Saturday, December 14, 2013

Lab safety quizzes

So another year has passed, and I again had to take the online lab safety training, along with the requisite quiz at the end to “test my knowledge of lab safety”. Dunno about you, but I find these quizzes to be completely meaningless: either the questions are ridiculously simple, or they are ridiculously hard, testing some arcane (and ultimately useless) detail of lab safety. Here is an example of the former:
Now you could argue that by having to answer this question, it forces you to read the other two answers and thus learn their content, i.e., “oh, my two legitimate options are autoclaving and disinfecting followed by pouring down the drain.” But then take a look at this example:

Answers 1, 2, 3 are all obviously wrong (although perhaps its teaching you something about it), but then the one that’s actually correct (80-120 feet per minute face velocity) is actually the one thing I didn’t know at all! It’s like the inverse of the above.

Then you get the ones that are impossible, with arcane answers. I actually encountered a lot more of them when I was at MIT, like the one that asked something like:

EPA regulations dictate that under 40 gallons of oil may be stored in a secondary area for:
1. 3 days
2. 1 week
3. 2 weeks
4. 1 month

I think the answer was 3 or something like that. Talk about weird! Here are some similar ones I’ve seen at Penn:

I had absolutely no idea about the lecture bottle explosion question, and the other two I just made educated guesses.

Anyway, I suppose you can say that someone can learn something (albeit very little) from these quizzes, but I certainly don’t think they serve any evaluative purpose. If only they could just teach some basic common sense...

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