September 19, 2022 | By: Jordan Strickler
Lexington, Ky.

Lab safety training may seem like a dull topic but a collaborative team within the University of Kentucky’s College of Agriculture, Food and Environment’s Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering found a way to create and share entertaining and useful safety training videos.  

Stephanie Kesner, research facility manager, Barry Farmer, engineer associate, and Karin Pekarchik, senior extension associate, produce Lab Blab, a weekly series of 60-second videos that break down information into useable chunks supporting and expanding the information contained in the UK lab safety manual 

In early 2021, Kesner, a new CAFE research facility manager, found it difficult to assist students with their research in the middle of the pandemic. UK’s COVID-19 protocols at the time limited student and staff access to research labs on campus. 

“In lab situations, you try to have a one-on-one hands-on atmosphere with the students,” Kesner said. “However, circumstances made this quite difficult, so I just started making these training videos that I was able to provide for students who requested them. Around the same time, Karin started coming to the labs each week to shoot video for social media.”  

The new videos blossomed into the series now dubbed Lab Blab. To help expand the series further, Pekarchik and Kesner brought Farmer onto the team. 

“We brainstormed how to make training videos because the pandemic really highlighted the fact that a lot of us in the scientific community could do a lot better sharing resources and working together,” Farmer said. “I don’t know why that really hasn’t happened until now, but UK has a lot of amazing resources and I think the scientific community can benefit from them.” 

Pekarchik says in addition to teaching lab safety, she finds the video series a great recruiting tool for the department.  

“Lab Blab allows us to show prospective students who don’t know anything about BAE what our labs are like,” Pekarchik said. Offering up engaging lab training shows them the skills they can obtain and the labs they’ll have the opportunity to work in. It has been a joy to assemble a creative team and work productively with Barry and Stephanie on these shared goals. 

Kesner says there is no shortage of lab topics to cover and she enjoys hosting the series because it gives life and entertainment to subjects that many might find dull. 

“A lot of people might want to ignore safety precautions just because the training videos can be painfully boring. That’s why we try and make these short and sweet and a little more entertaining,” Kesner said. If we’re able to share these videos throughout the university and beyond, we can better train students and others to prepare them for working in a lab. The material is something that can be shared and used far beyond the scope of the Department of Biosystems and Agriculture Engineering. Lab Blab isn’t just about the content, but about sharing it with the people that need it.” 

To watch Lab Blab, along with other BAE productions, visit https://www.youtube.com/user/BAEuk/featured or any of BAE’s social media channels @ukbiosystemsagengineering on Facebook and Instagram and @uk_bae on Twitter. 

Contact: 

Karin Pekarchik, karin.pekarchik@uky.edu 

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