I Made My Own Lab Stool: The Plight of the Short Chemistry Major

Last year, I wrote about the struggles that plague the short population at Kenyon. I complained a lot about how inconvenient being short can be, and I noted multiple problems that I had faced at Kenyon because of my height. One issue that I didn’t mention, though, has been one of the most frustrating height-based challenges that I’ve had to deal with: working in a chemistry lab.

As a chemistry major, I spend a lot of time in the lab. Whether it be for a class or research, I spend a good eight hours in the lab each week. For the most part, my transition to research has been quite pleasant, but after performing my first reaction, I ran into a big problem. I wasn’t tall enough to reach things. Not only was I incapable of grabbing the glassware from the top shelf, but I also couldn’t safely obtain chemicals that were stored above my head. And, even more disappointing than that, I wasn’t tall enough to perform a column, which was required in order to obtain a pure product. Without a column, all of the work that I had done would culminate to nothing. I ran into these issues in the lab during my freshman year, but it wasn’t until I began doing research that I realized that standing on chairs wasn’t going to work for me long-term.

One afternoon, as I was trying and struggling to reach the top of my column, my professor decided that it was time to make me a step stool. So, we found an old, dusty, beaten up pallet,  screwed in a piece of plywood that had been lying around, and voila! I had a stool, and I could finally reach things. Although the stool served its purpose valiantly, it definitely wasn’t very pretty to look at. Since I have a background in construction, I decided to go about creating a new stool. Over winter break I obtained the wood that I needed for my project, and I began assembling. The actually assembly was not very difficult. I love using power tools, so having the opportunity to cut the wood with my circular saw and screw everything together with a drill was exhilarating. Once the body was finished, my dad helped me figure out how to engrave my name into the top of the stool, and then I proceeded to sand the entire thing for what felt like ages. My engraving skills are admittedly subpar, but I think that my little mistakes give my stool a lot of character. I added some stain to finish off the stool, and once it was dry, I had a fully functional step stool that was ready to help me tackle the lab.

When I first brought the stool into the lab after break, I told literally everyone about it. I was so excited and proud of this object that I had made, and it felt so good to throw out the old, shabby stool, and replace it with my beautiful new one. Since we’ve only been back for a couple of weeks, my stool hasn’t gotten a ton of use yet, but anytime I need it, whether it be to reach something or to run a reaction, it’s always handy. Being a short girl in a regular-sized person’s world is much more challenging than expected, but with a little bit of elbow grease and a lot of hard work, I’ve knocked another problem off the list.

Image credits: Jenna Bouquot