Lab essentials

Lab must have?

Lab must have?

If you had to list 5 items that you would buy for yourself in the lab, what would they be?

If your professional life is in the lab, it’s probably worth it to invest a little bit of your own money for your personal happiness. (Make sure to mark them so people know they’re yours!) If it gets the job done a little bit faster and makes life just a tiny bit easier, it’s probably worth the money.

My 5 lab essentials?

1. A multitool, with at least a knife, Phillips tip and file. (At left, the Leatherman Wave.)

2. Black sharpie. (Duh.) Silver sharpies are helpful as well.

3. Comfy eyewear, so attractive to you that you’ll want them on.

4. Calculator — doing scientific notation calculations with someone else’s calculator stinks. Now where is that EXP button?!?

5. A nice pen — personally, I prefer the Uniball medium-to-fine tips. Writing in your notebook should be a pleasure.

What are your 5 lab must-haves?

(Thanks to Mitch for the invitation to the blog – I am honored.)


  1. 1.) Leatherman (I got the Leatherman Super Tool from 1996)
    2.) Ducttape, Cable tie and wire
    3.) Music (Headphones or speaker, doesn’t matter)
    4.) Tweezers, scoopula and a Pasteur pipette bulb
    5.) Nice colleagues

  2. On the subject of comfy eyewear, one would be surprised (or not) on how difficult it is to find the right safety goggles for Asian people. We have slightly shallower facial features, making it very hard to wear anything that doesn’t have the nosepiece. You either have to get one fitted or (like me) search for years on end. I finally found a pair that fits comfortably at my last job and with their permission now they are sitting happily next to me.

    I would add the mini-sharpie that you can put on your key chain, next to the beer bottle opener.

  3. I love the clickable sharpies – a must have in lab in my book. Makes labeling the flask you’re currently holding a breeze.

    Also of note: the sharpie page links directly to the MSDS. Further of note from the MSDS:

    Inhalation: This product is considered safe under normal use

  4. 1: Tweezers – God help you if you take mine
    2: Sharpie – I think we covered this already
    3: Ballpoint pen – ditto
    4: Lab tape – Nice for flasks that refuse to be written on
    5: The local NPR affiliate on the radio – Because let’s face it, we don’t get outside the lab much

  5. In no particular order.

    1. Digital multimeter. You’ll be surprised how much can be fixed by tracing back the voltages.
    2. Scientific calculator.
    3. Laptop + internet.
    4. Good writing pen.

  6. Gerbers open with a flick of the wrist—one handed! Try to do that with a stupid Leatherman.

  7. you’ve gotten most of the necessities. i’ve bought for myself duct tape, a durable calculator, LOTS of sharpies, custom goggles (because i have a tiny head) and standard pencils because the plastic ones melt if they touch solvent.

  8. A Process Chemist says:

    1 Prescription Safety glasses(Goggles over ordinary glasses=pain)
    2 Pippette filler
    3 A lot of spatulas
    4 A comfy Hard Hat with chin strap
    5 A good waterproof jacket with BIG pockets

    Also very useful is a big set of Stilsons for awkward valves, process operators and Plant managers-adjustment of

  9. What I always have in my lab coat:

    Bic 4 color pen
    Sharpie – fine point
    1 ml pipet bulbs
    pH paper

  10. Upon preview, I guess most of these would be considered shared lab tools, not strictly personal items. But bonus points if you can scare off all of the scavengers and build up your own personal stache of these:

    1. Hose clamps, and lots of different sizes of tubing. Also those plastic clamps for glass
    joints; those are the number one thing we fight over in my lab.
    2. Progammable hot plate + cooling circulator. Bonus points if you’ve ever used a circulator to cook food a la sous vide.
    3. Ar tank wrench (not a monkey wrench, the actual sized wrench- you’d be surprised how much time that saves), gas cylinder cart, trusty bottle of soapy water for leak testing.
    4. Lots and lots of clean needles and cannulas.
    5. Aluminum foil.

  11. 1. Lab coat
    2. googles
    3. Pen
    4. Pencil
    5. Ruler!
    6. Twizzer
    7. Small notebook (to record weighs)

  12. For synthesis:
    1. Pen
    2. TLC pencil–I love carpenter’s pencils for this!
    3. Pocketknife (like Sam I favor my little Gerber)
    4. 2 different colored sharpies (in case one is the same color as the stuff I’m making)
    5. Cheap calculator (in case the buttons get DCMed off)
    6. Good glasscutter
    7. Pliers on hand
    8. Glasses with polycarbonate lenses for everything (in and out of lab), and serious goggles for more risky business.

    Device work:
    1. Flat-tipped tweezers (to handle AFM tips without breaking them)
    2. Tweezers with rounded tips that bend at a roughly 90 degree angle (for handling device substrates without scratching films)
    3. Endless supply of electrical tape, foil and kimwipes
    4. Allen wrenches on hand
    5. Good diamond scribe

  13. 1. Comfortable and light lab goggles
    2. White cotton “artifact” gloves (good for glovebox work and long columns)
    3. Black pens
    4. Grease pen/sharpies (for writing on the hood glass)
    5. Misc sized clamps and holders

  14. Congrats on this post being picked up in the current (November) issue of Nature Chemistry

  15. Hmm. Way to find my name in Nature pubs! Wow…

  16. I know — these are not the words I hoped to grace such an august publication.

  17. Pingback: Chemistry Blog » Blog Archive » On the subject of safety goggles

  18. 1. Digital Electronics Toolkit. (Damn laser)
    2. Sharpie
    3. Masking tape
    4. Lab goggles
    5. Pilot Hi-Tec C, 0.3 mm

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