The noise in the room swelled as people gathered—milling about, chatting, and hoarding food and beer in a manner only attributable to grad students and post-docs. Finally, order was called and everyone focused their attention to the front—to the real reason they were there—a golden (plated… painted) pair of goggles. All eyes were on this prize and the $500 that accompanied it, and all ears were anxiously awaiting the designation of the safest lab in Chemistry and PME.
Rewind a few weeks: sitting in an intimate conference room, chowing down on their catered meals, 10 student volunteer judges were trained on how to evaluate lab safety in this upcoming, fierce competition. At this training, the volunteer team went through examples of different lab setups and discussed how to score uniformly, focusing on productive, peer-to-peer communication and problem solving. Judges and participating labs were paired to maximize their overlapping skills and experience, so as to optimize brainstorming and idea-sharing potential. We placed a large emphasis on recognizing creativity, proactivity, and thorough solutions—with room for judges to add or remove bonus points for topics not covered in the rubric, and even allow them to create new awards!
With training completed, shirts received, and labs paired with judges, it was time to begin. One by one, Lab Safety Contacts (LSCs) in participating labs led their judge and a JRSI board member through the tour, answering questions and explaining the specifics of their lab. Needless to say, the competition was fierce, involving six labs in PME—Huang, Nealey, Patel, Rowan, Tirrell, and Zhong—and six labs in the Chemistry Department—Anderson, Engel, Hopkins, Lee, Moellering, and Tokmakoff.
And with that, we’re back—breath abated, waiting to hear the results at the award ceremony.
The Grand Prize Golden Goggles winner of the 2019 first annual Peer Lab Walkthrough is—drum roll, please…
The Huang Lab in PME! Congratulations! In celebration of their amazing victory, the Huang Lab used their $500 Grand Prize to purchase their very own Huang Lab SWAG, go bowling, play some whirlyball, and some laser tag! Now that sounds like a party!
Next, the PSD Chemistry Divisional winner and the recipient of a $250 runner-up prize—the Anderson Group! In addition to winning the prize money and the recognition for being the 2019 safest lab in chemistry, the Anderson Group also snagged a bonus recognition award for “Creativity in Poster Design.” They were able to score this bonus award to recognize their awesomely-creative retro safety posters, which remind lab members to be safe in everything from wearing proper PPE to remembering to close hood sashes when not in use. Nice, and way to go above and beyond! To celebrate their success, the Anderson Group used their award to pay for a decked-out barbecue at Professor Anderson’s house.
Our last (but certainly not least) competition winner—the runner-up in PME and the recipient of the other $250 cash prize—the Patel Group! Interestingly, the Patel group also spent their award money on some whirlyball! …I think I need to check this place out, right?
But wait—there’s more! Aside from these three amazing competition winners, we also had two more labs win bonus recognition awards for doing something truly noteworthy! The Rowan Group received bonus recognition for “Ingenuity in Space Design,” for their method of designating chemical and glove free areas of the lab by using boarders of brightly colored labeling tape! Genius. Lastly, the Lee Group received bonus recognition for the “Clever Use of Hands-Free Music in the Lab” for using an Echo to solve the ever-present problem of how to listen to music while working, without using dangerous headphones or pulling out your phone in a risky attempt to change songs.
Congratulations to all of the winners, and a huge, sincere, incredible thank you to all of our participating labs and volunteers. This endeavor would truly not have been possible without all of you.
Ready for your chance to participate? Well fear not—this competition will be back in full force next spring! Sign up below as a volunteer or as a lab and defend your safety honor (and secure your chance to win $500)!