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Lab and my back - helen-louise
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.

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Current Mood: sore sore

17 comments or Leave a comment
jinian From: jinian Date: 26th September 2012 00:53 (UTC) (Link)
Stack of CD cases? That's what we use to mount various sizes of things under the dissection scope. Pretty stable even when arbitrarily high.

How hard is your chair to adjust up and down?
baratron From: baratron Date: 26th September 2012 17:16 (UTC) (Link)
The chair adjusts fairly easily, but the minimum height is still pretty tall.

Now, where does a person get a stack of CD boxes in this day & age?
jinian From: jinian Date: 26th September 2012 17:38 (UTC) (Link)
I got them from buying CDs! Not my fault if you've modernized too far. :)
baratron From: baratron Date: 5th October 2012 08:12 (UTC) (Link)
Ha! No, not modernised enough. All our CDs are still in their original cases. I rather like seeing them all in the cabinet we have, and going to stroke them when I'm stressed.

It's the same with books. I decide what I want to read (or listen to) far more by looking at the physical entities than by scrolling through a list. I am highly unlikely to get an eBook reader until chemistry and biochemistry textbooks start being available for them.
memevector From: memevector Date: 27th September 2012 13:57 (UTC) (Link)
I've got some - happy to post to good home - how many do you want?
baratron From: baratron Date: 5th October 2012 08:12 (UTC) (Link)
It's okay, I don't need them anymore - see below.
memevector From: memevector Date: 5th October 2012 08:31 (UTC) (Link)
Aha :-)
From: skibbley Date: 26th September 2012 08:49 (UTC) (Link)
Can you hold a phone (or super encased cheap digital) camera at the correct height and angle and read from a picture?
baratron From: baratron Date: 5th October 2012 08:14 (UTC) (Link)
I take photos in the lab all the time using my phone, but I really wouldn't want to have to juggle gloves and noxious chemicals and my phone all at once. There's a better idea, see below.
thekumquat From: thekumquat Date: 26th September 2012 09:25 (UTC) (Link)
I'm assuming the cylinder is too heavy or something to simply lift to eye level? What about a bunch of empty metal boxes or something to make into various shelves to put the cylinder on for measuring? Is clamping it a habit or vital?
Would you be able to kneel for measuring, on the floor or a stool?
baratron From: baratron Date: 26th September 2012 17:19 (UTC) (Link)
Measuring cylinders are not heavy but my hands shake too much. And the whole reason I've been bending down awkwardly is to avoid kneeling!

I like the idea of CD box shelves but do not know where to get a stack of old CD boxes.
karne_k From: karne_k Date: 26th September 2012 21:24 (UTC) (Link)
I rarely use measuring cylinders anymore. Small volumes can be measured with either a pipette (either Gilsons or battery powered Pipetteman) or a volumetric glass syringe. Larger (>20 mL) generally don't need accuracy beyond what you can get by eyeballing a marked beaker or conical flask. Would these be suitable alternatives?
karne_k From: karne_k Date: 27th September 2012 17:17 (UTC) (Link)
baratron From: baratron Date: 5th October 2012 08:17 (UTC) (Link)
Indeed! Philip found a laboratory jack in the lab the day after my original post (before you'd even posted this comment), and I took a photo of it - but I did not have enough spoons to come home and stick the SD card into the computer so I could upload the photo and then link to it...

I am HIGHLY JEALOUS of the ones in your photo for being purple, though. I want a purple laboratory jack! It's not fair!
karne_k From: karne_k Date: 5th October 2012 09:49 (UTC) (Link)
Glad you found a solution (ahem) :)
From: x_mass Date: 26th September 2012 23:59 (UTC) (Link)
i can lend you a stockke height adjustable leaning stool which may needs protecting with a plastic bag over the seat to protect from flying chemicals

appropriate seating should have been part of your DSA assesment
Ryan Tucker From: Ryan Tucker Date: 2nd October 2012 12:29 (UTC) (Link)
Are you normally solo in the lab, or is there occasionally someone else there? I've found good luck trading my skills for someone else's color vision when, say, resistors need to be identified. (The folks who don't know me tend to ask more about color blindness, which is a foreign concept to many.)

But yeah, some sort of automatic way to measure might help. What about a mirror or camera or periscope kind of thing?
17 comments or Leave a comment