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University of Houston: Teamwork makes the dream work when it comes to lab safety

Lab collaboration can help maintain lab safety, these researchers found. Graphic byMiguel Tovar/University of Houston

Getting along with colleagues and forming connections actually helps create a culture of lab safety.

For the most part, we all know how important it is to adhere to universal lab safety rules such as wearing closed-toe shoes or properly labeling all chemicals. Oftentimes, we forget about the human relations side of the safety equation. Cultivating positive working relationships with colleagues is as important (maybe even more so) as learning the “technical” safety rules of a lab. In this edition of the Big Bang, I will discuss the role of interpersonal relationship within the culture of safety.

During my exploration of this topic, I did not specifically find literature that directly links positive interpersonal relationships and lab safety. However, I spoke with a few UH scientists about this topic and I read articles about how to create a positive work environment in the lab in which a common theme arose – communication.

Moreover, the safest labs are operated by people who communicate well and have strong interpersonal relationships. Dr. Colin N. Haile, director of operations at the University of Houston Animal Behavior Core Facility agrees. He runs a complex lab where proper lab safety is vital to the care of the researchers and animals.

“Teamwork and healthy working relationships are extremely important to ensure our work is performed safely and of the best quality,” Dr. Haile said. “When colleagues respect and establish open communication, they are more compelled to help one another adhere to safety protocols.”

Getting along with others is easy, right?

Getting along with others is not easy. We all have diverse backgrounds, life experiences, points of view and expertise. Consequently, the occasional clash with a colleague is not always avoidable.

Frequent showdowns cause disruptions in team morale, productivity and could be a catalyst for an unsafe science lab. In addition to cultivating open communication, there are a few other ways to maintain positive relationships in the lab that contribute to a culture of safety.

Tips for developing and maintaining positive working relationships in your science lab

  • Communication is king & clarity and concision is queen – Communicate exactly what you want and need in a clear, concise manner, especially if there’s a safety issue to address. Also, try to give your email a break – talk to you colleagues face-to-face. This may avoid miscommunication and builds a personal rapport and camaraderie with your teammate.
  • Be nice and respect others – This one is obvious, but important to mention. Stronger bonds and trust is created when you are friendly to colleagues…Hey, you can even take things a step further and show an interest in a co-worker’s family or hobbies outside of the lab. Again, building personal rapport instills trust amongst the group which contributes to safer work environments
  • Keep an open mind and consider diverse points of view – As mentioned earlier, our world is colorful and diverse. That’s what makes humans unique and interesting. Everyone comes from different walks of life and bring unique points of view to their place of business. Preserving superior interpersonal relationships requires colleagues to listen, understand and exhibit compassion towards each other’s points of view. When people are heard, they feel appreciated and possess the motivation to help keep their work space functional and safe.

Strong team = Safer labs and maybe a few cool, new science discoveries

Of course, I’m not suggesting 24-hour Kumbaya in the lab, but the concept of getting along is certainly one that encourages lab safety. Strong teams discover the greatest breakthroughs and are safer in the lab because trust, open communication and respect are established. Well, that’s it for this edition of the Big Bang. Until next time…Be well and stay safe!

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This article originally appeared on the University of Houston's The Big Idea. Ciandra Jackson, the author of this piece, is the communications manager for the UH Division of Research.

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Building Houston

 
 

The latest cohort from gBETA Houston has been announced and is currently underway at the Downtown Launchpad. Photo courtesy

A national startup accelerator has announced its fifth local cohort, which includes five Houston companies participating in the spring 2022 class.

Madison, Wisconsin-based gener8tor has announced today the five participating startups in gBETA Houston. The program will be led by Muriel Foster, the newly named director of gBETA Houston, which originally launched in Houston in 2020 thanks to a grant from from the Downtown Redevelopment Authority.

The program, which is designed to help guide early-stage startups find early customer traction, connect with mentors, and more, is based in the Downtown Launchpad, and is free and does not take equity in the participating companies. The cohort kicked off on April 21 and concludes on June 10.

The new cohort includes:

  • Founded by CEO Steffie Thomson a year ago, Getaway Sticks has designed a shoe that gives women the painless support they need using athletic foam to create a shoe that gives women the painless support they need. Getaway Sticks provides the solutions to women’s #1 wardrobe complaint of high heel pain. Since launch, the company has earned over $35,000 in revenue from over 150 customers.
  • Through a combination of software and hardware technology, LocBox is rethinking the shopping experience for online and local purchases. If you shop, ship, or have food delivered to your house, LocBox will make your life easier. Led by CEO Sterling Sansing, LocBox has previously participated in the Texas A&M MBA Venture Challenge.
  • SpeakHaus is focused on equipping young professionals and entrepreneurs with public speaking skills through its on-demand training platform and group coaching program. Since launching in October 2021, SpeakHaus has facilitated 6 corporate trainings and coached 61 business leaders generating over $49,000 in revenue. The company is led by CEO Christa Clarke.
  • Led by CEO LaGina Harris, The Us Space is creating spaces intentionally for women of color, women-led businesses, and women-centric organizations. Since launching in June 2021, The Us Space has created partnerships with more than a dozen community organizations, sustainable businesses, and organizations creating positive economic impact in the City of Houston.
  • Founded in August 2021, Urban Eatz Delivery is a food delivery service app that caters to the overlooked and underrepresented restaurants, food trucks, and home-based food vendors. Urban Eatz Delivery has earned over $88,000 in revenue, delivered to over 2,000 users, and worked with 36 restaurant and food vendors on the app. The company is led by CEO D’Andre Good.

“The five companies selected for the Spring 2022 cohort tackle unique problems that have propelled them to create a business that solves the issues they once faced," Foster says in a news release. "From public speaking, apparel comfort, and food delivery from underrepresented restaurant owners, these founders have found their niche and are ready to continue to make an enormous impact on the Houston ecosystem."

it's Foster's first cohort at the helm of the program. A Houston native, she has her master’s in public administration from Texas Southern University and a bachelor’s in marketing from Oklahoma State University. Her background includes work in the nonprofit sector and international business consulting in Cape Town, South Africa, and she's worked within programming at organizations such as MassChallenge, BLCK VC, and now gener8tor.

The program is housed at the Downtown Launchpad. The five startups will have access to the space to meet with mentors, attend events, and run their companies.

"Creating (the hub) was a little like a moonshot, but it’s paying off and contributing enormous impact to the city’s economy. The five startups selected for the gBETA Houston Spring cohort will continue that legacy,” says Robert Pieroni, director of economic development at Central Houston Inc., in the release. “As these entrepreneurs chase their dreams and create something epic, they will know Downtown Houston is standing behind them. I am so proud of what Downtown Launchpad is already, and what it will become.”

Muriel Foster, a native Houstonian, is the new director of gBETA Houston. Image via LinkedIn

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