If there’s one course I would urge all HSS and SDSB students to take as an out-group, it’s Chemistry Lab. There’s a long list of reasons why Chem 100 is undoubtedly the most fun course offered at LUMS.
It all begins with the lab coat. No lab coat logically implies a mark deduction. Ideally, students would be provided with them. Instead, you’re told to find one on your own, perhaps from some obscure market or hospital in Lahore. Every week, you have to deal with the stress of worrying about who you’re going to ask for their lab coat. Even if the stars are aligned and you manage to get your hands on one, you have no choice but to live with it if it’s too small. Half sleeves are in vogue.
Lab starts at 2:00. That’s perfect because Bio ends at 1:15. So you run out of B3 and into a rush-hour, jam-packed PDC. Grab a tray and get in line.
By the time you’ve paid, and gotten dirty looks for not having change, it’s lab-time. Throw your food away or wolf it down. For the first forty five minutes, you sit on the hard floor like a prison inmate and listen to sir tell you how everything you’ve ever been told about significant figures was a lie. You’re going to be grilled about this in a viva later, so listen up.
The next two and a half hours will be the hardest of your life. You’re going to be performing a completely pointless experiment. Your feet will ache. Your hands will burn as they react with the insides of disgusting latex gloves. But swallow your pride and welcome the pain, because if you sit down, you lose marks. Lift up your fish-eye goggles to remind yourself what the world actually looks like, and you lose marks. Fail to be discreet when dumping chemicals in the sink, and you lose marks. (See also: ‘Naala outside LUMS’)
Don’t panic, because the lab experience is made magical by the presence of the TA’s. Undoubtedly regretting their foolish decision to become Chemistry majors, their disdain for life in general is plain to see. They glare at you for asking questions, and prowl around the lab, sniffing out more mark-deducting opportunities.
Slowly and steadily over the course of the afternoon, Lab Day builds up like a crescendo- but more Hello Zepp than Nessun Dorma. Everything, everything leads up to the lab report. The big finish. The coup de grace. The final stretch that separates the men from the boys. Though mind and body cry out for respite after the day’s ordeal, you must grit your teeth and repress those suicidal thoughts because you only have a few hours. The chemistry department apparently doesn’t know about the technological developments of the last hundred years, so you forage for a pencil and ruler and get to work. This handwritten report is going to be your life’s greatest achievement, your magnum opus. Tales will be told about this lab report, songs sung in your honour.
Hours later, you rub your eyes. It’s four in the morning (Cue G. Stefani). You’re too tired to admire those perfect tables and flawless curves. Finally giving in, you collapse on your bed. The last thoughts that enter your head are troubling ones: first, you realise that for all your effort the TA’s will never give you more than a 26/30. 27 would be nothing short of a miracle. The second one is more unsettling. You realise that you just put in 7 and a half hours of blood, sweat and tears – for a 1 credit hour course. It is with this thought that you let out a loud sob and rock yourself to sleep. In a few hours, you’ll not feel better as you trudge along to your 9 am class. But you can look forward to next week, when you get to do it all over again.
Chem 100 is your quintessential SSE course. I urge all my friends from the other schools: choose it as an out-group. Be adventurous. Take up a challenge. Push the boundaries of human endeavour.