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Biochemistry laboratory safety in the good old days

by Eva Amsen

My department is celebrating its 100th birthday with a symposium this week. One of the highlights of today’s talks was this snippet on lab safety from Marian Packham, who was a graduate student in the fifties. (In quotations, but I took quick notes so might be off by a few words.)

“Graduate students had to stay overnight to collect fractions from the chromatography column. At that time it was considered unthinkable that a female student should stay late at night, so they put me on a project with radioactive carbon instead.”

She also compiled a book on the history of the department. I bought it, and it’s pretty awesome. It even lists all the students who ever won an award at department poster days, and as a result my name is now mentioned in a book that also mentions Maud Menten, of Michaelis-Menten fame.

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Matt Brown May 30, 2008 - 9:52 AM

Happy birthday, Eva.
I love the insight into graduate life in the fifties. I wonder, has anyone ever put together a book or article about the changing working conditions of bench scientists over the past 100 years? (I mean in general, not just at your institution.)

Richard P. Grant May 30, 2008 - 10:17 AM

Please… do something about that apostrophe.
Thank you.

Eva Amsen May 30, 2008 - 11:36 AM

Which apos-Oooohhhh…. fixed!
That’s what happens when you blog at 3 AM.

Eva Amsen May 30, 2008 - 11:38 AM

Matt, I don’t know, but that sounds like a great idea for a book. I’ve seen several institutional-specific ones, but someone out there must have compiled something.

Richard P. Grant May 30, 2008 - 11:51 AM

*howls of derisive laughter*, -Bruce- Sheila.

Maxine Clarke May 30, 2008 - 12:37 PM

Someone pointed me to “Women in Science”:http://sciencewomen.blogspot.com/ blog last night. At first I thought it was the same outfit that has a Nature Network profile, but now I think not, as the latter calls itself “For Women in Science”:http://network.nature.com/profile/forwomeninscience and seems to be limited to some Canadian research fellowships.
So, to return to the *other* “Women in Science:http://sciencewomen.blogspot.com/, their blog seems to have some fascinating posts, for example the current one about “Jane Richardson”:http://sciencewomen.blogspot.com/2008/05/where-is-she-now-jane-richardson.html, starting out in physics, maths and astronomy, switching to philosophy, then via teaching and plant science, to biological chemistry, and her famous depiction of protein structures as ribbons (among other achievements in protein structure, taxonomy and folding).

Maxine Clarke May 30, 2008 - 12:39 PM

Sorry about the duff link. And I meant to write that J Richardson worked in the 1950s, in case you thought I was going way off topic as well as being incompetent with my linking.

Cath Ennis May 30, 2008 - 6:01 PM

So you “obviously”:http://sandwalk.blogspot.com/2008/05/biochemistrys-100th-birthday-day-2.html work with Larry Moran! I hadn’t quite put two and two together, despite reading both blogs regularly!

Eva Amsen May 30, 2008 - 9:40 PM

We’re in the same UofT department (obviously) but actually in physically different buildings and research areas. It’s big and confusing here.

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