“But they emphasized PPE so much during lecture!” said Kartashev.
Photo by Jack Yang
This past Monday UCSD was “filled with shouts of incredulity and misery” as Chem 7L midterms were returned along with the announcement the class average was below 50 percent. Bizarrely, more than half of the class was reported to have taken the exam wearing their lab coats, and a good portion in full Personal Protective Equipment. Just yesterday the origin of this act was uncovered as a couple of students who had started circulating a joke online to wear their lab coats to the exam in order to gain an inherent advantage.
“The idea was inspired by ‘white coat syndrome’, and my friends and I figured that we could wear our lab coats, make the test afraid of us, and therefore perform better on the exam,” reported first-year Biochemistry student Anastasia Kartashev, “but I guess it doesn’t work as well on inanimate objects.”
“That’s not it at all,” countered fellow first-year Kevin Hsieh, Kartashev’s labmate. “The original idea was based on the well-known belief that wearing a white lab coat makes you smarter by default. Everyone knows that. Half of doctors’ knowledge comes from those coats.”
Whether to intimidate the exam or to absorb knowledge, the plethora of students entering the test wearing lab coats took TA proctors aback. “I’ll admit that I actually freaked out a bit,” said Jamie Stevens, one of the TAs. “I recall people doing something similar from my undergraduate days for, like, Halloween or something, but I’d never before seen something on this scale, so you can probably understand my surprise.”
Neither has the UCSD Department of Chemistry, and while it declined an interview offer, it did submit a handwritten note saying that they were affronted by the overwhelmingly lax attitude towards safety gear. “PPE is not something to be taken lightly,” the memo stated. “It is disheartening to see that so many UCSD students, among the best and brightest in the nation, participated in this demonstration without fully considering the message they were sending. Maybe they thought it was harmless, but to us it says that they take PPE for granted and do not fully realize just how crucial it is in laboratory settings. If anything this behavior was extremely juvenile, showing complete disregard for the dangers of the lab, and was an embarrassment to us all.”
Despite these remarks, the participating students were reportedly mostly indifferent, with “get a life” being the most common response to the department’s statement. “Seriously, they’re just berating us because they’ve never before seen anything on this scale and feel like they need to establish their authority or whatever,” offered Kartashev, “but if they really wanted us to care about PPE, then they would make a much bigger deal out of it. However, when the safety exam is so easy that my six-year-old sister can take it for me and my TA has us use goggles to measure de-ionized water, then it is just ridiculous. My life is more at risk when I’m cleaning my bathroom.”
“Honestly I mostly did this just to have fun,” laughed Hsieh, “and I figured I was so screwed for the midterm that this would be some way to lighten the mood. And anyways, now that we’ve dispelled the ‘white coat myth,’ I’ll have a different approach the next time I’m at the doctor. My primary care physician may have been a complete screwup at general chemistry lab, but fake it ‘till you make it, am I right?”