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How do you all deal with research?

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theimplication

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Let me start off by saying that I am currently doing undergrad research and that I find it to be very interesting. Also let me state that I am a bit of a neurotic chemophobe.

Anyways, my question for undergrads who do research: how do you all handle working with dangerous chemicals in your lab? Does it not bother you? Do you not think about it?

Personally the only thing in my lab that is a cause for concern in my lab is ethidium bromide and a few other minor chemicals. How do you all justify boosting your app for a potentially better medical school at the cost of MAYBE damaging your health in the long run? Is this a common thing, or am I just too paranoid? Thoughts?
 

Goro

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Are you drinking the EtBr? Rubbing it on your hands? If not, and as long as you wear gloves while handling it, then you shouldn't have a problem.

BTW, there are now safe replacements for EtBr, like SYBR-Safe. I actually got one as a sample and it's enough to last for a LOT of gels.

Like airplanes, all chemicals will bite fools. Treat them with respect, but don't be a fool. This is from coming someone who cut his teeth in the lab using chromium-51, a gamma emitter.
 
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eteshoe

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    Read the MSDS, SOPs, and don't be dumb in lab - pretty standard stuff. I mean most UGs I know doing research aren't petrified of working w/ potentially dangerous material (they are aware) and if they need help they'll just ask the more experienced techs, grad students, or postdocs.
     
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    Goro

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    Just as an side, as a doctor, you're going to be exposed to things for which there are no cures: hepatitis C, Zika virus, HIV, west Nile virus, mycobacteria, and even prions.

    Let's throw in acting out psychotics and desparate drub abusers as well.
     
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    Mad Jack

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    The poison is in the dose. If you're working with that stuff for life, it might carry some level of risk that is worth assessing. But you will have minimal exposure and for a finite period of time- the chances of it being an issue are infinitesimally small.
     
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    CyrilFiggis

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    One word: responsibility. Follow lab protocols and you'll be fine. It's not like you're one of the Radium Girls.
     
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    theimplication

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    Thanks for the replies so far! As a response to the EtBr, I've actually never had an incident with it, my only concern I've had is when the EtBr is added to warm agarose and the risk of breathing in fumes. Perhaps it's just part of being a newcomer into research. :p
     

    Gryffindor20

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    Let me start off by saying that I am currently doing undergrad research and that I find it to be very interesting. Also let me state that I am a bit of a neurotic chemophobe.

    Anyways, my question for undergrads who do research: how do you all handle working with dangerous chemicals in your lab? Does it not bother you? Do you not think about it?

    Personally the only thing in my lab that is a cause for concern in my lab is ethidium bromide and a few other minor chemicals. How do you all justify boosting your app for a potentially better medical school at the cost of MAYBE damaging your health in the long run? Is this a common thing, or am I just too paranoid? Thoughts?
    Double glove when working with hazardous chemicals, and follow basic lab safety protocols. It'll all be fine. Also, if it's fumes you're fuming over, just wear a mask.
     
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    mitch8017

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    There are reasons you have specific safety precautions and procedures. As long as you simply follow the instructions of your lab on this matter you should be more than ok.
    We also have someone on staff specifically to take care of safety concerns and addresses things like hazardous chemicals and what not. They gave us a talk at the beginning when we started. If you want more specific measures that are pertinent to your facility and resources, just have a quick talk with whoever handles these types of things where you are.
     

    Lost In Transcription

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    Are you drinking the EtBr? Rubbing it on your hands? If not, and as long as you wear gloves while handling it, then you shouldn't have a problem.

    BTW, there are now safe replacements for EtBr, like SYBR-Safe. I actually got one as a sample and it's enough to last for a LOT of gels.

    Like airplanes, all chemicals will bite fools. Treat them with respect, but don't be a fool. This is from coming someone who cut his teeth in the lab using chromium-51, a gamma emitter.
    SYBR rocks
     
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    JustAPhD

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    You'll be fine. EtBr, while mutagenic, is quite easy to work with safely.

    Wear gloves and if it bothers you that much, work under a fume hood. There's risk in research, but as @Goro said, there's risks in medicine as well. We work with TTX, and it's well understood that safety is the number one priority and if someone's ever not comfortable doing something then seek assistance.

    Goro said:
    Like airplanes, all chemicals will bite fools. Treat them with respect, but don't be a fool. This is from coming someone who cut his teeth in the lab using chromium-51, a gamma emitter.

    First quick read through I thought you said you literally used your teeth to cut 51Cr. Lol.
     
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    Crayola227

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    Double glove when working with hazardous chemicals, and follow basic lab safety protocols. It'll all be fine. Also, if it's fumes you're fuming over, just wear a mask.

    Remember, double gloving is only only for lab, procedures, cadavers. Don't "double-glove or double-bag" condoms. Increases chance of break. Scary, I know, you'll just have to go in with only 1 layer between you and death.

    The worst thing that happened to me in undergrad chem lab, I was wearing a pair of brand new $90 Guess jeans, and spilled the *tiniest* drop ever of concentrated HCl acid on my thigh. It didn't burn me, but over the years that spot has grown into a larger and larger hole in the denim.

    Otherwise, don't try getting high huffing any fumes, and use the fume the hood when in doubt.
     
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    Lucca

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    OP, what if I told you that hospitals are full of sick people?

    Unless you are working in BSL 3 or 4 you are in more danger walking down the street than you are in the lab if you are following safety protocols.
     
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    Lost In Transcription

    reports of my assimilation are greatly exaggerated
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    @Crayola227 in my undergrad ochem lab, one day some dudes thought they would be so cool if they sniffed the ether.

    The one guy holding it passed out, and then dropped it...outside the hood. We all had to evacuate the lab and abandon our beautiful crystals.
     
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    Mansamusa

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    Thanks for the replies so far! As a response to the EtBr, I've actually never had an incident with it, my only concern I've had is when the EtBr is added to warm agarose and the risk of breathing in fumes. Perhaps it's just part of being a newcomer into research. :p
    If you are really concerned, you could wear a mask. But, yeah, in medicine you will be exposed to things worse than EtBr
     
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    Crayola227

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    If you are really concerned, you could wear a mask. But, yeah, in medicine you will be exposed to things worse than EtBr

    DISCLAIMER: this is purely my personal recollection from memory of what I experienced firsthand and can remember from gross anatomy lab. There may be factual errors as such and I apologize. I apologize if this seems at all disrespectful to our gracious donors and the gifts of their bodies to us as our first patients. I merely wish to represent my experience as accurately and in as much detail as I can. Your experience may have differed from mine substantially, but this is my truth.

    As far as I know, it's not mostly formaldehyde that preserves cadavers for dissection anymore, because it is a carcinogen. If I remember right though, it is still present in the embalming fluid in a small proportion. The blood is mostly flushed from the vessels of the cadavers and replaced with the embalming fluid. When it mixes with the fat that is present throughout our bodies, all I know is that you get the most putrid foulest smelling brightest yellow fluorescent greasy fluid throughout all the tissues of the cadaver, making them quite "juicy" as you dissect (if you are "lucky" and they are fresh, it makes them easier to dissect, which is Latin for "to tear" which is the best technique for finding structures). The smell of these chemicals permeates the lab as you work usually starting in June. The ventilation system is usually robust and can sort of keep up with the fumes that sting your eyes and nose. Some labs are hotter and sweatier and smellier than others in June. It only gets worse when you cut into the rectosigmoid junction which always has some traces of very liquid feces, which adds another smell.

    I had a reaction to this embalming fluid and had to be on steroids to survive the whole short 12 weeks with our cadavers. This fluid is toxic to bacteria and denatures the proteins preventing decay, and causes the muscle tissue to have a consistency similar to corned beef brisket, only it reeks.

    The volatile nature of the fluid makes it evaporate into the air, to where you breathe it in and can almost taste it. There is no smell quite like it, and as I said is volatile and dissolves the fat into a fluorescent yellow porridge. So it is it is a good solute for lipids, so that even with double gloves on your hands, hours a day in the lab it absorbs into the skin of your hands. Also into your hair (you need to make extra steps to cover your hair), the skin of your face, any exposed skin. Even with repeated washings, you will still catch whiffs off your hands and hair throughout the day. Eating finger food is a challenge with that aroma, a fork provides a little more distance from the smell of your hands to your mouth.

    You become accostommed to the smell somewhat. Some people lost weight because all of the above. On the other hand, there is something about this chemical that many people report feeling ravenously hungry from exposure, to the point they must excuse themselves mid lab after only one meager hand washing to go scarf a granola bar from their bag in the hallway before returning.

    Whatever is in this fluid, it is with you 24/7. You will wake with the smell on your pillow from your hair. Feed yourself with those hands. It is in your nostrils. And I know it is technically a carcinogen, but not *too* bad.

    On top of this, you will have a team at your table. Most of you will be brandishing razor sharp scalpels for the first time in this greasy slippery environment. That's right, I forgot about the fluoresecent yellow fluid and little tiny chunks of bright yellow fat that seem to ooze onto every surface in the lab. Sometimes you will be soaked to the skin from splashes.

    This fluid kills almost everything transmissable that could be in the cadaver. We learned this for the inevitable scalpel blade injuries that occur. People were cut and bled like little stuck pigs with these greasy sharp blades. I can still faintly make out the scar on my own index finger from one of these contaminated blades. In the olden times as some of your teachers may be old enough to know, they did dissection barehanded, as risk of disease was so low. However, the exception to this are prion diseases which are transmissable only through the CNS fluid, but are extremely rare on the whole and it is only by health history that is carefully performed prior to acceptance of the donation that it is ruled out in the cadavers. The risk is very small even with exposure.

    While we were pulling the whole brain by hand from the opened calvarium (skull) of the cadaver, the slick brain slipped past a teammate's greasy gloved hands into the calvarium with force, as it was still anchored by the brain stem, and the goal was to pull it as far up as possible stretching the stem so as make as low a cut as you could through the stem to remove the brain whole. This elastic snap of the brain back into the calvarium caused a forceable and sizeable splash of the foul smelling carcinogenic fluid right up and out of the skull by several inches, high enough to splash right into the open mouth of a teammate standing at the table assisting.

    Besides being disgusting, it was unfortunate as it was the only fluid exposure aside from the spine that might have had any danger of transmitting any of the incurable but extremely rare and unlikely prion diseases that can kill on the order of weeks to years. However, the mouth is a low risk area of exposure. Had the exposure been higher risk it would have been possible to test the brain tissue for prion disease. It is not possible to test a living person. I know this both reassured and disturbed the teammate.

    The only exposures I could imagine being worse would be extremely foul smelling abscess contents or feces or puke to the mouth or eyes, or a stab from a large bore needle with visible blood known to contain hepatitis C or HIV. All fluids I came across in training but was protected by proper barriers like gloves.

    This entire scenario was one of extreme rarity and very bad luck. Besides being one of the the most disgusting exposures I have ever seen or could imagine, it was also probably the least likely to transmit disease.

    The unfortunate teammate luckily didn't swallow any and spent several minutes washing out their mouth, which did not remove the flavor very well. How they did not vomit on the spot amazes me to this day.

    TLDR:
    cadaver
    foulest smelling fluid will permeate you and bathe you for months, it is foul and carcinogenic
    you may get cut with a dirty scalpel
    you may get a splash of this fluid from the calvarium (emptied skull) that goes in your eyes if lucky, or in your mouth if really unlucky, with a minuscule risk of transmission of an incurable fatal disease

    #gross anatomy lab, medical rite of passage, aptly named
     

    baratheonfire

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    Let me start off by saying that I am currently doing undergrad research and that I find it to be very interesting. Also let me state that I am a bit of a neurotic chemophobe.

    Anyways, my question for undergrads who do research: how do you all handle working with dangerous chemicals in your lab? Does it not bother you? Do you not think about it?

    Personally the only thing in my lab that is a cause for concern in my lab is ethidium bromide and a few other minor chemicals. How do you all justify boosting your app for a potentially better medical school at the cost of MAYBE damaging your health in the long run? Is this a common thing, or am I just too paranoid? Thoughts?
    I quit because I hated pipetting nonstop for 10 months
    Bench research is so boring and academia is toxic
     

    Hushman

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    I'll give you advice one of the coordinators for my upper division undergrad chem labs gave the class:

    "You need to respect the chemicals, not fear them, if you can't get over that fear you're in the wrong degree"

    Granted I was a chem major in my undergrad. Doing research as an undergrad I worked with many potentially dangerous reagents doing some potentially dangerous reactions, but I never feared as I thoroughly read all the SOPs and MSDS's of things I would have to be working with, I knew the dangers, what the reaction was supposed to look like, and most importantly what the reaction was not supposed to behave like. Sure I might have lost a few years of my life from DCM vapors, but I feel like that is a worthwhile trade for the research I did.
     
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    moggat

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    Just so you know OP, the dangers of EtBr have been grossly exaggerated in most cases. It's been shown to cause mutagenesis in vitro experiments only, and there's no evidence of it causing problems in actual mammals at all. (It's actually administered to cows as a treatment for African Sleeping Sickness for years). As long as you're not drinking the stuff or rubbing it all over your body, you're probably fine.

    And sorry @Goro , SYBR products aren't actually any safer. "Although the seller companies claim on safety of SYBR®-Green (Green Viewer), there are reports on higher mutagenicity of this compound in comparison to EtBr in the bacterial cells exposed to UV [5]." (Again not shown in mammals, so its probably still fine.) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4028844/

    As far as dangerous stuff in the lab goes, I've been working in a BSL2 lab for a couple years now and the worst I've had was bleach on my jeans and mouse bites. You'll probably be fine.
     
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    Goro

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    Pay VERY careful attention to the CARS section when taking MCAT

    From the paper you cited:


    EtBr preferentially induces frameshift mutations but only in the presence of an exogenous metabolic activation system, while SYBR Green I is a very weak mutagen that induces frameshift mutations. We found that EtBr and SYBR Green I, without an added metabolic activation system, strongly potentiated the base-substitution mutations induced by UV-irradiation in E. coli B/r WP2 cells. Each DNA stain alone showed no mutagenicity to the strain.


    And sorry @Goro , SYBR products aren't actually any safer. "Although the seller companies claim on safety of SYBR®-Green (Green Viewer), there are reports on higher mutagenicity of this compound in comparison to EtBr in the bacterial cells exposed to UV [5]." (Again not shown in mammals, so its probably still fine.) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4028844/

    As far as dangerous stuff in the lab goes, I've been working in a BSL2 lab for a couple years now and the worst I've had was bleach on my jeans and mouse bites. You'll probably be fine.
     
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    CyrilFiggis

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    As long as you're not rubbing it all over your body, you're probably fine.
    Me after running a bunch of gels....
    200_s.gif
     
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