Sunday, January 1, 2012

stuff that broke over the break...

Someone who loved the case method died for it in a really horrific way- and all UC does is whine in response:
UC system, UCLA professor charged in lab fire that killed staffer [Updated]
UCLA has this...

University of California System, UCLA Professor Charged In Lab Fire That Killed Staffer

Daily Bruin: "Harran and the UC regents are charged with three counts each of willfully violating occupational health and safety standards."

University Diaries has this on an endowed chair prof at UCLA-“The wealth allowed Klein to give generously to a host of causes, volunteer as an unpaid professor at UCLA …”
- one wonders, can one buy their own UC stamped endowed chairs??- does Bob Barker come out of retirement to officiate?
We actually do need doctors for things other than botox and fillers:
California ERs Serving Blacks Likelier To Close
"This should be disturbing to people," said Dr. Renee Hsia, lead author of the study and a professor at the University of California, San Francisco.

"People who don't have an emergency room in their neighborhood, it's not like their emergency disappeared," she told Reuters Health.
UC Irvine counters:
"I think that the closures are a reflection of economics a lot more than they are about race," said Dr. Wesley Fields, chair of the Emergency Medicine Action Fund and a clinical professor at the University of California, Irvine.
Some work done by Princeton: Why Mexican Immigrants Can’t Get Ahead
Also, check this out: Lure of Chinese Tuition Pushes Out Asian-Americans - it starts off like this:
"Kwanhyun Park, the 18-year-old son of Korean immigrants, spent four years at Beverly Hills High School earning the straight As and high test scores he thought would get him into the University of California, San Diego. They weren’t enough.
The sought-after school, half a mile from the Pacific Ocean, admitted 1,460 fewer California residents this year to accept higher-paying students from out-of-state, many from China."

UC Davis is putting out their economic engine PR and folks are scrutinizing it-see mid page.
The Buzz: Pension reform crusader David Crane loses his post as University of California regent

yep, some at Sac Bee calls him a 'crusader'. some group at sf chron gave this short superficial editorial that was fluff... others thanked him for his kind words on his way out- kind words he saved for the very last minute. Let's remember- He was pretty light on engagement with members of the UC community. and he brought this up: "He said that he would explore the UC's five medical centers - which generated $5.9 billion in the 2009-10 fiscal year, according to UC documents - as one source of that revenue."-- but we never heard him speak anymore about it again...
all we saw from him at the regents table was flame thrower behavior- just insults spurted out against the legislature-- but he would go to other outlets to say a lot of other stuff... -- he should have been saying this at the regents table and in front of people from Sacto if he believes it. --if you watch this last link pay special attention toward the end where he says 'we have our own money, we need the names rather than we need the money...' gee, where have we heard that before? (btw, one of the Koch Bros put up serious $$ for this MIT PBS work that is great to watch.)
don't doubt Crane and Co. isn't worried about the money necessary to front future candidates... no worries there at all.
of course, who better than a hedge fund guy to lecture on generational theft... but looking at the sac bee and sf chron "edtiorial" content it looks like he prefers to be called investment banker. (we will leave his name on tab above until filled- for Auld Lang Syne)
Researcher takes on ‘empathy fatigue’ in the workplace -- there are other folks at Cal who have dug much more deeply into it- always interesting how the PR folks at Cal pick certain people to highlight- but, anyway...decided to include it to consider with this next...
was RFK (and are present day folks similar to him) the exception rather than the rule?:
Lower classes quicker to show compassion in the face of suffering -- reminded of present day Kennedys and in CA that also brings to mind Shrivers-- Maria Shriver, Arnie and-- David Crane, who says he is a Dem and wants to serve as conductor in orchestrating the leaders of the future...
Wonder what Bratton/Kroll think of these developements- since it concerns two of their clients...
Berkeley Explains Exactly Why It Chose Google Over Microsoft

Major university chooses Google Apps over Microsoft Office 365

LAPD Cites Security Issues in Google Apps Switch Abandonment

Los Angeles Police scale back Google cloud email

and there is this sort of thinking on the subject as well.
from the old early days of telecomm--
Graham Bell's first recordings can now be heard thanks to some folks at The Labs...courtesy of CNN
Prof. Newfield "Ruin and Rebirth in the Public University: How we can avoid decline"
McMaster University Seminar on Higher Education -starts at around the 12min mark- it runs just over an hour- get some popcorn...a beverage.
Happy New Year.


  1. Oh Cloudminder, you've made me sad today with your reference to the charges stemming from the student death in the UCLA lab fire.

    As tragic as the matter is, I am compelled to make the unpopular conclusion that ultimately the student's own negligence is the primary factor in the ultimate outcome.

    Bear with me:
    If one cannot be bothered to read the label on the bottle, one should not be using the reagent to begin with. When it says 'pyrophoric' on the label, it's time to put on the lab coat rather than the synthetic fiber sweater found in one's own closet. [The sweater was found to be a very significant, probably determining, factor in this incident - the material not only burns but melts onto the skin making injuries extremely severe. The lab coat is made from materials that don't burn (readily) and are designed not to melt.]

    The student who died was relatively (but not completely) green in terms of techniques in synthetic organic chemistry but she had previously worked for over a year in a biology (or maybe biochemistry) lab. With that previous experience, it is incomprehensible that she failed to grasp the need to read and understand the labels on reagents before using said materials.
    Persons with precisely zero common sense are not fit for lab work. I know this assessment sounds uncharitable but it is certainly defensible.

    Whether Professor Harran was also negligent is another matter. The student was being actively supervised by at least one post-doc (two were present at the time of the incident). These personnel have PhD's in the field; Prof. Harran's assumption that they knew what they were doing and were therefore capable of the supervisory role - while apparently incorrect - was not an unreasonable one to make.

    The reagent in question, tert-butyl lithium [solution in hexanes], is one of the most dangerous reagents that is commonly encountered in academic lab work. Respect for this material and appropriate caution are paramount. Pyrophoric means 'bursts into flame upon contact with air' - there is no room for error here. Failing to put on the lab coat proved fatal.

  2. yes, all that you reference in your comment is described in great detail in the press coverage and scientific journals when this tragedy occurred (see right hand column for some links from that year).

    the issues raised- that are of concern here -don't really have to do with reading the label and the sweater. people will show up to labs tired, or unprepared, make bad decisions,mistakes etc. -- what are the protocols in place to safeguard when that happens? it has to do with a series of decisions and preventive measures leading up to the event.

    and the way UC decided to respond to the latest round of stories on this event (listed above) is troubling. this person was an alum in addition to being staff- your comment actually had a more compassionate tone than UCs comments... yet,we are told market rate and above salaries are required for these folks who make these comments that fall very short on presenting UC in the best light. Those are areas that can be spoken to- the details on what happened in the lab and who is responsible is for another forum.
    -- it is interesting though how UC claims cozy close, oh so close, association with profs when fabulous fruits of research are achieved but they act like have no association with the profs -they just appeared out of thin air- when the research or the prof encounter 'problems'. aren't the profs the folks UC- and UC Regents- chose to bring to the University?

  3. in reading the older stories it looks like she was not a UC alum (for some reason remembered her that way)- here are the links to the older stories:

  4. "the issues raised... don't really have to do with reading the label and the sweater... [but] are the protocols in place to safeguard when that happens?"

    I agree, that's EXACTLY what it's about.
    What protocols are in place? 'Wear your personal protective equipment!' in this case the lab-coat. This is part of the 'Chemical Hygiene Plan' maintained by the department in concert with EHS. Generally such plans call for wearing a lab-coat whenever one is in lab. Whether Harran enforced this in his lab is a different matter. Probably he didn't, it's not generally enforced in academic labs in the US. OTOH, the PI is not going to be around at all times that other personnel are in lab (certainly PIs are not found in the lab-space itself much). In other words the PI cannot be expected to baby-sit the lab.
    So was Harran negligent? If he didn't enforce department safety protocols, then yes. Does it rise to the level of criminality? Unless he failed to make personnel aware of the existence of the Chemical Hygiene Plan and its basic contents, then in my view the answer is no. How do I arrive at this conclusion? If the personnel have been informed of the relevant policies then the onus is on the individual personnel to follow those policies.
    For instance as mandated by EHSS: on the door to every room of our lab (at Cal) there is a sign with basic safety and contact info including the location of a paper copy of the department's hygiene plan (which for our lab happens to be our group room). Thus I would find it hard to believe there was no plan available in Harran's lab or that personnel didn't know where to find it. In the present context I imagine many would find the preceding paragraphs as smacking of heartless lawyer-ism, and I can sympathize with that emotional response. That's why I preferred earlier to cast things differently: were the precautions being used at the time of incident appropriate for the level of danger of the operation the student was undertaking? Essentially I see that question as subsumed into the larger discussion of protocol, a nuance I made no effort initially to make clear. In light of that fact your response was totally reasonable.

    In terms of handling reagents of this type, here's the protocol Harran was smart enough to cite when asked:
    This version of the document is even more advertisement-like than the one which was current 2 years ago, suggesting strongly that UC ought to write its own protocol rather than rely on the commercial venture that is Sigma-Aldrich. Institutional negligence? Well it defies commonsense to say the least. For the record, the 'technical bulletin' is not in itself sufficient; one-on-one hands-on training is absolutely necessary to impart the knowledge for safe reasonable use, of course that's job of the post-doc who was supervising the now deceased student. Without walking through the minutia I'll simply say that I would have gone about this particular manipulation in a somewhat different way than they were reported to have been doing it but one which would still be consistent with the air-free techniques described in the linked pdf.
    I haven't read what UC has to say about the recent charges. I don't read UC press releases anymore, can't take 'em seriously! Perhaps I just unwittingly gave the same statements they did. That would be ironic but mine is a position I'm defending on what I believe to be its merits, while allowing that offense could be taken [heartless lawyer-ism]. Initially I gave my 2 cents for the sake of giving it and to defend Harran personally. Disclosure: I've never interacted with Harran in any capacity. 4k character limit? killing me!