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His Science Career Is Literally Going Up In Flames

, , , , , | Learning | January 23, 2023

I was studying biology at university and we were in the laboratory, working with bacteria samples. It was mostly for practice before the more serious lab work later on in the year.

It was clear that some of the students had little experience working in a lab. My lab partner was one of these, and since I already had some experience, I let him do the actual work while I assisted.

My partner was getting ready to place a sample onto a petri dish with growth medium on it. Before the sample could be placed, the equipment needed to be sterilized in order to ensure that the samples weren’t contaminated.

He started out by dipping an inoculation loop in ethanol, and then he was going to move it through a blue flame to make it completely sterile. As he was moving it through the flame, the spirit on it caught fire as planned and started burning off. The beaker of ethanol was still placed on the desk.

Me: “Okay, now, just hold still, and take care not to spill the—”

[Lab Partner] knocked the beaker over, spilling ethanol all over the bench.

Me: “Woah! Okay, don’t panic. Just make sure you don’t move the flame too close to—”

Then, [Lab Partner] clumsily lowered the burning instrument too close to the pool of ethanol, causing it to catch fire and spread across the desk.

The teaching assistant rushed over and threw a fire blanket over the desk. The fire had reached an expensive microscope and started to melt part of the plastic on its base, but thankfully, it wasn’t properly ruined.

I took care of the sterilization protocol myself after that.

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