September 26th, 2012

test tube

Lab and my back

I need some brilliant people to come up with a solution to stop me hurting my back.

It's true that I am a lazy git who's been failing to do her physiotherapist-prescribed exercises for months on end, but the main reason my back is showing off now is because I've been doing things in the lab which are normal for chemists but not sensible for me. Specifically I've been standing up for too long, and bending down awkwardly to look at the meniscus of measuring cylinders.

Standing up for too long can be addressed - leaning on things to try to stay standing is putting too much strain on some parts of my spine. There are plenty of lab stools with back support in the lab. I just need to stop being embarrassed about the fact that I can only really stand up for a few (< 5) minutes at a time without pain.

But figuring out is some way of reading measuring cylinders without bending down is more complicated. I could get a "glamorous assistant" who doesn't have a bad back to read them for me (and have to trust that they're competent and have read it properly). My Disabled Students Allowance provides funding for lab assistance BUT I only need someone to help me for a few minutes at a time. I don't want to waste my funding paying for someone to be with me for 3 or 4 hours a day, when I only need help for about 15 minutes out of that. And not 15 minutes all in one go, either. There are other tasks later when I'll need an assistant with me all the time, and I'd rather save the funding for then.

A shelf, or box, would be a solution except that the meniscus that needs to be read at eye height is in a different place every time, since it's rarely the same quantity of liquid that I need to measure.

Can anyone think of something better than simply using a standard chemistry laboratory clamp stand to raise the height of the measuring cylinder? I don't want to do that because it's hard to clamp things perfectly perpendicularly, leading to parallax errors, and the extra clamping and unclamping is more effort on my hands. I'm sure there exist sturdy stands that can be slowly concertinaed up and down... except they probably cost a small fortune. Anyway, something like that, perhaps.