Friday, May 10, 2024

Environmental Health and Safety (EHS), a reporting unit of the Office of the Vice President for Research, recognized three individuals and two laboratories as part of its annual Lab Safety Rewards and Recognition program. 

The program began in 2020 to recognize principal investigators, laboratory staff and students taking a proactive approach to research safety culture. Nominations for the award are accepted from the campus community and by EHS’s Safety Advisory Team, which evaluates all laboratories and associated staff.  The Laboratory Safety Committee determines the winners.

“This program allows us to celebrate faculty, staff and students who put in extra effort each day to promote a culture of research safety on our campus,” said Haley Sinn, EHS director. “These individuals and groups illustrate that small, everyday actions can help improve lab safety for everyone across campus.”

The winners are:

Excellence in Safety Award – Individual Recognition

Junko Kasuya, associate research scientist, Department of Neuroscience and Pharmacology, Carver College of Medicine (CCOM)

Junko Kasuya

Kasuya has taken a proactive approach to keeping Professor Ted Abel’s lab and the surrounding labs safe, organizing shared spaces in a way that upholds best safety practices. “During the lab’s annual audit, Junko was quick to make corrections and engage in safety conversations,” said Sarah Hogren, biosafety coordinator in EHS. “She was thoroughly prepared for all questions and paperwork and even made sure to mention concerns from last year to show that they were corrected.”

Chris Knutson, research specialist, College of Engineering

chris knutson

Knutson serves as the safety manager for the entire Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering as well as the Center for Health Effects of Environmental Contamination (CHEEC) core. “He is overseeing more people, locations, and research than perhaps any other safety manager on campus but is always proactive and well-prepared,” said Rachelle Justice, chemical safety compliance specialist in EHS. 

Emily Witt, research associate, CCOM

Emily Witt

Witt serves as the safety officer for the labs of James Byrne and Kristina Thiel, both CCOM faculty members. “Emily goes above and beyond in order to keep both labs safe by asking many questions and being quick to resolve issues,” Hogren said. “She is an excellent example of what it looks like to be safety conscious while advocating for the lab.”

Research Laboratory Excellence in Safety Award

Campbell Lab, led by Kevin Campbell, professor of molecular physiology and biophysics, CCOM

Kevin Campbell

The Campbell lab illustrates the importance of teamwork to maintaining safe conditions. “The Campbell lab is an excellent candidate for the safety excellence award due to the involvement of the PI, lab contact, staff, and even departmental contacts,” said Hogren. “I was very impressed by the proactiveness of both lab contact David Venzke and Dr. Campbell, as they both came with questions and concerns about how best to manage everything.”

Howard Lab, led by Michelle Howard, assistant professor of radiation oncology, CCOM

Michelle Howard

In the Howard Lab, everyone takes a proactive approach to safety. “The Howard lab is a well-organized lab group where everyone participates in the audit,” said Justice. “Everyone is engaged and has a good attitude, which I credit to Dr. Howard being an excellent role model and maintaining good expectations.”