From: Jeffrey Lewin <jclewin**At_Symbol_Here**MTU.EDU>
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] Electronic devices in teaching lab
Date: Mon, 20 Apr 2015 08:49:54 -0400
Reply-To: DCHAS-L <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**MED.CORNELL.EDU>
Message-ID: CAEwQnqimYTxWg1RPvf26-p=ANogCQ9o3eKoEhQjROr89V_iy5Q**At_Symbol_Here**
In-Reply-To <5117517A15F08343A243D1DEFBE6BE4CC3A76657**At_Symbol_Here**>

American Society for Microbiology has addressed similar concerns for biosafety in the laboratory


"The safe handling of microorganisms in the teaching laboratory is a top priority. However, in the absence of a standard set of biosafety guidelines tailored to the teaching laboratory, individual educators and institutions have been left to develop their own plans. This has resulted in a lack of consistency, and differing levels of biosafety practices across institutions. Influenced by the lack of clear guidelines and a recent outbreak of Salmonella infections that was traced backed to teaching laboratory exposures, the Education Board of the American Society for Microbiology charged a task force to develop a uniform set of biosafety guidelines for working with microorganisms in the teaching laboratory."

The links below go to their guidelines that include:

Prohibiting the use of personal electronic devices in the laboratory. We've gone to providing calculators (in plastic baggies so they can be decontaminated/changed as needed). This provides an alternate to using their cell phone.

The guidelines also recommend various ways of not contaminating lab notebooks and papers - some options include:

Projecting the lab instructions, eliminating lab manuals,
Providing dedicated "clean" spots (i.e. pullout work surfaces) for paperwork; combine with dedicated pens/pencils that stay in the lab.
Providing dedicated electronic inputs (scanners, laptops, etc) for data input.

A bigger struggle has been backpacks and associated water bottles. Although there is a designated spot in the lab, it is in inadequate and students often leave backpacks in a very public hallway creating security issues (stolen backpacks), trip hazards and general unsightliness. One of my summer projects is to work on building better shelving for back packs and coats. And I've had some often excitable discussions with faculty and staff about bringing sealed water bottles and food containers into the lab (either inside the back pack or hanging on the outside....students are NOT drinking in the lab, they simply have their lunch with them)...I worry more about someone adulterating their unattended drinks sitting in the hallway.

Another new struggle is students using their phones to take pictures of cultures, plates and microscope slides. While it would be simple enough to provide a couple of cheap cameras, it creates extra work for the TA's (or students) to transfer the pictures to their Google Drives.

Long and short, while I understand the sentiment of banning personal electronic devices from the biology (or chemistry) lab we need to acknowledge that electronic devices are extremely important to our current student base - they use them for direct communication, documentation, scheduling and looking up answers. If we are going to "ban" them, then we need to provide them technologically appropriate alternatives.


On Fri, Apr 17, 2015 at 1:40 PM, McGrath Edward J <Edward.McGrath**At_Symbol_Here**> wrote:

I teach introductory microbiology at a community college, and have this problem. I do tell them at the beginning that if culture spills on their device, it will have to be autoclaved, and that most phones don't even survive a trip through the washing machine-I know from experience.

Since many of them are returning students (it is an evening class), I tell them they are welcome to step outside of the lab to call or text, after removing PPE and washing their hands. It hasn't come up with me either, but I'm prepared to tell them that the alternative to autoclaving is that they carry the microorganisms around with them. There is a large clock with a second hand for anything that requires timing.

Eddie McGrath

Edward J. McGrath

Supervisor of Science

Red Clay Consolidated School District

1502 Spruce Avenue

Wilmington DE 19805

(302) 552-3768

We did not inherit the Earth from our ancestors. We borrowed it from our children.

From: DCHAS-L Discussion List [mailto:dchas-l**At_Symbol_Here**MED.CORNELL.EDU] On Behalf Of Debbie M. Decker
Sent: Friday, April 17, 2015 1:26 PM
Subject: [DCHAS-L] Electronic devices in teaching lab


It's becoming increasingly difficult to keep undergraduates from using their electronic devices in the teaching lab. We disclaim that any damage is not the responsibility of the institution.

Here's the question: What if something hazardous is spilled on the device and it can't be decontaminated? Does the device become hazardous waste at that point? What if the owner isn't willing to give up the device for disposal?

This scenario hasn't presented itself =E2=80" yet!



Debbie M. Decker, CCHO, ACS Fellow

Safety Manager

Department of Chemistry

University of California, Davis

122 Chemistry

1 Shields Ave.

Davis, CA 95616




Birkett's hypothesis: "Any chemical reaction

that proceeds smoothly under normal conditions,

can proceed violently in the presence of an idiot."

Jeff Lewin
Departmental Laboratory Supervisor
Biological Sciences
Michigan Technological University

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