Therefore, I have decided to share with you what I do to prevent accidents and incidents which can cause trouble to those around me. I hope you find what I have to say useful and adopt some of the practices.
(1) When you feel rushed or are in a panic, take a break!
There are many people who would perform experiments late into the night during this period so as to get good data. However, there will probably be many instances where the data is unsatisfactory or where the experiments do not go as planned. This may cause anxiety, which results in an increase in accidents and injury, or breakage of equipment/machines. It is precisely in times like this when we should relax and take a break! By taking a break, we may prevent accidents from happening and being refreshed from the break might result in some discovery during experiments that would prove to be useful.
(2) Find something strange? Report it!
There are many types of equipment in my laboratory. Since I use some of them on a frequent basis, I am able to troubleshoot when things go awry but only for simple problems. When the equipment behaves in a way that is different from the usual, I approach my seniors in the laboratory. For instance, I would even report very minor problems such as “Is this lever meant to be so loose?” or “There’s a strange noise coming from the equipment”, which are problems that some may think are too trivial, but I report them anyway.
Some may wonder whether there is a need to trouble the senior for such problems. However, it is important to note that if something feels out of place, it is probably a sign of some malfunction of some part of the equipment. If ignored, the equipment may break down and in some cases, you may be forced to halt experiments for a month while the machine is fixed. When that happens, the progress for your thesis may be affected and others who use the same equipment may also be affected. Let’s all try to be more careful and attentive!
(3) Create a checklist
This is something that I meticulously do. For example, “What do I need to present for my progress report?”; “What is the desired flow for my PowerPoint slides?”; “Should I need to explain a certain observation, do I need extra data?”; “Do I know how to use a certain equipment that would allow me to get the necessary data?” and so on. It is possible to make a checklist of what I have to do or what I am lacking in. By penning down all these “to-do” items into a prominent checklist, it is easier to see the ultimate goal and what you have to do to achieve that goal. This will lead to a reduction in stress/anxiety and ultimately, accidents.
I am also constantly refining my checklist. For example, many of us finish the slides for the progress report only at the last minute but I had brought forward this task by refining my checklist (and priorities within the checklist) so that I can make the best presentation. Having a checklist is also useful when you are a working adult in future so how about giving it a go?
The things mentioned in this post may seem very self-explanatory and obvious but that is the reason why I purposely made it into a post. In addition, during this period last year, my laboratory had many issues with equipment, from minor problems to problems that required an overhaul of the equipment. Although the number of incidents this year is fewer than that of last year, we must not be complacent. I wrote this post also to remind myself not to let my guard down.
If you found this post useful, I, as the author of this post, will be very happy.
Thank you for reading!
This post is an English translation of the original blog post written in Japanese. The original post can be found here.