What is it like to work in a laboratory?

What is it like to work in a laboratory

A laboratory is a space where scientists, researchers, and students conduct experiments, tests, and investigations. It acts as a controlled environment where they can study various things such as chemicals, living organisms, or even technology.

The main purpose of a laboratory is to gather precise data and conduct experiments in a controlled setting. This controlled environment helps to ensure that experiments are carried out safely and accurately.

While every lab is different, they do have some things in common:

  1. Safety is key – you might be working with dangerous chemicals or items, so being safety-conscious is incredibly important.
  2. A place for problem solving – whether it’s developing new medicines, creating innovative technologies, or finding solutions to environmental challenges.
  3. Lots of collaboration – you’ll rarely be working alone in a laboratory.

Perform controlled scientific experiments

In a laboratory, scientists can test hypotheses, develop new technologies, and analyse various substances. This helps in advancing our understanding of the world around us.

Key tasks

  • Conduct experiments and tests
  • Analyse data and record results
  • Maintain equipment and ensure safety protocols
  • Prepare and handle materials and samples
  • Collaborate with fellow researchers and scientists
  • Document findings in reports or presentations
  • Stay updated on relevant research and techniques
  • Adhere to ethical and procedural guidelines

You can find laboratories in the professional, scientific, and technical services industry

Laboratories are usually found in the professional, scientific, and technical services industry. There are various types of laboratories, including chemistry, biology, physics, medical, environmental, and technology labs, each focused on specific areas and outcomes.

You can expect regular hours and on-site work

Regular hours  |  Work on-site  |  Jobs more common in metro areas  |  Strong job growth

The operating hours of a laboratory can vary depending on its purpose and the institution it’s associated with. For example, academic and research labs are typically open from 9 to 5, while medical and clinical labs might need to remain open 24/7 to provide constant patient care.

On-site work is traditionally more common in laboratories due to the hands-on nature of experiments and the need for specialised equipment. But some tasks, such as data analysis and report writing, may be able to be done remotely.

Laboratories can be found in both metropolitan and rural areas, but they tend to be more common in metro areas. Some rural areas might have labs that are specifically focused on agriculture, forestry, environmental studies, or other fields that benefit from being in rural settings.

The Career Clusters you’ll find in a laboratory

People from all Clusters are needed for a laboratory to run successfully, but Informers and Innovators are typically the most common Clusters. In many roles, you might find yourself performing tasks across multiple Clusters.

What do Makers do in a laboratory?

Makers in a laboratory are responsible for operating, maintaining, and calibrating instruments and equipment, ensuring they function accurately and reliably. They also help to keep the lab clean and tidy, and might be responsible for safely handling and storing dangerous chemicals and biological matter.

  • Lab Technicians
  • Maintenance Technicians
  • Cleaners

The role of a Linker in a laboratory

Linkers aren’t particularly common in laboratories, but might help to keep the public updated on current developments and future plans for the lab. Other Linkers might sell specialised equipment and technologies to laboratories. If a lab has a media presence (e.g. website or social media), a Linker might help run this too.

  • Public Relations Officers
  • Sales Representatives
  • Marketing Managers

Where you’ll find Coordinators in a laboratory

Coordinators are responsible for overseeing various aspects of a lab’s operations, from managing schedules and resources to coordinating workers and teams. They may also handle administrative tasks, such as budget management, inventory management, and thorough recordkeeping.

  • Laboratory Managers
  • Administrative Assistants

What do Informers do in a laboratory?

Informers in laboratories provide expert guidance, skills, and specialised knowledge to support the lab’s research endeavours. They might analyse and interpret data and findings, helping to provide insights to the public and other stakeholders. Other Informers analyse whether there is a societal or economic need for certain research or products, then advise whether it will be worthwhile for the lab to invest in.

  • Research Scientists
  • Data Analysts
  • Operations Analysts

The role of Innovators in a laboratory

Innovators in laboratories are responsible for designing and developing specialised equipment and technologies, usually tailored to specific research needs. They also have lots of input into the design and function of any products the lab may produce.

  • Research and Development Engineers
  • Software Developers/Programmers
  • Product Designers

How do Guardians work in a laboratory?

Guardians are responsible for ensuring that laboratories are safe places for workers. Some Guardians help to keep the facilities and potentially dangerous or valuable materials inside secure, while others might ensure that any research being conducted is ethical and legal.

  • Security Officers
  • Ethical Standards Officers
  • Workplace Health and Safety Officers

How do we expect working in a laboratory to change in the future?

With rapid advancements in technology and a growing emphasis on sustainability and collaboration, the laboratories of tomorrow may look quite different from those of today.

Increasingly, routine tasks and experiments are likely to be automated. This will free up researchers to focus on more complex and creative aspects of their work. Robots may handle tasks like sample processing and data collection.

As global awareness of environmental issues grows, laboratories will play a pivotal role in sustainable practices. From efficient resource utilisation to waste reduction and the adoption of renewable energy sources, expect labs to lead the charge towards a greener future.

Ethical considerations will continue to be at the forefront of laboratory work. Researchers will need to navigate complex ethical issues with care, from data privacy to the responsible use of emerging technologies.

The future of laboratory work will also likely embrace flexible work arrangements. This could mean a blend of on-site and remote work, fostering adaptability and inclusivity in the scientific community.

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