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UCL Home  /  Geography  /  Resources  /  Laboratory  /  Lab Manual  /  So you want to use the lab

So you want to use the lab

What do you need to do before you start work? This manual has information on the equipment in the lab, general safety regulations, protocols and “lab etiquette”.

1.1 Decide what you want to do in the lab

  • How many samples are involved?
  • What type of samples are they?
  • What type of information do you want?
  • What type of analysis would you like to do?
  • What methods do you intend to use?
  • Is the type of work already carried out in the lab?
  • Do you need specialist training before commencing work?
  • How long do you want to spend doing it?
  • How much is it going to cost and are the funds available?
  • Is there a “funding code” (a six digit number...) to charge the work to?

1.2 Talk to Laboratory Supervisor

No work should be carried out in the lab without telling the lab manager first. This is for your safety and for the safety of other lab users. It would be helpful if you come armed with the answers to the above questions

1.3 Complete any training requirements

If there is mandatory safety training associated with the method or instrument you wish to use, this training must be completed before booking lab time.

1.4 Read the methods

If there is an existing method that is routinely used in the lab, then a copy of it will be available from the laboratory web pages. Print it out. Read it. Make sure you understand it.

If you intend to develop a new method, read the section of this manual that deals with method introduction and development.

1.4 Read and sign the risk assessment

If you intend to use an existing lab method there will be a safety document associated with it. You must read and sign the document before starting any lab work. Each protocol will have its own risk assessment form. Those involving chemicals will also have a COSHH (Control Of Substances Hazardous to Health) information sheet.

If the method you intend to use is new to the lab, a full risk assessment must be carried out before the work can begin.

Electronic templates are available to help with this and advice can be sought from the lab team. Further details on risk assessment can be found elsewhere in this manual.

1.5 Booking time and space in the laboratory

The basement lab is used continually during the year and is always very busy. Consequently, each room and piece of equipment must be booked before use. The booking system is fairly flexible and if you happen to turn up on a day when a room is empty and not booked it may be possible for you to use it, but please try to get into the habit of checking first. You can check the availability of the room in question on the laboratory bookings calendar (see below).  For reasons of safety certain rooms can only accommodate one person at a time. You must not start work without booking first. It is essential that the lab team are aware of your presence in the lab and the nature of the work being carried out.

An email address has been set up for the lab – geog.lab (at) . This will automatically go to all lab staff and will allow anyone of us to deal with all lab issues (especially important in the absence of whoever you would normally email individually). We would like this to be used for any lab booking requests that are not made in person. This will allow us to find the most suitable space for your work and also add any items of equipment that you may require (ovens, furnaces, balances etc.) – items that have been easy to forget with the online system.

Bookings will be “viewable” on the lab outlook calendar. You can add this to your calendars by doing the following…


  • Go to Calendars in Outlook
  • Select the folder tab and “open calendar”
  • Search for “~geo” and the calendar ~Geog.LabBookings will appear at the top of the list (don’t forget the “~”)
  • Select this and “OK”.


The lab Bookings calendar will appear as one of your calendars. It is a “read only” calendar so you will not be able to book directly through this, but you will be able to see what is already booked. You may have to open the “daily” view to see all things booked on a particular day, as the boxes are too small to accommodate all items in the lab.

You can either come down to discuss what you want to book or email your lab booking to the geog.lab address and one of us will add you to the calendar and then email back to let you know what has been booked.

Please do not approach other lab users to try to make them change bookings or offer to "give your booking away". Should there be a need to do this, the lab staff will do this on your behalf. It is important that the lab staff are aware of who is going to be using the labs

There is also an email address set up for field equipment requests – geog.field (at) Obviously Ian will deal with most of these requests but if you email Ian and he is on holiday/off sick/on fieldwork, no one else will know about your request. If you email geog.field, we will all know about your request and will be able to help out in Ian’s absence.

If you have booked the lab and find you cannot use the time booked, please let someone know. It can be very frustrating for those that need to use the lab, if you don't turn up.

Browse through the rest of this manual. Find out about the equipment you want to use and the rooms you will be working in. The lab “rules” are here to make the basement a safe and efficient environment to work in. Please be considerate of other lab users and stick to the rules.