The Terrible Lab Partner

By Christine Fossaceca, Class of ’16

When filling out the CATS forms for the General Chemistry Lab, when asked if there is something they would like to change, a frequently given answer is, “My lab partner”.  I am in complete agreement with the majority on this issue.  When you think about it, the way freshman lab partners can be assigned is a little unfair.  Why should my fate be determined merely by the alphabetical order of my last name?  Why can’t we rotate lab partners, or even work alone?  I would like to share the story of my utterly dreadful experience with a person I call, “The Terrible Lab Partner”.

Week 1:

The Terrible Lab Partner:  What are we supposed to do?

Me: (It’s 8:30, I’m not a morning person, after having stayed up late previewing the lab the night before)  Did you preview the lab?

The Terrible Lab Partner:  No, I didn’t have time.

Me:  …..(I’m disgusted and appalled)

Week 2:

I try to split up the lab work, and tell The Terrible Lab Partner exactly what needs to be done.  Just when I think everything is fine, The Terrible Lab partner turns the hot plate all the way up, then walks away, with our mixture on it. The next think I know, the mixture is no longer in the beaker, but has instead exploded all over me.  It’s. In. My. Hair.

Week 3:

We made aspirin.  To be more accurate, I made aspirin, and The Terrible Lab Partner watched.  The Terrible Lab Partner asks me if our compound is edible.  Still bitter from week two, you don’t know how badly I wanted to say yes.

Week 4:

Five minutes before lab starts, The Terrible Lab partner comes up to me and says, “I couldn’t finish the Post-Lab because you didn’t give me the data from the experiment”.  I didn’t realize it was my responsibility to not only complete all the labs by myself, but also to make sure my partner writes down all of my data.  I am no longer just a lab student, I am also a babysitter.  Not to mention that The Terrible Lab Partner had ALL WEEK to ask me for the data in lecture.

After these weeks of utter frustration, I confided in my lecture teacher about my troubles, asking for advice about how to get through the rest of the semester. “Oh, the joys of freshman chemistry,” recounts Dr. Duffy, a current chemistry professor at Villanova who normally teaches at least one section of freshman lab or lecture. “My partner and I had a love-hate relationship”.

I informed him that my partner and I had a hate-hate relationship.  Not that I knew what my partner’s feeling were towards me, but I was one-hundred percent sure that every atom of my being was filled with complete loathing towards this person that I was, unfortunately, doomed to work with for the next eight weeks.

Dr. Duffy says, “Christine, my partner and I didn’t get along that whole semester.  She couldn’t stand me by the end of it.”

“Well, what happened?”  I ask, eager to get at least a speck of assurance that I will get through the semester with The Terrible Lab Partner.

Dr.  Duffy then gets a nostalgic look in his eyes and responds, “She’s my wife.”

My jaw drops, and I begin to consider again my lab partner, and my fate.  Why, why didn’t I just let him eat the aspirin?


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