Sunday, June 26, 2016

Weekend mediumreads: Caltech's glassblower is retiring

Credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times
Interesting article in the Los Angeles Times (by Rosanna Xia) about Rick Gerhart, who is retiring at 71 after years of working as Caltech's chemistry department glassblower.

(There's a lot of shortage talk in the article, re: scientific glassblowers. In this sense, I am skeptical that there is strong demand for departmental glassblowers.) 

13 comments:

  1. In the past 3 years of job searching, I've only seen a glass blower position once. If there's a shortage in academic glassblowing, it's only because they're not hiring glass blowers.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'd give my left nut when I needed a good glassblower. Just not enough demand for a finely honed skill day to day.

    ReplyDelete
  3. His retirement can hardly come as a surprise - people should instead be asking why Caltech didn't take on an apprentice some years ago.

    ReplyDelete
  4. They used to teach scientific glassblowing to chem majors at my undergrad alma mater many years ago. I don't know if this was a common practice in the old days, or if my school was an outlier. The glassblowing lessons went away in the 1960s or 70s because too many kids burned themselves.

    ReplyDelete
  5. They still teach some glassblowing at Wisconsin, and Wisconsin has very nice custom Schlenk lines because of their glassblower. Don't know what they'll do when he's gone. His brother is also a glassblower at Dow Chemical, and there doesn't seem to be a succession plan for either of them. I've been lucky to work with both, and when I need them they are irreplaceable.

    ReplyDelete
  6. We have a great glassblower at Iowa State University. He has been featured many times in the Univ. newspaper and was an incredible resource when I needed strange equipment for strange experiments. A hidden treasure is an understatement. A vital and veritable force for the chemistry department is more like it.
    http://www.iowastatedaily.com/article_17084fe5-ff1a-5dfe-af15-dfc5e51afd59.html
    http://www.inside.iastate.edu/article/2016/06/23/forre

    ReplyDelete
  7. I considered changing careers into scientific glassblowing 8-10 yrs ago. However, only programs are in NJ, there's an arduous apprenticeship process and there's no guarantee you'll have 'the touch' to become a master. fascinating, but too risky....

    ReplyDelete
  8. Daryl at Yale teaches a scientific glassblowing class. He's also a phenomenal glassblower.
    Rick will definitely be missed.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Prognosis of things to come if you are a medicinal/organic chemist. Or, we are there already!

    ReplyDelete
  10. As a Ph.D chemist, glass blowing is vital to my pot habit.

    ReplyDelete
  11. There must be dozens of glassblowers working in the "tobacco smoking utensil" business. If you've ever popped into a smoke shop you will be floored by the skill involved in making them. I wonder if any would consider taking up a position in a university?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have seen university glassblowers moving from technical glass to bongs specifically because of a better pay and easier job (a bong does not have to be perfectly accurate). Like with teachers, everybody seems to appreciates their tremendous contributions but no-one believes they deserve 40$ an hour... Academia is notoriously cheap.

      Delete