Thanks to Mohammed Farooq for answering my questions about the
difficulties of improving laboratory safety in Pakistani organic
lab courses. The answers are quite informative but at the same time
raise new questions. For example, in reply to my question:
I find this answer remarkable because it points to some fundamental differences
between lab courses as I have experienced them in the US and lab courses
in Pakistan. Let me try to articulate them.
(i) I have never had to wear a lab coat, but I have had to wear goggles.
(ii) Whatever I have ever been expected to use in a laboratory has been left
in the laboratory. I have never been expected to bring anything from home
that I might need in the laboratory.
(iii) Goggles have always been either kept in a heap at one end of the lab
or else individual students could keep goggles in a cabinet with other
equipment assigned to them.
(iv) The assignment of individual equipment cabinets to students does not
mean that all students get individual lockers for their courses. Rather,
there are a certain number of cabinets available and they are associated
with work areas in the laboratory. In each class, one student is assigned
to a work area, uses the associated cabinet and the equipment in it,
and returns the equipment to the cabinet at the end of class. When more
than one class uses the same lab at different times, more than one
student uses the same cabinet, but at different times. One of the purposes
of the lab fee is to provide an "account" on which the department can draw
to replace items that are broken or which disappear from the cabinet the
student uses. I think pilferage is usually not a big problem, but in
situations where it is really necessary to monitor individual
responsibility, there can be inventories of cabinets at the end of each
class period. Sometimes it is drawers, not cabinets, that are used.
(v) I did have a personal locker when I was in junior high school. When I
was in high school, I had a personal locker for my gym class but no other
locker. I never had or needed a general purpose locker except for gym
classes at any further point in my education.
(vi) I think that if American universities made the same requirements on
students to bring lab coats and other stuff with them to labs that
Pakistani labs do, they would have the same problems, and they know it,
so they generally don't require it. The best they can hope for is that
the students have their lab books and the instructions for the particular
lab to be done, and maybe also their calculators.
Student labs in the US are designed with cabinets to be used for the purposes
I have described above. From MF's description, it sounds as though Pakistani
student lab rooms and lab buildings are designed differently. It sounds as
though they not only lack ventilation, as MF reported earlier, but that they
may not really have been intended to contain laboratories when they were
originally designed. Am I correct in that impression? The book I was
reading on design of laboratory facilities (Building Type Basics for Research
Laboratories, by Daniel D. Watch) emphasized the great long term expense
and inconvenience of retrofitting for lab use buildings not originally
intended as lab buildings.
What then is the layout of a laboratory room or a lab building in a Pakistani
student chem lab? Although a prose description by MF would be welcome, I think
it would be better to be able to refer to some kind of document, perhaps
including pictures or drawings.
MF also writes:
As I mentioned above, one of the purposes of the lab fee is to cover such
losses. Also, students in the US are not expected to take pipets home.
I'm very curious to know how Pakistani universities decided on this way of
managing lab supplies issued to students. Is there some reason why the
equipment can't be left in the laboratory and reissued as needed each time
the lab meets? Does it have something to do with inability of lab
administrators to prevent the stuff from being stolen from the labs if it
is kept there, even if it is kept in locked cabinets?
MF also writes:
I don't think goggles would be as high a priority in American labs
if departments were not vulnerable to lawsuits in case a student lost
an eye when a test tube exploded (although I'm sure they would feel just
awful about it, even if they blamed the student). So, this raises the
if a test tube explodes and a student in Pakistan loses an eye, what
liability does the university incur and what legal responsibility do the
administrators of the laboratory facility bear?
What will happen to the quality of education after they retire?
Thanks, I've now read it. I found the following paragraph interesting:
Does this mean the caliber of the students taking the single-science stream
will be on the average lower? The reason I ask is that there are sometimes
efforts at eliminating separate streams for students planning careers in
education, since the students in those streams tend to graduate without
genuine competence in their subjects and instead mostly take courses on how
to present material. For example, I think that in Ohio the legislature passed
a law requiring high school teachers to first graduate as majors in their
subject areas, without regard to their career plans, and then to take the
necessary education courses in graduate school. Thus, they would in principle
first have to prove themselves in their subject area and then go on to become
teachers. In practice, this didn't work, at least as I had an opportunity
to observe it, for the following reasons:
(1) The working conditions of high school teachers had not changed, nor the
nature of the work, and therefore the same caliber of student was still
being drawn to that career choice.
(2) Some departments had very few majors except for such students. To expect
these students to suddenly be able to prove themselves as genuine majors
in the subject, and to grade them accordingly, would be suicidal: the
departments would still be expected to produce the same numbers of
graduates and would find themselves being denounced by the same people
who had formerly told them to raise their standards.
(3) The solution was to implement policies that made it very difficult to give
majors in the subject the kind of grades they deserved, and to put
considerable pressure on profs to ritually pass students who hadn't
I realize that doctors and engineers have a reputation for being smarter
than high school teachers, but also have a reputation for having to
memorize everything they learn. That is probably an exaggeration, but as
I mentioned in earlier postings, I met one doctor socially who asked
me whether hydroxide was an element, and no one who commented on it
thought that was unusual.
Allan Adler [Only registered users see links. ]
* Disclaimer: I am a guest and *not* a member of the MIT Artificial *
* Intelligence Lab. My actions and comments do not reflect *
* in any way on MIT. Moreover, I am nowhere near the Boston *
* metropolitan area. *
Allan Adler <[Only registered users see links. ].mit.edu> wrote in message news:<[Only registered users see links. ].mit.edu>...
No person with little common sense should take laboratory apparatus
home. I did not say that student the took the items home, but some
might have broken it, or perhaps some might have not returned to sheer
We have to work in groups of two or in extreme cases five depending
on the availability of apparatus and instruments.
As far as I know there is no concept of lockers in schools and high
schools (i.e upto grade-12). Government schools are really in pathetic
conditions sometimes without chairs or fans. Good private schools,
charge a high fees, at least three or four times the fee of university
(a paradox), provide a good environment and condition to their pupils.
I feel you are saying that lab coats are NOT compulsory in the
No. The labs do have cabinets but they are not enough for the
students, I do not keep my lab coat in the cabinet, because last year
someone stole it. The university in which I am studying was designed
by French architect 55 years ago. At that time the student population
was much much less than it is now. The labs are spaciuos, one lab can
accomodate atleast 45 students without congestion, the ventilation
system is such that the windows are at the level of a normal person's
height (perhaps I am not able to explain due to my poor language),
once all the windows are opened there is enough ventilation, it
depends whether wind is blowing or not.
As I said no one would have taken the pipets home, but might have
broken them due to negligence.
I think this the way it happens here. Sometimes the apparatus is
issued for the whole term or sometimes for a single lab period. Once
it is given for the whole term, then the students keep it in the
cabnets or lockers.
Chemical accidents do happen in good laboraties.The experiments which
are performed here carry minimun hazard with respect to
explosion.Though there have been some fire accidents in organic labs
becuae someone was using benzene nearby a lit bunsen burner. I
remember reading an experiment on "preparation of hydrogen by mineral
acid and metals" in Sienko and Plane, they had warned in thier book
whoever explodes the hydrogen generator would be expelled from the lab
immediatly . He/she would not be allowed to enter again without the
permission of the lab incharge. Such experiments are never carried out
in schools, colleges or universities even for demonstration here.
Definitely, it will decline. Most of faculty which hold a Ph.D are
from U.K, Ireland, Scotland, Germany. Very Very few have Ph.D from US
perhaps due to thier high fees for foreigners and relatively better
standards. There are many business (ie teaching business and computer
science) univeristies here claiming that they have affiliation with
American universities, but in investigation it comes to fore those
universities are nothing but a one building "office" in the US. There
is no lack of fake universities in the world.
That was an absurd idea, a student who wanted to study mathematics
could not take biology and vice versa. I was a victim of such policy.
I also wanted to take biology but I had to say good-bye to it after
grade ten after choosing mathematics.Now they have introduced another
absurd idea, those who want to take "computer science" can not take
chemistry in their course!
Why? I think a student taking biology, mathematics, physics, and
chemistry simultaneously would do better than a student studying only
physics and mathematics in high school.
I Had requested you to names of some "classical" texts on
spectroscopy, like Gerhard Herzberg, I wish I knew German. This books
gives references to atleast 100 books but all of them are in German.
Once you said that try reading German directly from books or written
material, now I can "understand" atleast the titles of articles and
papers of chemistry. The "Geothe Insitut" had closed down its
language training centre due to deteriorating peace conditions.
You are right. Whenever people ask me what I am studying, if I say
chemistry, they give a look as if I were abnormal. It has become a
"fashion" to study business, and computer science, and believe me no
one tell you what is "information technology", though everybody seems
to be studying in their business schools (affiliated with forein
(Finally excuse my poor prose in English)