What I do

What I do: Kelly Molinari, lab specialist

Kelly Molinari, lab specialistBruce Cotler A 15-year member of the UFT’s Lab Specialists Chapter, Molinari has been working at Staten Island’s Curtis HS for the past seven years.

Tell me what a typical school day is for you.

I set up one to two labs, either for chemistry, earth science, living environment or physics. The teacher will come to me and say, “I’d like to do a flame-test lab,” or such and such. Between then and the lab day, I’ll get everything together in my prep room.

What does that entail?

I’ll read over the teacher’s lab handout and decide what equipment students will need. That could mean gathering glassware, putting together apparatus, mixing chemicals. On the day of the lab I set it up. I’m also responsible for ordering supplies.

What about safety measures?

I make sure there are goggles and aprons and gloves in their proper place. I open the goggle cabinet so students can take them. They’re trained to get their safety equipment as soon as they come in to sit at the lab tables.

How far back does your interest in science go?

I first learned how to set up a lab just by picking it up from all the lab classes I took in high school! So it goes way back. I have a bachelor’s in biology and a minor in chemistry and microbiology. I became a clinical microbiologist at a hospital and learned a lot of techniques, but the setting just wasn’t for me. I thought maybe I’d go into research. Then I saw an ad for a school lab specialist.

Why did you stay with it? What’s appealing about it?

For one, it’s different every day. For another, the kids! Sometimes I’m in the lab with the teacher, and I have monitors who help me out a bit, like with washing glassware. You do get to know the kids. The honors programs have smaller classes, so I spend more time with those students.

What makes you good at your job?

I’m an organized person. I enjoy the planning aspect.

What’s an untypical day for you, a special day?

We have an international bridge-building competition with the advanced physics students, and I often get to go to the regional. It’s exciting.

What are some tools of your trade?

Beakers, flasks, graduated cylinders for measuring liquids, Bunsen burners, inclined planes for physics, voltmeters for measuring voltage, microscopes and triple-beam balances, which are sensitive scales for weighing chemicals.

That’s a long list. What’s on your wish list?

I don’t think there’s enough emphasis placed on science education, and we should work on expanding it. Once kids are exposed to science, most like it. In school, kids usually don’t get to do things on their own. Science is one of the subjects where they can.

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