Your Guide To Understanding Basic Laboratory Equipment

Lab Life: Your Guide to Understanding Basic Laboratory Equipment

May 9th, 2020   |   Updated on May 14th, 2020

From Elon Musk to Bill Gates, to finding a vaccination for the new coronavirus, interest in careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics is at an all-time high right now.

In fact, projected growth in STEM education is over 4% higher than all non-STEM disciples.

If you are most interested in the science part of STEM, it’s essential to have a basic knowledge of all the items you’ll find in a scientific or medical laboratory.

Keep reading for a guide to the start of your life in the lab.

Basic Laboratory Equipment

Much of what you might remember from high school chemistry class is also used in most labs.

Some science equipment just doesn’t go out of style, and finding used lab equipment is not too difficult. Here’s a rundown of some basics.

1. Beakers


A beaker is essentially what scientists call a container. These lab containers play a role in many primary lab tasks including mixing items together, stirring, heating things up, and getting a rough measurement of volume since there are measurement markers printed on the outside.

They have a lip around the rim, which makes pouring easier, but prevents a solid lid from fitting on the top.

2. Test Tubes

Test tubes are small, glass tubes used to hold or mix small samples in a lab.

They are best used in situations that require many small samples and are often stored together in a rack designed especially for them.

Unlike a beaker, they have a top that easily allows for a stopper to be used to seal off the sample. The stopper can be made of glass or rubber.

3. Graduated Cylinders

These special containers are the primary method for measuring liquids. They’re generally narrower than a beaker and provide much more accurate measurement of volume.

The smaller the diameter, in fact, the more accurate the cylinder will be.

4. Droppers


These small tubes are made of glass and have a bulb on one end. They’re used to take up a sample of liquid and move it somewhere else. An eyedropper is a common type of dropper you may have around your house.

5. Bunsen Burner

This lab classic is the go-to way to heat something up for an experiment. They’re small, reliable gas burners that produce a single flame.

Not a whole lot has changed with these since they were invented in the 1880s. Just attach the unit to a proper gas line and you’re good to go.

6. Ring Stands

Ring stands are used to suspend other equipment, such as beakers or other containers, in the air for experiments that require it. Sometimes, they are even used to hold up a bunsen burner.

The key here is to make sure whatever you’re suspending in the air is tight–but not too tight to break the glass of the container!

Getting Started

Uses Of A Laboratory Microscope

If you would like to start your own laboratory or want to get a head start on your studies, the above items are a good place to start.

Find some equipment, build your experiment, and get a jump on your own STEM career!

Check back here for more great STEM articles and more!


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