Tales of a UA #1

To take a small break from all the UCSF posting–which will resume later this evening with pt. III–I will talk about my first experience as an undergraduate assistant. I am a UA for LS23L which is the introductory lab science course here for life science students. My duties as a UA include doing the little jobs like cleaning up or passing out papers and helping students complete the tasks while answering any questions they may have. Surprisingly, I was not nervous when I started, but I guess it helped that there were a few students that I already knew; so that made me feel comfortable, but this story wouldn’t be a story without a climax

The climax happened within the first 30mins of the lab. In the first 10 minutes, a student had a nosebleed that shocked the whole class. All we heard as a muffled “ahh ahh AHH!” before we reacted to what was going on. I rushed over to hand him some paper towels and escorted him to the sink. After a lab admin took him to the back room to clean up, class continued as if nothing happened.

Within the next 20mins, we were working with E. coli K-12 which is a benign strain used for intro labs such as this. However, it is still bacteria and we still need to practice precaution when handling it. The experiment was to hand out sponges to each student where only one student had the E. coli, but it was a double blind experiment–neither the students nor the teaching staff knew who had the infected sponge. This meant that we had to treat it as if everyone was “infected” with the E. coli. Not even a few minutes after we told the students to “inoculate” their hands, someone said they spilled some on their desk. This was fine–accidents happen. Then I heard more students whispering under their breath. That is when I spoke up and said, “if anyone spills it on their desk, raise your hand because we have to go around and clean it with alcohol.” That is when half the class raised their hand. Since I was apart of the experiment, I had couldn’t help the TA wipe down the desks, but he had to run over to each of the eight stations in order to sanitize everything. Then during the experiment, there were cases where students got some on their skin which requires some washing off with some soap.

The rest of the lab went relatively smoothly. I felt great helping out students answering questions and working with the pipettes. Definitely a great experience and I cannot wait for my next lab tomorrow!

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