How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Lab

    Posted on Friday, Jun 22, 2018
    Part 1: Making the Glovebox Bearable
    The glovebox is perhaps one of the most recognizable pieces of laboratory equipment. Its purpose is simple, to separate substances from certain components in the atmosphere. Some gloveboxes are filled with argon, because compounds can be nitrogen sensitive. Others are just dry boxes, meaning oxygen isn’t an issue and water molecules are just excluded. Our glovebox is filled with a dry nitrogen atmosphere that allows us to handle moisture and oxygen sensitive compounds.
    As cool as it looks, working in the glovebox can be a giant pain, especially if you’re rather short and have the wingspan of a kiwi (the flightless bird, not the fruit). Simple tasks become herculean feats. Getting chemicals off shelves is difficult, weighing things without spilling them is even worse, and the hand cramps are unbelievable. And then there is the least glorious part…the sweat. Using the gloves is inevitably a sweaty endeavor, causing them to stick uncomfortably to your skin.
    Luckily, I have very smart, creative coworkers and we’ve found ways to make working in the glovebox if not tolerable, at least bearable.
    Innovation 1: Giant Tweezers
    Okay, so having a giant pair of tweezers isn’t exactly the most creative thought but they are truly an invaluable tool. There are some things I could not do and/or reach without them.
    Innovation 2: Creative, hanging organization
    Our box is special in that it contains its catalyst, the part of the glovebox responsible for removing oxygen, and molecular sieves, which removes water, inside the box rather than outside it. This makes changing the catalyst and sieves a piece a cake in comparison to the more conventional set-up but it means we have less space at the bottom of the box. In order to get around this, my coworker has made hanging organizers to store small things like markers, spatulas, NMR tubes, and pipette bulbs. Even our chemwipes dangle from the ceiling. 


    Innovation 3: A sweater
    Wearing a light sweater or jacket when working in the box counterintuitively, helps keep you from sweating. It also prevents the gloves from sticking to you uncomfortably and protects you from sweat left behind by previous coworkers.

    Innovation 4: A little garbage can
    In order to keep our glovebox tidy, we are reusing a large, plastic bottle as a make-shift garbage can. This allows to throw out dirty chemwipes, broken glass, and used tape, while we work rather than waiting until we’re finished to remove the refuse. In general, it just helps keep the space nice and tidy.
    These are just some ways that we have made working in the glovebox a quicker, cleaner endeavor.

    Ashley Cardenal
    Ashley is a Ph.D. student in the College of Science studying Chemistry

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