Aldrin Gomes and students in lab
Looking at a piece of nitrocellulose paper that is being used for Western Blotting are (pictured l to r): Tiange Hou, undergraduate researcher; Michael Chang, undergraduate researcher; Dr. Aldrin Gomes, Principal Investigator; Hannah Sander, undergraduate researcher.

Gomes Lab Recognized at Annual Campus Lab Safety Awards

Presented by Safety Services, the awards recognize labs doing their part to “Think Safe. Act Safe. Be Safe.”

Aldrin Gomes, a professor in the Department of Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior, is interested in how commonly used drugs like ibuprofen affect the heart. His lab has helped advance our understanding of how commonly used drugs damage our cells, and has recently been recognized for an exceptional commitment to safety.

Chemical spills present the top safety risk in the Gomes Lab, so the lab is focused on avoiding spills by properly opening, handling (weighing and pouring), and storing chemicals. Students in the Gomes lab are often reminded about the potential dangers that can come from spilling chemicals and what to do if a spill happens. To safely learn how to manage a spill, the Gomes Lab holds trainings using non-fat milk and water to give students practice with both solid and liquid spills.

“It’s important not to rush in the lab because accidents occur when people make hasty movements,” said Gomes. “Cleaning up a spill is one of the most useful means of showing students that spills are no trivial matter, and that they take time and effort to clean up.” As a result of efforts to properly inform and train them, students in his lab are more aware of their movements and take special care to minimize the risk of spills.

A history of safety and pragmatism

Since its founding 13 years ago, the Gomes Lab has focused on building a lab safety culture that is not overly onerous to lab members.

“I formed a lab safety committee and two graduate students are part of this committee with me,” remarked Gomes. “Graduate students readily agree to be on the safety committee because it’s a positive aspect on their CVs.”

Lab meetings are an important opportunity for students in the Gomes Lab to come together and discuss safety, and committee members frequently present best practices in safety and teach lab members that they have a responsibility to follow proper safety measures - both for themselves and their lab mates.

Gomes also spends 1-3 hours every day in the lab, either mentoring students, helping with experiments or writing papers. “This allows me to keep an eye on new students when they start in my lab and reinforce positive training habits,” shared Dr. Gomes. “Together, our efforts help mitigate risks, create a strong safety culture, and boost morale that fosters student learning and personal growth.”

Paying attention to details

  • In the Gomes Lab, a glove selection chart shows students how to select the correct glove for each job (e.g., latex, nitrile, neoprene, vinyl), and there is a supply of five types of gloves so that optimal gloves will be utilized with different reagents.
  • The Gomes Lab discusses laboratory inspections and training records at lab meetings, and identifies solutions, which the lab safety committee can help implement to improve the safety program.
  • There are strict labeling and storage protocols, which are enforced by the laboratory safety committee.

Of the receiving the lab safety award, Gomes said: “I am especially proud of my lab members who diligently follow the safety procedures. I have tried to create a lab culture that is welcoming to all and constantly reinforces the concept of safety. I am very thankful to UC Davis safety services for recognizing our efforts.”

The Safety Services Lab Safety Awards are part of the campus commitment to recognizing labs with a strong safety emphasis who are doing their part to Think Safe. Act Safe. Be Safe. The awards are endorsed by the faculty-led Chemical and Lab Safety Committee.

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