Saturday, May 2, 2009

You did a dumb, dumb thing.

UPDATE: I have apologized for some of the language in this post. It was wrong.

Kim Christensen of the Los Angeles Times is continuing to cover the Sheri Sangji story; for that, he is to be commended. His latest report is drawn from e-mails that he recovered through the California Public Records Act; both Patrick Harran's and other UCLA officials' e-mails are included.
However, Mr. Christensen has either been poorly edited or is a bit out of his element towards the end of his article, where he exposes the casual indifference to safety from a typical grad student:
A week before Sangji's injury, a graduate student in another lab suffered cuts and burns to his face and neck when an experiment went awry, another accident report stated.

The unidentified student, who was treated at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center's emergency room, told a university investigator that the explosion caused "glass, hot oil and chemical to fly toward my face, torso" and the surrounding area.

"When the incident occurred, I had my prescription glasses on, but not lab coat, gloves or safety glasses/goggles," he said, adding that he had been trained in safety measures.

"I had safety training from my previous university," he said, "but not from UCLA after I transferred here in 2007."
As I've mentioned before, Mr. Christensen is obviously not one "skilled in the art" of chemistry. But really, are we to believe that the reason that homeboy was standing in front of his hood without his lab coat, gloves or safety goggles was that he had forgotten his safety training and needed to be reminded by UCLA? Mr. Christensen, this (of all things) does not need a reminder from the employing institution.

Safety glasses or goggles (not prescription glasses, all you idiot foreign postdocs with your Coke-bottle glasses sans side shields) are required of sophomore organic chemistry students, much less graduate students.**

Consider this post a note to all observers, in chemistry and out: wear your safety glasses!

Look, no less an eminence than Nobel Prize winner K. Barry Sharpless has written a plea (almost 17 years ago!) that "there's simply never an adequate excuse for not wearing safety glasses in the laboratory at all times." And it took him losing a freakin' eye to learn that lesson.


*In the off chance that the unknown UCLA graduate student actually reads this blog post, a small note: We've all done unwise things in the lab. Sounds like you recovered -- best of luck with your future career in chemistry and I'm sure that you'll be a safer chemist and a good influence to the folks around you.

**UPDATE (3/5/13): I have apologized for some of the language in this post. It was wrong. 


  1. Of all the stupid things people were quoted as saying in that article, I think you focused on the least stupid one.

  2. Ah, yes, but someone had to choke on this particular gnat -- and it was me!


looks like Blogger doesn't work with anonymous comments from Chrome browsers at the moment - works in Microsoft Edge, or from Chrome with a Blogger account - sorry! CJ 3/21/20