By Josephine Reid
There are both psychological and functional reasons for scientists wearing a lab coat as a uniform scrub. It is important that they keep from damaging or staining their own clothing. Just as many chefs wear an apron to protect their clothes, scientists who are working with and around chemicals that can be harmful or that stain usually wear something to keep from anything happening to their clothes.
Many times a lab coat isn't even enough since it is just a uniform scrub made of cloth. Many scientists also wear an apron, made of material that resists acids, bases, stains, etc. Wearing a lab coat and apron is also in prevention of the contamination of scientists' work or equipment. Scientist Robert Krampf compares this contamination to a chili dog! “Imagine that you have just enjoyed a chili dog for lunch, and are now back to work on the bacterial cultures you have been carefully growing. As you lean over, a bit of chili falls from your shirt into the culture. There goes all your hard work! Putting on a lab coat as you enter the lab helps prevent that by covering up the clothing you wear outside the lab.”
The typical white color this uniform scrub comes in also helps you spot anything you happen to spill while you are in the lab, letting you know it is time for a fresh lab coat. Some scientists wear green lab coats for chemicals that have difficult to spots colors.
While the aesthetic appearance of the white lab coat is recognized by millions around the world, a recent study examined the effects of the lab coat on the wearer’s psychological state. Adam and Galinsky report on the physical effects of wearing a lab coat on the wearer’s cognitive processes, particularly the wearer’s attention to detailed tasks. The lab coat serves many important purposes within the job requirements of a scientist and is a staple in the scientific community.