Post Tagged with: "UCLA"

UCLA Chemistry Stabbing

Apologies for breaking into Noel’s n-doped semiconductor post.

Breaking news out of UCLA. A male student allegedly stabbed a female approximately 3 times in an organic chemistry lab class. At least one time critically in the neck. This took place on the 6th floor in the chemistry department’s Young Hall. The suspect voluntarily turned himself in to police. Authorities have identified the suspect as Damon D. Thompson.[LATimes]

The organic lab this took place in was Chem 30CL; which is Dr. Alfred D. Bacher’s class on modern techniques in synthetic organic chemistry. The off-series nature of the class and the advanced topic would lead to a heavily populated class of advanced undergraduates, which correlates with earlier reports that they were seniors.

Detective Mike Pelletier said they were not romantically involved.[AP] Indications are they were lab partners or have worked in groups in the past. Damon Thompson is being held on 1,000,000.00 dollar bail.[ChemistryBlog]

Update 1: The following is from ABC News reporter Miriam Hernandez. Link: UCLA student stabbed in neck at lab

UCLA police responded to a call of stabbing in a lab room in Young Hall at about 12:20 p.m. The victim suffered multiple stab wounds, including one to the neck, and was transported to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.

LAPD investigators and campus police officers were interviewing scores of students, people who may have witnessed the incident.

Two hours after the stabbing, campus police and LAPD investigators were in and out of the chemistry building, located off Hilgard Ave. on the southeastern side of the campus. The stabbing happened on the sixth floor of William G. Young Hall in a chemistry laboratory.

There was no sign of panic on campus Thursday.

Investigators and officers reportedly had no difficulty finding the suspect. Authorities have released few details about the investigation.

The names and ages of the suspect and the victim were not released.

“At about 12:20, the police department got a call of a stabbing victim in one of our facilities,” said UCLA Police Assistant Chief Jeff Young. “Our officers from the UCLA Police Department responded within minutes. We were able to apprehend the suspect nearby.”

Police have not said how many students were present when the male student attacked the female student.

The victim was transported to the hospital with slash wounds to her throat. Her condition was not released.

Students were alerted by text message that there was a police emergency at the campus building, and that a suspect was in custody.

Campus police called in LAPD investigators to assist. They say it is an extensive crime scene, because of all the people they must interview.

“The size also deals with the number of witnesses involved, and things like that,” said Young. “So it’s not so much the physical location, as it is just the number of people that had to be interviewed … well over 30 people, I believe, that had some information that we had to obtain.”

“At this time, we don’t have a motive,” said LAPD Detective Marti Moran. “And again, that’s something that the detectives are going to be looking into during their investigation.”

Young did say he wanted to assure parents and UCLA students that the campus is safe, and what happened Thursday was a very unusual incident.

Update 2: The following is from Student allegedly stabs fellow student in UCLA lab by Mercury News

A female UCLA student was hospitalized Thursday after a fellow student slashed her throat in a chemistry lab on campus, authorities said.

A man was arrested after UCLA police got a call about the stabbing Thursday afternoon in Young Hall.
UCLA spokesman Phil Hampton said the victim and suspect were among a group of students working in the undergraduate teaching lab at the time. They are both 20-year-old seniors.

Officers were interviewing 30 to 40 witnesses who were in or near the lab and might have seen the attack, Campus Police Assistant Chief Jeff Young said. No names have been released, and the motive is under investigation.

The woman was being treated for multiple stab wounds at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. Her condition was not immediately known.

Students told the Los Angeles Times they saw a woman stagger out of the lab moments after the attack while a teacher’s assistant applied pressure to her bloody neck.

Chemistry professor Robin Garrell, who saw the victim on a wheeled stretcher pushed by paramedics as she left her office in the building, told the Los Angeles Times that students and faculty were “obviously very shaken” by the incident.

Police closed off the building to investigate.

Update 3: The following is from No motive found in slashing of UCLA student’s throat by Andrew Blankstein, Anthony Pesce, Larry Gordon and Spencer Weiner

Students in a UCLA chemistry lab watched helplessly this afternoon as a classmate with seemingly no provocation slashed the neck of a fellow student, causing serious injuries.

The attack occurred just after noon on the sixth floor of Young Hall, prompting swift police mobilization and leaving students shaken by the violence as word spread across campus.

One witness inside the lab told The Times that the alleged assailant, a 20-year-old male student in the class, walked up to the 20-year-old female victim and appeared to repeatedly punch her.

He said he realized it was more serious when she slumped over, bleeding profusely from her neck.

Another student, Woojin Lee, was waiting with a friend near the chemistry lab when he heard screams and crying.

“I thought somebody blew themselves up with chemicals,” Lee said. “Some of the students in that room were covered with blood on their coats and latex gloves. I saw her neck, the [teacher’s assistant] was trying help her.”

“It was horrifying because she was a fellow student and a partner,” Lee added. “Something happens at a prestigious university like UCLA, it seems unbelievable.”

The suspect was arrested several minutes later inside Young Hall. Neither his name nor that of the victim has been released.

The victim was rushed to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, which is on campus, in critical condition. She underwent surgery and her condition was improving, officials said.

Los Angeles Police Department detectives said they don’t know the motive for the attack.

A law enforcement source said there might have been a verbal altercation before the attack, but details were not clear. Both were seniors, and some campus sources said they may have been lab partners.

UCLA officials sent a text alert to students, faculty and staff members soon after the attack, telling them that at an incident had occurred at Young Hall and to stay away from the area.

The attack took place between class sessions in an organic chemistry lab. The undergraduate level lab, known as 30CL, enrolls about a dozen students and is usually led by teaching assistants.

It is part of a class for about 60 students that is overseen by lecturer Alfred Bacher, according to department officials.

Cyril Baida, a biochemistry graduate student who is a teaching assistant in a lab next door, said he helped escort the victim into his room and sat her down while another teaching assistant kept applying pressure through gauze on her neck to stop heavy bleeding.

The victim was breathing but very pale and at times appeared to be passing out, said Baida, who praised police and UCLA medics for quick and effective response to 911 calls.

“We kept trying to talk to her and tell her she was going to be OK,” he said. “We wanted her to stay conscious.”

Baida said he did not know the victim or the alleged assailant, but was told that they were lab partners and had worked on some of the same organic chemistry projects.

UCLA campus spokesperson Carol Stogsdill said she had no information on past behavioral problems involving the alleged assailant and that she had heard of no reports of any previous trouble in the class or between the two students.

Chemistry department vice chairman Peter Felker said the department had not received any reports of trouble in the lab or complaints about the alleged assailant’s past behavior.

“Nothing that I’m aware of,” he said.

Update 4: Small excerpt of LA Times Blog’s UCLA professor reported concerns about stabbing suspect last year

To Stephen Frank, the e-mails he received from Thompson indicated the student was in need of serious help. Frank said he urged university officials to take action. An official told Frank that they could only suggest to Thompson that he seek treatment, but they could not require him to seek psychological services.

“My concern was in the context of other violent incidents on campuses around the country,” Frank said, explaining why he discussed the issue early on with university officials and why he chose to speak publicly about it Saturday.


By October 8, 2009 6 comments Uncategorized

tert-Butyllithium Claims Fellow Chemist at UCLA


Story is from UCLA Newsroom (Jan 19th):

A UCLA research assistant who was seriously burned in a laboratory fire last month has died of her injuries.

The 22-year-old woman, whose name has not been released, died on Jan. 16 at Grossman Burn Center in Sherman Oaks. She was transferred there after initial treatment for second- and third-degree burns at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.

The accident occurred Dec. 29 while the assistant was working with T-Butyl lithium, a highly flammable compound, in UCLA’s Molecular Sciences Building. The fire was extinguished by a colleague.

The fire is under investigation by UCLA’s Environment, Health and Safety department.

Link to article: Research assistant dies of injuries suffered in December lab fire

Update 1: More experimental details are coming out.

A 23 year old female research associate/laboratory technician intended to add an (unknown) aliquot of 1.6 M t-bu-Li (in pentane) to a round bottom flask, placed in a dry ice/acetone bath. She had been employed in the lab for about 3 months. The incident occurred on Dec. 29, during the UCLA holiday shutdown between Christmas and New Years. Researchers are granted permission to work during the shut down for “critical research needs.” There were two post doctoral researchers working in the lab and the adjacent lab, with limited English proficiency.

The principal investigator had trained the employee to slightly pressurize the bottle (an ~ 250 ml Aldrich Sure Seal container) with Argon and withdraw the desired aliquot using a 60 ml syringe, fitted with a 20 gauge needle. The PI likes to use these particular syringes because they have a tight seal. There is no evidence that the employee used this method. Speculation: she may have just tried to pull up the aliquot in the syringe. Somehow, the syringe plunger popped out or was pulled out of the syringe barrel, splashing the employee with t-bu-Li and pentane. The mixture caught fire, upon contact with air. She was wearing nitrile gloves, safety glasses and synthetic sweater. She was not wearing a lab coat. The fire ignited the gloves and the sweater.

Six feet from the fume hood was an emergency shower. When the employee’s gloves and clothing caught fire, she ran from the area away from the shower. One of the post-docs used his lab coat to smother the flames. 911 was called. UCLA Fire Dept. and emergency medical, Los Angeles City Fire, and Los Angeles County Haz Mat. The EMTs put the employee in the safety shower for gross decon and then transported her to the ER. She’s currently in the Grossman burn unit in Sherman Oaks with second degree burns on her arms and third degree burns on her hands, a total of about 40% of her body. There was very little damage to the lab. Bill has not interviewed the employee.


Update 2: From Daily Bruin (Jan 14th): Lab safety to be revised

Update 3: For those interested, the Chemistry Reddit is also tracking this story: A death in the science family. Be carefull with tert-butyl lithium!

Update 4: Proper Aldrich Sure-Seal technique can be found here: Handling air-sensitive reagents

Update 5: Name has been released from the Daily Bruin (Jan 21st): Assistant dies of fire injuries.

Update 6: Jyllian Kemsley from C&EN has picked up the story (Jan 22nd): Researcher Dies After Lab Fire

Update 7: Sheri Sangji facebook memorial for friends and family (Jan 22nd):

Update 8: Derek Lowe reminiscing on fires with tertiary butyllithium (Mar 2007): How Not to Do It

Update 9: Rebecca Trager also covering the story for RSC’s Chemistry World (Jan 23rd): UCLA lab assistant dies

Update 10: Derek Lowe mentions new fatality from trimethylsilyl diazomethane (Jan 23rd): The Real Hazards of the Lab

Update 11: Critiques of lab safety in Academia: Lab safety and chemical hygene in acadamia blows[TCB], A Death in the Lab[MCC]

Update 12: I was cleaning up some of the rabble-debate whether to release the PI name and accidentally deleted more comments then was my intention. Apologies to all commenteers effected. (Feb 19th)

Update 13: C&EN releases PI name. Insights: Learning From Mistakes (Subscription needed, Feb. 23rd)

Update 14: Los Angeles Times investigatory story on the accident. Deadly UCLA lab fire leaves haunting questions (Mar 1st)

Update 15: ChemJobber: What happened to Sheri Sangji? (Feb 27)

Update 16: LA Times: New details emerge in fatal UCLA lab fire (Apr 29)

Update 17: LA Times: State fines UCLA in fatal lab fire Fined $31,875 and Cal/OSHA will prepare an additional report to present to the Los Angeles County district attorney for consideration of criminal prosecution. (May 5th)

Update 18: ChemJobber: Patrick Harran, peeing in the jury pool? (May 5th)

Update 19: Statement of Patrick Harran

My students and I deeply mourn the death of our friend Sheri Sangji, and we realize our pain cannot possibly compare with the anguish felt by her family. She was an exceptionally gifted young woman with a bright future ahead, and her loss is truly tragic.

Since Sheri’s death, attention has focused on inspection and training records. These protocols are very important in developing and documenting a culture of safety, but in this case they are largely unrelated to the accident of Dec. 29, 2008. Sheri was an experienced chemist and published researcher who exuded confidence and had performed this experiment before in my lab. Sheri had previous experience handling pyrophorics, chemicals that burn upon exposure to air, even before she arrived at UCLA. Her most recent position prior to joining the group involved “scale-up process safety.” However, it seems evident, based on mistakes investigators tell us were made that day, I underestimated her understanding of the care necessary when working with such materials.

Sheri’s death resulted from a tragic accident. The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health has found no willful violations in its report. Throughout my career, I have strived to create a culture of safety. I am haunted by memories of this tragedy and wish that nothing like it happens again – in my lab or any other. In continuing our research, I go forward with a heavy heart in remembrance of Sheri and with a rededication to safety. I will also work tirelessly to achieve Chancellor Block’s goal of making UCLA the leader in safe laboratory practices.

(May ~5th)

Update 20: Chemical and Engineering News: UCLA Fined In Researcher’s Death (May 5th)

Update 21: Chemical and Engineering News: Negligence Caused UCLA Death (May 7th)

Update 22: Harry Elston’s Recipe for disaster editorial in the Journal of Chemical Health and Safety 2009, 16 (3), 3. (DOI: 10.1016/j.jchas.2009.03.011) (March 29th 2009)

Update 23: Science: Taken for Granted: The Burning Question of Laboratory Safety (May 1st 2009)

Update 24: ChemJobber: If I were working with tert-butyllithium… (May 10th 2009)

Update 25: The Sheri Sangji Petition: A tragic & preventable death (May 12th 2009)

Update 26: The California Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (CA/FACE): Worker Fatality Alert (May ~14th 2009)

Update 27: A Tribute to Sheri Sangji: (May ~15th 2009)

Update 28: C&EN: UCLA Appeals Citations by Jyllian Kemsley (June 17th 2009)

Update 29: LA Times: Family of UCLA lab fire victim criticizes investigation (June 22nd 2009)

Update 30: LA Times: Cal/OSHA chief to oversee criminal investigation of fatal UCLA lab fire (June 30th 2009)

Update 32: An intensely detailed account of the experiment that caused Sangji her life. C&EN — Learning From UCLA (August 3rd 2009)

Update 33: ChemJobber and Chemical Space

Update 34: C&ENtral Science — Evaluating Safety (August 3rd 2009)

Update 35: C&ENtral Science — Personal Protection from Fire (August 4th 2009)

Update 36: C&ENtral Science reports their timeline of the accident and allegations of tampering — Tampering with Evidence? (August 5th 2009)

  • The fire occurred shortly before 3 PM on Dec. 29, 2008. Sheharbano (Sheri) Sangji was taken to the emergency room and Harran followed.
  • After Sangji and Harran left, Los Angeles County hazardous materials crews cleaned up the lab. (Recall that medical personnel had put Sangji under the safety shower. Showers are supposed to run at a minimum of 75.7 L/minute for 15 minutes, so there should have been about 1,100 L of water to test and mop up.)
  • Harran returned to the lab around 7 PM and was asked by fire officials to shut down the experiment to ensure the hood was safe.
  • Sometime after Harran shut down the experiment, UCLA deputy fire marshal Christopher Lutton took photographs of the lab and Sangji’s hood. Lutton also told Harran that the lab would be locked and investigated, although there’s no record of exactly what Lutton said.
  • At around 7:30 PM, Lutton left the lab and went down to his vehicle remove his gear, call the locksmith, and call one of his colleagues.
  • At about 8:30 PM, Lutton returned to the lab to find Harran and postdocs Weifeng Chen and Hui Ding in the lab. In a later interview with Gene Gorostiza, the UCLA police detective who investigated the scene tampering allegations, Ding said that he and Chen removed six empty flammable liquids containers from the lab and put them in the building’s trash. They also put other solvent containers into a lab storage cabinet.
  • Lutton ordered everyone out of the room and stayed on the scene until the locksmith arrived at 9:55 PM.
  • The locksmith finished changing the locks at 11:35 PM. At that point, the doors were locked and Lutton took possession of the only key, put up yellow barrier tape, and left.
  • Lutton returned to the lab the next morning to find that the restraining bolts in a side panel to one of the doors had been released, allowing the door to open freely. Lutton told Gorostiza that at that point he discovered that the room contents had been tampered with. A timeline of the incident included in UCLA fire marshal documents says that, comparing photos of the lab taken in the morning to the ones taken the previous evening, containers of flammable liquids were removed, other containers were moved into a walk-in fume hood, a cabinet door was left ajar, and some items in the fume hood where the fire had occurred had been moved around.

Update 37: C&ENtral Science — Promoting Safe Research Practices (August 6th 2009)

Update 38: C&ENtral Science — Some Thoughts on Lab Incidents (August 7th 2009)

Mitch (Our best thoughts, from everyone at Chemistry Blog, go to her family at this time)

By January 20, 2009 110 comments Uncategorized