Laboratory Experience
UC Santa Cruz laboratory Cabrillo Laboratory
Modified - October 3, 2011
Organic chemistry evaluation, summer 1982, the year before I suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and became disabled.

Click to see my Biochemistry lab evaluation -> here.

Biochemistry Laboratory - Protein Purification part one

I was first in,first out in lab for organic chemistry 8B, a reflection of the time I spent. I meticulously prepared for each lab, researching each procedure to learn the most efficent use of my time and how best to avoid the hazards that accompany organic chemistry labs. My evaluation is a reflection of the amount of time I spent learning and how enthused I was with the subject.

Biochemistry Lab was my first experience with having another person doing things I could no longer do. My first lab assistant told me he had not passed Organic Chemistry 8A. I had been the top student in Organic Chemistry 8B and was not sure what to think.

His ability to botch routince procedures was truly amazing. For instance, during one lab, we needed a small amount of a particular reagent. He unscrewed the top of the reagent bottle and I stopped him from putting the spatula into the bottle and contaminating the reagent. I explained that a piece of lab paper was placed on the counter, the weighed spatula laid on that, the reagent carefully shaken onto the spatula and then the spatula weighed again.

I had to remind him to weigh the spatula and write down the results. Then, rather then carefully shaking the bottle of reagent, he turned the bottle upside down and dumped its contents all over the counter and onto the floor. I stopped him from sweeping up what he had spilled and putting it back in the bottle. His sloppy lab techniques were leading to an epic fail lab evaluation with my name written on it. His latest incident lead me to think I had been dropped into a comedy sketch, but I wasn't laughing.

Biochemistry Laboratory - Protein Purification part two

L--- dropped by the lab later that same day and interrupted my musings on dropping the class after wringing Jon's neck. She wanted to know if I still needed a lab assistant? I talked with her at length, finally agreed to her helping me, decided I would not drop the class, I would not scream in utter frustration. Instead, I told Jon his lab techniques were 'problematic', I had found someone that did things more as I expected and his services were no longer required.

Once biochemistry lab (UCSC) got underway, I was in lab about 60 hours a week. L--- would come by when she had time. She was getting paid for eight hours a week and she was putting fifteen to twenty hours instead. I never asked, but she had to be letting her other classes go to help me. Without her help I could not have made it through that class and she was never commenended for what she did or given a break, academically, because she was putting so much of her time into helping a fellow human get through a tough class.

We were isolating microgams (about 0.00000000022 of an ounce) of lactate dehydrogenase, an enzyme. Purity was critical so we would know which isozyme, there are four different lactate dehydrogenase enzymes that catalyze the pyruvate -> lactate reaction, we had isolated. L--- was very careful of contamination. If glassware might be dirty she washed it. She often washed her hands. She never had to be reminded about proper lab procedure - never.

My evaluation is a reflection of L---'s impeccable lab techniques. I was able to focus on the goals of each lab and how best to achieve them, rather then diverting my attention to teach my assistant proper lab etiquette'. We ran eleven poly acrylamide gels to characterize the enzyme we had isolated. Usually a group runs three gels, maybe four, total.


Genetics Laboratory - Recombinent DNA

In spring quarter, 1987, L--- and I attended Genetics lab together. The lab was 'cook book' in that all solutions were made for us. The final was my first and last experience with a lab proctor. The instructor refused to allow me enough time to write to write the exam myself (about four times as long and DSS would not intervene on my behalf), he gave me twice the time the other students had. Disabled Student Services wouldn't stand up for me, but suggested a proctor to write for me. I thought to have someone else write down what I told them, to save time, was my only option. Everything was fine until the last question.

The proctor was a Biology major and we got in an argument about my answer to the last question on the final. I had to go to the bathroom and before leaving, told her to write down what I said and left. When I returned I immediately handed in the exam as we were out of time. Later in the summer I got back the final. I was noticing that my overall score seemed too low from looking at how well I had done on the questions until I turned to the last page, the page that contained the question we had argued over. The proctor had written down what she wanted to not what I had told her. I got almost full credit on all the other questions, but that one. I got three points out of twenty. I wound up scoring near the top of the class anyway. If I had realized what she'd done, I would have asked her, what are you doing? and corrected that answer. I probably would have had the highest score in the class.

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