A group of University of Chicago student researchers has launched a new initiative as part of an effort to build a stronger culture of safety in university research labs.

The Joint Research Safety Initiative (JRSI) was formed after a visit to DowDuPont, where the students learned from safety experts at the world’s largest chemical company. The trip provided students and staff with exposure to the company’s safety processes and culture and the tools necessary to adapt important aspects of industrial safety practices into academic laboratory settings.

“Conducting research safely is a critical component of the University’s academic research mission,” said Ka Yee Lee, Vice Provost for Research at the University of Chicago. “Working safely requires not only compliance and training but, just as importantly, a strong commitment by faculty principal investigators and all laboratory personnel to follow best safety practices in all aspects of their work. I am thrilled to see the strong interest and engagement by these young researchers.”

The JRSI, which is composed of graduate students, postdoctoral trainees and research assistants in the University of Chicago Department of Chemistry and Institute for Molecular Engineering, will work to promote best safety practices and provide safety resources to their research community.

“Our long-term goal is to achieve lasting change in conventional chemical practices and attitudes toward safety,” said Jeff Ting, a postdoc in the University’s IME who helped to found JRSI. “We look forward to establishing safety initiatives that help address the safety needs of the University of Chicago researcher community from within the laboratories.”

Last spring, the JRSI organized a symposium for students, faculty and researchers, who heard from speakers with perspectives from academic institutions, national laboratories, and industry about their safety experiences, and featured a poster session with relevant safety publications and lessons learned. The organization plans to host events again this academic year, and to provide clear, consistent educational tools, training and resources throughout the year.

The JRSI launch complements a number of laboratory safety initiatives completed by the Office of Research Safety last year, including implementation of a new central safety data management system, EHSA, as well as a companion accident and incident reporting system named UCAIR.

The current JRSI leaders in the 2018-19 academic year include Ryan Menssen, president; Jeff Ting, vice president; and Sarah Zinn, James Lettow, Ben Slaw, Jon Keim, and Laura Pulido. Feel free to contact the JRSI by email at jrsi@uchicago.edu or via Twitter at @UChicago_JRSI.

Pictured above, L to R: Jonathan Keim, chemistry; Kimberly Mormann, PSD/IME Lab Safety Specialist; Britt Fossum, chemistry; Laura Pulido, IME; Ryan Menssen, chemistry; Ben Slaw, chemistry; Qiong Wu, IME; Jeff Ting, IME; and James Lettow, IME.