Why did C&EN put in the resources to follow this case so closely for so long? Because we believed that no one could properly learn from the incident unless they knew the details of what happened. I find it more than a little disturbing that people at UCLA–and apparently even lab safety officers at UCLA–do not know the correct details and try to write off the incident as someone who should have known better making poor choices behind her adviser’s back, alone at midnight on a holiday weekend. That’s not what happened.
And while I’m at it, to those who think Harran was scapegoated for managing his lab the same as most other synthesis labs in the country: The appropriate response here is not to say, “Harran did the same as everyone else, what’s the big deal?” The appropriate response is to say, “Harran did the same as everyone else, and a young researcher DIED. What can we do to ensure that never, ever happens again?”Great questions. Read the whole thing.