Undergraduate Laboratory Handbook: General Rules and Regulations

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Some Terminology

Every laboratory module has associated with it one or more Academic Supervisors . These are members of academic staff (lecturers etc.) who are responsible for designing the exercises to be carried out, and monitoring the overall execution and assessment of laboratory work. Typically (though not necessarily) an Academic Supervisor for any given laboratory module is also responsible for delivering the related lecture module.

An academic supervisor will typically be present in the lab at some stage during each session, but will not generally be available for the complete session.

Demonstrators are staff assigned to monitor and assist students during their laboratory sessions, and to deal with basic administration. They are typically post-graduate students. If your have any problems or queries during a laboratory session you should direct them, in the first instance, to a demonstrator. However: the demonstrators are not there to do the exercises for you! Laboratory work, at this level, is not a question of watching someone else do something, but requires you to actively participate.

Technicians are technical staff responsible for maintaining the equipment used in the lab. If you believe any equipment to be faulty, you should inform one of the technicians and/or one of the demonstrators.

For each lab module you are typically required to buy a lab manual, available through the campus bookshop. This gives background theory and procedural instructions etc. for each exercise.

Each student must maintain a logbook for each laboratory module, recording their individual work and results for each exercise. The logbook is the primary record of the student's work, and is used for the assessment of the module.

For most lab modules you will be assigned to a lab group . Each group typically consists of three or four students, who are required to complete each exercise as a team. The detailed organisation of work within a group should be agreed by the group members themselves. Every student is required to be familiar with all aspects of each exercise, to participate actively in carrying it out, and to maintain her or her own individual logbook. Any disagreements over the organisation of group work should be referred to a demonstrator.

Groups are normally assigned on a simple alphabetic basis. However, there is generally no difficulty in changing these assignments; so if, for any reason, you would prefer to be assigned to a different group, then you should discuss this with the relevant academic supervisor. If possible, this should be done before the module starts.


The lab manual will generally provide background material on each assignment, including theory, procedural instructions, and possibly also some theoretical exercises.

It is essential that you study the lab manual, in detail, in advance of each exercise.

This point cannot be stressed to much. You will spend a significant amount of your time in laboratory sessions; if you have not prepared effectively for this sessions in advance, this time will be wasted . Indeed, not only will the lab sessions be a waste of time, but they will be just plain boring.

A further difficulty here is that it is often difficult or impossible to synchronise material covered in lectures with laboratory sessions--so that you will frequently be required to do exercises in the lab on topics which have not yet been covered in lectures. This arises from the fact that groups may be assigned a variety of different exercises in any given week (to work within the constraints of the equipment available); thus any given exercise will be done at different times by different groups, and it is impossible for all lecture material to be covered before any lab exercises are scheduled. Again, the moral is to study the lab manual beforehand.

In doing this preparation, you will generally find some significant difficulty in understanding all the details of the information given in the lab manual. This is to be expected. You should, of course, persevere to some extent, consulting textbooks and discussing the material with fellow students etc. However, you are still likely to have outstanding questions when you go in to a lab session. That is good. The more clear and explicit you can be, at the start of a session, as to what questions you have about it, then the more likely that you will complete it successfully--in the sense of improving your understanding of the topics covered by the exercise. Whereas, if you have no clear idea as to what questions you are trying to answer, the exercise will be essentially meaningless to you.

Punctuality & Attendance

Students are required to attend all scheduled laboratory sessions. If there is some valid reason why you cannot attend a particular session, then you should contact the relevant demonstrator (in advance, where possible), providing any appropriate documentary evidence (medical certificate etc.). You may then be rescheduled to complete the exercise at another time (usually outside the normal laboratory times). It is entirelyyour responsibility to contact the demonstrator in such circumstances, and to then complete the re-scheduled exercise. Neither the demonstrators not the academic supervisors are responsible for contacting you to query why you have missed a session; but missing even a single session without explanation will normally mean that you will be deemed to have failed the entire laboratory module--meaning, in turn that you will be required either to repeat the year, or to withdraw from the programme entirely.

You are required to be present at the appointed start time for each laboratory session. Leeway of a few minutes is normally allowed, but this must not be abused. Arriving significantly late (certainly by any more than five minutes) disrupts, disturbs and delays demonstrators and other students. Demonstrators are required to report such incidents to the academic supervisor concerned.

In general, you must attend for the complete duration of the scheduled session. However, where a session is relatively long, then students may be allowed to take a break. Such a break should be no longer than approximately 10 minutes, and should be at a specified time, indicated by the demonstrator; if in any doubt, ask the demonstrator. If this facility is abused (for example, by students' consistently returning late) the demonstrator must report this to the academic supervisor--who may then withdraw it for some or all students. Students leaving a session, otherthan for such a scheduled break, are required to seek permission from the demonstrator.

If you have completed all the assigned work for a particular session, then you may be allowed to leave early, but only after the demonstrator has specifically confirmed that your work is satisfactory.

Coats & Bags

On no account should coats, bags, ring-binders, etc., be placed on lab benches or in passageways. They take up premium space and can be a hazard to safety. Where at all possible they should be left outside of the lab, in lockers etc.

Kits & Implements

Arrive prepared with your lead kits, tools, pens, pencils, scales and calculator. (See also Kits and Tools)

Equipment Care

Treat the equipment with care and respect, and use only for the purpose intended. Never (for example) use the mains lead or the signal leads to lift, pull or disconnect any equipment.

Faulty Equipment

The technicians can and will provide some assistance as back-up to the demonstrators but their primary role in the labs is looking after the equipment--laying it out beforehand, care and maintenance. In this regard your cooperation is always required to report faulty equipment to them. You will not be held responsible for equipment failure . It saves considerable time and frustration for fellow students if you comply with this basic request. Students must not attempt to repair equipment themselves.

Tidiness & Organisation

Cultivate professional habits. Where appropriate, disconnect equipment and return it to its proper place after each exercise.


The assignments of students to groups, and the schedule showing when each group is to carry out each exercise, will be posted on the relevant class noticeboard. Any alterations, or additional information will be also be posted here. It is your responsibility to check this board regularly.

General Safety

During laboratory sessions you will be under the guidance of the demonstrators and it is most important that you follow their directions carefully. However, laboratories do contain equipment which can be dangerous if appropriate procedures are not observed, and the demonstrators cannot monitor all of your actions. Thus, for your own safety, and that of your fellow students, it is essential that you proceed carefully at all times.

Before using any equipment, particularly if it is new to you, make sure that you know how to switch it off quickly if necessary and, either by reading the manual or by taking instructions, know how to use it properly. Each bench in the lab is normally equipped with a a main push-button isolator which can shut off all electrical supply to the bench. Make sure you know where these are located and how to operate them.

Never work alone in a laboratory.

If you have any doubt about the safety of any procedure, consult the demonstrator beforehand.


Familiarise yourself with all exits (especially emergency exits, where relevant). Read the Fire Precaution notices on the noticeboards and obey all fire warnings. Note the position of the fire extinguishers. In the event of the fire alarm being sounded, you must evacuate the building without delay.


If you suffer from any disability which might affect safety in the laboratory, you must personally ensure that academic supervisor(s) and demonstrator(s) are fully informed.

Bench Enclosures

Enclosures located on the benches conceal points at lethal voltages and equipment that may become hot. It is most important to keep ventilation openings clear and not to bring conducting materials, such as pins, clips or fluids, near to them.

Working with Dangerous Voltages

You should work on equipment with exposed parts at dangerous voltages only under the direction of a demonstrator, and then only when absolutely necessary. In such circumstances you should exercise additional caution, including, for example, keeping one hand in a pocket at all times--this precludes accidentally resting this hand on an earthed chassis with a risk of maximum shock should the other hand become live. Do not wear loose jewellery in the lab.

If you suspect that a person may have received an electrical shock it is crucial to isolate (disconnect) the relevant circuit before attempting to touch them.

In Summary

The safety and productivity of laboratory work depends on the behaviour of all students. It is impossible to make rules for every eventuality; but you should display common sense, exercise care, and conduct yourself in a responsible manner at all times in the lab.

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