Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Office and the lab

Just as the #ChemMovieCarnival drew to a close, chemistry made another appearance on national television!

In the most recent episode of The Office (a mockumentary about a paper company; it's usually hit-or-miss but still funnier than the British version*), the branch manager, Andy Bernard, was cast in a chemical safety video ("HRPDC Chemical Handling Protocol") in an attempt to break into an acting career.

The on-screen lab was pretty clearly a molecular biology or chemical biology space -- you can see microscopes, centrifuges, Pipetmans,** a cold-room, 96-well plates, and plenty of buffers; additionally, the glassware is largely Erlenmeyers, graduated cylinders, and volumetric flasks.

Unlike most featured lab spaces on TV (we're looking at you, NCIS and CSI...), it looks like the producers used an actual lab. If not an actual lab, it's a very good replica (as evidenced by the abundant bench clutter).

For the sake of the chemical community, I present a graphical abstract below.

Drying rack contains an appropriate mix of glassware.

What lab would be complete without an egregious safety violation?
(note the presence of snacks in the lower left corner)

Benchtop clutter looks about right.

Note the scientist in the far background using proper PPE.
Demonstration of eyewash station use, plus screaming.
Note that undergraduates usually have the same aversion to the eyewash station that Andy Bernard does.

And my favorite exchange of dialogue:

Director 1: Okay, stop. Why are you smiling?
Andy: I just made a character choice to be a scientist who really likes what he does and enjoys his job.
Director 2: Okay, well, maybe no smiling on this one.

* Note: some people get really upset when you say this to them. Try it!
** I love me some Pipetmans.


  1. I wonder if getting Ed Helms to do actual videos on lab safety would make new grad students take it more seriously.

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