Safety Manual.
We held two practice sessions before the main event. Dr. Panhekar, Dr. Sawant, and Assistant Professor Parag Panse observed us and suggested changes.
What was your biggest challenge?
The event went well, but the hardest thing was to keep the audience’s attention. The presenters of the respective topics highlighted the importance, applications, and necessity of the chemicals in academe and industry. They also demonstrated some experiments in between two of the topics to add variety.
What did you learn from this experience?
The most important thing we learned was how to take initiative to get something important done. We also learned the importance of dividing tasks among members according to their skills and interests. We developed coordination and collaboration skills as well as the ability to make arrangements quickly and promptly.
Throughout the planning process, we encouraged each other to share ideas for the event and build enthusiasm and a positive environment. We learned the power of unity in diversity, as this event required a lot of teamwork from people with different backgrounds, talents, and points of view. We learned new aspects of safety, and we have implemented the safety skills that we learned and taught in our laboratory. It was an exciting undertaking and we acknowledge the great team efforts of all who made this learning event a fun one. We feel motivated to learn even more and to continue sharing our knowledge with fellow students.
What advice would you give to others who want to organize their own symposium?
We recommend that everyone share as much knowledge as they can about laboratory safety, because every laboratory needs to be safe. You can add posters or safety pictograms to your lab and perform a few funny demonstrations to capture the live magic of chemistry for the audience. Emphasize boosting the confidence and holistic development of the presenters and bring chemistry to a higher level by updating the knowledge of the presenters through innovative programs.