Today I spent what I hope was my last day in the clean lab. While it is not something I am sad to say goodbye to, it is the one place I am guaranteed to feel like a scientist. In contrast to my field work, research in the clean lab is exact.
Before entering the room, which is pressurized to prevent any air from entering the lab, little white booties are put on over my shoes. Then I stand on sticky mat to clean off the bottom of the booties. Upon entering the room, which of course requires the correct code to unlock the door, a white lab coat is put over my clothes. Then I am surrounded by the soft hum of the air filters and the fume hood with the black and white checker floor beneath my booted feet. While in the clean lab, I work with dangerous acids and use disposable equipment, all while wearing safety goggles and special gloves. I work in concentrations of parts per million and parts per billion.
If you were to walk into the lab today, there would be no question in your mind about what you sawâ€”everything points to a scientist hard at work. It makes me smile. And then I laugh because I prefer to be the scientist jerry rigging equipment in the field covered with mud from head to toe. But if anyone ever asks, I can say that I was once the perfect image of a scientist.