Researcher loses an arm from lab explosion at the University of Hawaii

The explosion that injured a 29-year-old researcher last week cracked the glass in the door of the lab where she was working. Credit: Allyson Blair/Hawaii News Now

The explosion that injured a 29-year-old researcher last week cracked the glass in the door of the lab where she was working. Credit: Allyson Blair/Hawaii News Now

My story at C&EN: Explosion at the University of Hawaii seriously injures researcher:

A 29-year-old researcher was seriously injured in a lab explosion at the University of Hawaii, Mānoa, on March 16.

The researcher is Thea Ekins-Coward, and she lost an arm and suffered other injuries, according to local media reports. When C&EN inquired about her condition on March 20, Queen’s Medical Center, the facility where she is hospitalized, declined to release any information.

Ekins-Coward is listed as a postdoctoral researcher in the alternative fuels group at the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute (HNEI), which is a research unit within the university. The university has not confirmed that Ekins-Coward was the person injured.

The lab in which the explosion happened was operated by HNEI and focuses on renewable energy and degradable bioplastics, said Brian Taylor, dean of the School of Ocean & Earth Science & Technology, during a March 17 news conference. At the time of the incident, the researcher who was injured was combining hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and oxygen gases from high-pressure cylinders into a lower pressure container. The mixture was to be used as a feedstock to grow cells. “Since 2008, when the project began, the process has been used almost daily and without incident,” Taylor said. …

Thea Ekins-Coward’s spouse appears to be Amy Ekins-Coward, who posted on LinkedIn in January: My life doesn’t look how I imagined: Diary of a trailing spouse (part seven). It illustrates how vulnerable postdocs and their families can be:

I know that to the outside looking in, moving to Hawaii is no hardship. But feeling like you have no control over your own life, like you’ve built no nest egg, can be no small burden. Not knowing whether come July we’ll be here, or heading home, or trying to find something else, can be draining – even depressing. Who knows whether all those hopes listed above will all come to fruition, but at least having those in mind means that when I look in the mirror and think “god that hair” or envy someone else’s stability, shiny new car, shiny new dog, I can keep on keeping on that little bit longer.

Author: Jyllian Kemsley

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3 Comments

  1. Any further news on Amy Ekins-Coward condition and details of the accident?

  2. Not that I’ve heard. I’m guessing little about the incident will be released until Hawaii OSHA is done with its investigation.