It’s been quite warm here the last two weeks. With school out, I didn’t have to worry about going in to quant lab with its 5M NaOH and 2M HCl. And so, one day, I wore my sandals to school.
My advisor’s eyebrows shot up when she saw my footwear. “You can’t wear those in lab,” she said. “There’s entirely too much skin exposed!” So I’ve gone back to wearing my cross-trainers.
But I’m not sure what to think about her attitude. My work concerns natural water chemistry. Thus, most of the fodder for my experiments is (1) actual natural water, or (2) solutions of things IN natural waters at concentrations approximately at or below naturally occurring concentrations. Most of the calibration solutions I make up, for example, are in the nanomolar range.
We do have one jug for toxic waste. It has taken our lab the better part of a year to generate 5 gallons of the stuff. And that stuff is mostly toxic to microbes and, to a limited extent, other aquatic life–not to humans. The rest of our stuff has been certified by EH&S as safe to put down the drain. I think the most dangerous thing I do in lab is to put glassware in to (and take it out of) the 3% nitric acid bath.
The professor whose group shares my lab also does a lot of work on water chemistry. He lets his students wear shorts, sandals, even flip-flops. Meanwhile, my sandals and capris are languishing in my closet. Phooey.