Researcher in a lab coat and gloves uses a microscope. The picture has a green tint on the left and a red tint on the right.

Credit score: Tailored from Getty

Like many graduate college students world wide, the COVID-19 pandemic compelled me to remain at residence and analyse information as an alternative of working within the laboratory.

To take a break from the mind-numbing information mining and to remind myself of the great outdated days of lab work, I began to observe some outdated movies of my experimental work, and seen {that a} huge a part of my struggles within the lab was as a result of design of the gear — which didn’t contemplate left-handed scientists like me.

For instance, I work in a lab that research muscle, starting from entire human skeletal muscle mass all the way down to single muscle fibres and their structure and performance. To measure the mechanical properties of particular person fibres, we use a specialised microscope, with a tool that measures pressure on the right-hand aspect and a cumbersome size controller on the left. We stretch or shorten the fibre and watch within the microscope the way it responds.

The positioning of those units is fully based mostly on the idea that the consumer is right-handed. The primary time I wanted to make use of this microscope, it was embarrassingly tough to get the hold of issues, as my dominant, dexterous left hand was caught working the cumbersome controller, whereas my proper needed to do all of the advantageous, cautious work. I needed to alter mentally to accommodate my distinction.

Additionally, every fibre must be hooked up to the machine with little ‘sutures’ that we tie off at every finish. Studying to make these sutures and instructing others learn how to do it’s tough, as a result of I’ve to reverse every thing I might usually do. Not solely was I educated by a right-handed colleague, however I even have to coach different right-handers, inflicting ache and stiffness in my left wrist.

These methods are tough for all new trainees, no matter handedness. However being left-handed created further problems and it took me longer than my right-handed colleagues to grasp the microscope and its attachments. About 15% of persons are left-handed: absolutely that’s a sizeable sufficient minority to think about making adjustments? And absolutely there’s a technological resolution to this drawback?

I perceive that, within the context of the Black Lives Matter motion and with the coronavirus pandemic nonetheless looming giant, there are different minority teams and different points that require extra quick and targeted consideration. It may appear unreasonable to ask corporations to fabricate an entire new set of kit only for left-handed customers, however possibly scientific-equipment producers may merely contemplate swappable parts that each one of us may use?

I’ve not come throughout any dialogue about what number of extra hours a left-handed scientist must be taught the identical methods as a right-handed colleague, however I’m eager to listen to examples of similar challenges confronted by left-handed researchers.

Science is already aggressive, and the challenges that left-handed researchers face are sometimes dismissed. However historical past offers me hope. Regardless of my drawback within the lab, I’ve many function fashions to attract on: Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and Alan Turing have been all left-handed.

That is an article from the Nature Careers Group, a spot for Nature readers to share their skilled experiences and recommendation. Guest posts are encouraged.

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