What is it like to help start up a laboratory as an undergraduate?
This past semester, I have enjoyed the unique experience of working in a newly opened lab with Dr. Allgeier and my other colleagues. I first learned about Dr. Allgeier’s research with pharmaceuticals when he came to speak at a Society of Women Engineers meeting during the fall semester. Since high school, my professional goal has been a career in the pharmaceutical industry, so I emailed him and asked if there was room in his lab. When construction finally finished, our lab group began meeting.
There are many benefits to working in a newly opened lab. First and foremost, I gained a deeper understanding of the lab itself and the equipment. As each new piece of equipment arrived, Dr. Allgeier and the graduate students would patiently answer any of my questions. Another benefit to working in a new lab was the culture and the responsibilities given to me. Our small lab is composed of Dr. Allgeier, the graduate students, Simon Velasquez and Kyle Stephens, and the undergrads, Tristan Myers and me. While we certainly accomplished the business tasks during the weekly meeting with the entire lab group such as discussing our accomplishments over the past week and our next plans, we also got to know each other well. The small lab group size also meant that even as freshman, Tristan and I were given more responsibilities.
I was assigned to the HPLC and writing its process safety management (PSM) documentation. It was a little overwhelming at first; the SDS sheets for chemistry lab were the closest thing to the PSM that I had ever been exposed to. It took much longer than I anticipated; before I could even start filling out the forms, there were many words on them that I had to look up or ask Simon to define. However, Simon was very patient in answering my questions. I’m glad I was tasked with it, since it helped me master the ins and outs of the HPLC beyond its everyday operation for experimental use. Moreover, as a freshman, I am learning how to fill out these forms ahead of time compared to my peers, giving me a competitive edge.
While I wasn’t able to start running experiments during the semester, the other tasks I executed were equally valuable. I’m very excited to continue working with Dr. Allgeier and my fellow colleagues this summer and focus on the reaction of benzyl bromide and benzylamine in a continuous flow reactor.
An Article by Jennifer Chen.