You’ve got the idea, you know how to test it and cannot wait to get into the chemistry lab at your college or university to do so.
But, as any chemistry teacher or lecturer will tell you, the idea and the design of the experiment are only the beginning. When it comes to designing a feasible chemistry experiment, you will need to look at the many puzzle pieces that will go into ensuring that your experimental process goes off without a hitch. Not great for stress levels initially, but very useful and an important step to becoming a researcher.
So, what are some of the key considerations that you need to explore when designing a chemistry experiment?
When you are setting up in a lab, you are going to need to clean your equipment, especially if you are running multiple experiments each day. As you know, the quality of the water you use will play a huge part in how clean your equipment is, and in how accurate your results are. So, for this aspect of your research, it is best to either buy distilled water, make it yourself, or use deionized water. Only do the latter if you can afford to have a wider margin of error with your work.
Next, how are you going to record your results?
In 2022, the majority of chemical lab results are recorded using digital devices, such as tablets, to prevent potential damage to paper pads if water or chemicals are spilled on them. But always be sure to back up any results that you have onto a secondary computer and a USB drive. That way should the initial recording apparatus get damaged, you will have at least two backups!
When you are in a lab of any kind, you need to think about your safety and the safety of anyone else who is using the lab.
That means lab coats, goggles, masks (if needed), and gloves at a basic level. For more in-depth research using more hazardous chemicals, you may need a hazmat suit and separate, sealed-off compartments to conduct your research in. Your tutor or teacher should ideally discuss this with you during the drawing up of the experimental design, so you can find a lab at your college or university that has the facilities to accommodate you.
You don’t want to be conducting chemical-based research in a cramped space. The best-case scenario is that you are shuffling around large pieces of equipment, the worst-case scenario is that said equipment becomes broken! So, always look for a laboratory with enough space for you and those who may be working with you to move around.
Pipettes, racks, freezers, cylinders…. you will need all of these and many more bits of equipment to pull off any chemistry experiment successfully. If you are studying biochemistry, you will also need to ensure that other bits of equipment are at your disposal, such as centrifuges and autoclaves.