Monday, June 28, 2010

Lab Cleanup Days

I am now the most senior member of my lab - even though there are only four people in it. I've known for a while that the two guys ahead of me were on their way out, and indeed - they've graduated! And last fall, the three newest students were hired.

Now, everybody has their own work styles. One of my labmates who graduated like to have everything OUT. He worked best when all his tools were spread around the workspace. And neither of the older two labmates particularly liked to organize. Add to that the fact that the lab moved twice in two years, and goodness - things were everywhere!

I like everything neat and tidy. I love to organize. It helps my mind feel clearer when my workspace is also clear. Come to find out, YAY, the three new students like to be neat as well.

The new students didn't know where anything was in lab, and for good reason - there was no system to where things went. Now that it's the summer, we are all trying to work in lab at once. We kept bumping into each other, there wasn't a bench for all the projects, and you could barely find a flat surface to set something down.

So I decided to take the reins, and institute lab cleanups.

I am told that years and years ago (maybe six or eight? before my time, at least) there used to be a mandatory lab cleanup every Friday afternoon. The senior lab student at the time had started them, and used to provide beer for all involved to encourage participation.

I don't know if the beer policy would fly anymore, but I liked the idea of Friday afternoons. Who really wants to work on Friday afternoons anyway? And then everything is put away for Monday.

Then I started worrying that maybe there weren't enough items that needed to be taken care of to keep all four of us busy for a couple hours. So I started writing down everything I could think of that needed to be done on the lab whiteboard.

Then I had to move to a new whiteboard.

Okay, there was enough to keep us busy.

So two weeks ago, we had our first lab cleanup. We got rid of a lot of old equipment and consolidated what was left, and then got rid of a rickety old bookcase we no longer needed.

A bit of space opened up! We could move!

Then last Friday, we cleaned off an entire counter.

Flat surface! We could move AND work!

There's still lots left on the To-Do list, so this policy will be kept in place for a while. Even when all the big things are done, an hour a week of maintenance and straightening up can't be a bad thing.

And you should have seen how excited the other three students are now. :) One girl exclaimed, "I just LOVE throwing things away!" as she chucked a copy of software from 1996. And when walking in today, another labmate kind of started, and said "Wow I wasn't used to that whole counter being empty! It feels so much bigger..."

So, lab cleanup is a success. Does your lab clean up on any regular basis? Does each person have a designated area? Have you ever needed to do a thorough sweep of old equipment?

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