An informal survey of 1,000 chemists and life scientists showed that most don’t like their lab coats: not enough pockets, no choice of colors, uncomfortable, open cuffs, and most importantly, a poor fit. Genius Lab Gear survey respondents were unhappy with the sleeve length of their coats, with the shoulders too broad or too narrow, and the overall shape too boxy to fit anyone who isn’t a perfect top hat. The company is currently working to address these complaints with its lab coat, which will likely be available for purchase in August 2023.
The project was born out of the frustration of Genius Lab Gear founder Derek Miller with his lab coat. The former materials scientist recalls that the coat pockets were too large to safely hold a phone or tweezers, the sleeves were wide enough to drop the glassware, and the collar was too low to feel protected from splashes. It recently published a survey on social media which responded to around 1,000 undergraduate students, PhD students and postdoctoral researchers, technicians and research assistants working primarily in the field of chemistry or biology.
“People were really excited [the topic]”Says Miller. “I was unprepared for how emotional people dealt with the problem. [It] looks at mental health, self-esteem, doesn’t feel safe, doesn’t feel well, doesn’t even want to go to the lab because he has to wear [this lab coat] and it’s just uncomfortable for them all day.
The results showed that 96% of women and 87% of men had problems with the fit of their coats, with shorter women having a harder time finding a lab coat that fits well. Although Miller’s complaints were mostly about functionality, he was surprised at how many people found the coat to be large, a particular problem for people with hips wider than the shoulders. Since lab coats are cut for a cylinder-shaped “medium” body, they should choose a size that fits the hips, letting the upper body swim in the fabric.
Although some smaller brands offer more suitable lab coats, Miller notes that they are generally very expensive and aimed at doctors rather than scientists working in wet labs. They are not made of flame retardant material, have wide cuffs, and their open collar offers little protection for the upper chest and neck.
Genius Lab Gear hopes to solve all of these problems. They will start by offering a “mens” coat with more shoulder space and a more flared “woman” cut at the hips. The gown will feature an internal waistband, knitted cuffs, a pleat at the back and a collar that can be worn either low or buttoned up to the neckline. Miller’s prototype also features a plethora of pockets and loops, including interior pockets, left and right chest pockets for tools, lower and rear slant pockets so items don’t get in the way when seated, a dropper loop on the hip and a zippered side slit that won’t get caught in door handles.
The 100% cotton coat will likely be available by August 2023 and will cost no more than $ 50 (£ 44). While Genius Lab Gear sells directly to individuals, Miller hopes to secure wholesale contracts eventually, since most researchers get their coats through their own institute. Over time, Miller wants to create coats for different specialties, such as life scientists working with biological materials, in multiple colors and different fits, including a maternity coat.
Tighter coats will not only make people more likely to wear these crucial protective clothing, says Miller, but they can also make lab work a little more enjoyable. “It’s not like an awkward lab coat is going to throw someone out of science altogether. But there are so many of these little frustrations, these little pain points happening along the way, I think maybe that’s the straw that breaks the camel’s back.