How to be a good lab partner again

How to be a good lab partner again

In a previous issue I shared some tips I learned on being a good lab partner in an undergraduate chemistry lab, and I would like to add more advice on how to be the best lab partner you can be.

Be engaged with your Teaching Assistants (TAs) and be transparent with what you learn. When you are filling out those informal lab reports or writing out your formal one, you may have questions that your TAs can readily answer. The great thing about asking questions is that you’ll often get more answers than you expected. Since lab reports are structured in a logical manner, having answers to one part will more likely help you with the rest. Share this information with your lab partner, and by explaining concepts, you will be helping yourself hone in on what is important and become more comfortable with the material.

Work together with your lab partner. Obviously, you will be working with your lab partner every other week (University of Waterloo first-year chemistry lab is three hours in-lab every other week), but I’m talking about outside of the lab. Find time to sit down with your partner outside of lab hours to work through the lab reports. Together you can catch small mistakes, offer suggestions and clarify your writing. For many calculations and questions, working together is great; just make sure you avoid copying each other’s work.

Pay attention to details. I realize in my first lab partners article I said not to worry about small things like 1 mL, but I’m talking about taking the time to follow good lab procedures, such as wearing gloves, remembering to secure your experiment apparatus, keeping a clean lab space, etc. Good procedures mean better data, and it will make a difference in your report. These are the details that will allow you to finish on time with decent results for the write-up — the 3-hour in-lab experiment is just the first stage of lab. In first year, you will not have time to redo an experiment. If you spend five minutes getting a chemical, it’s not the end of the world, but packing up because your titration apparatus fell and shattered — full of the solution you carefully prepared — is pretty devastating. 

So keep working on improving your lab skills, but also remember to work on becoming a good lab partner outside of the laboratory.