Wednesday, October 8, 2008

My morning as a lab technician

I helped today with a salsa-canning assignment at Welfare Square (an LDS Church facility in downtown Salt Lake where they prepare food to give to the needy). About 15 people showed up in the morning to help. We all put on our hairnets and gloves and the supervisors started pointing out where each person would be working. Some were put to work weighing ingredients or pouring them into big vats to be mixed. Some sat at the assembly line to check and label the jars. Finally another lady and I were asked to follow one of the supervisors. He took us through a door and we found ourselves in a little science lab. Our job was to test a jar from each batch of salsa, going through a checklist of tests and measurements and documenting everything carefully. What a fun assignment!

Here's what we had to document:
1. Date and time.
2. The lot number (marked on the jar).
3. Weight of the unopened jar.
4. The amount of vacuum inside the sealed jar. There was a neat little device that punctured the top and measured the vacuum on a dial.
5. The head space between the top of the jar and the salsa. Another device fit over the top of the open jar and we swung part of it down to measure the distance to the salsa.
6. "Soluble solids." The supervisor said this basically meant sugars. We processed some salsa in a blender, then put a spoonful into a testing device that gave a readout.
7. The pH. There were probes that we lowered into some of the blended salsa to get this reading.
8. The consistency. We had a metal contraption that was like a ramp with lines marked across it, and at the top of the ramp was a spring-release gate. We filled the space behind the gate with salsa, then released the gate and measured how far the salsa would run down the ramp in 30 seconds.
9. "Defects." This test was just spreading some of the salsa out in the bottom of the sink and looking through it to see if there was anything in it that shouldn't have been. No plastic, cardboard, or mysterious objects were found.
10. Color.
11. Taste. I don't like salsa, but luckily, the other lady did, so she did all the tasting. I told them I will be happy to go back on chocolate-tasting day, though.

Then we rinsed everything off and started again with the next jar.

I wasn't surprised that the kids were jealous when I came home and told them about my morning! Next time I volunteer I'll probably be cleaning floors or something, but this was a great assignment for my first time there, and a good warmup for our chemistry class this afternoon.

1 comment:

Reg said...

You never cease to amaze me! I have a blog now! Come see me! How are you? I love you! Reg