UCLA professor Patrick Harran elected as a AAAS fellow
Dec09

UCLA professor Patrick Harran elected as a AAAS fellow

Among the people elected as fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science this year is University of California, Los Angeles, chemistry professor Patrick Harran. In one of Harran’s labs in 2008, 23-year-old staff research assistant Sherharbano (Sheri) Sangji was transferring tert-butyllithium by syringe when the reagent caught fire, fatally injuring Sangji. UCLA and Harran subsequently faced felony charges of labor code violations relating to the fire. Both are still fulfilling the terms of settlement agreements reached with the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office. AAAS elects fellow “to recognize members for their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications,” according to a press release. About Harran’s election, association spokesperson Ginger Pinholster told the Daily Bruin: Ginger Pinholster, AAAS director in the office of public programs, said the AAAS fellow selection process is based strictly on scientific achievement. “(Selection as a fellow) doesn’t reflect behavior or other issues,” Pinholster said. Pinholster added the AAAS administrative members who oversaw the selection process for the fellowship were unaware of the charges against Harran. AAAS publishes Science, which ran several stories about Sangji’s death and subsequent events: The Burning Question of Laboratory Safety (Science Careers May 1, 2009) Building a Culture of Safety (Science Careers June 5, 2009) When Will They Ever Learn? (Science Careers May 6, 2011) UCLA Professor to be Charged in Lab Death (Science Jan. 6, 2012, page 18) Settlement Announced in Patrick Harran Criminal Case (Science Careers June 20, 2014; flagged in Science June 27, 2014, page 1432) The Landmark Patrick Harran Case Ends Inconclusively (Science Careers July 9, 2014) $4,500,000 (Science Oct. 24, 2014, page 402) Updated to add: A letter from Sangji’s family to AAAS leaders. And again to add: Letters to AAAS leaders from University Professional & Technical Employees, the union that represented Sangji; Neal Langerman, safety expert and District Attorney witness; and various others. AAAS announced on Dec. 14 that the association’s chemistry section has asked to reconsider Harran’s election as fellow. Commentary on Harran’s AAAS fellow election: The Curious Wavefunction – The AAAS’s nomination of Prof. Patrick Harran does a grave disservice to their stated mission Chemjobber – Prof. Patrick Harran selected as AAAS fellow Pasco Phronesis – Science Policy Nuggets – Energy Confirmation And AAAS Fellow...

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Harran still complying with proescution agreement in #SheriSangji case
May21

Harran still complying with proescution agreement in #SheriSangji case

Patrick Harran has a court date today to check in with a judge regarding his agreement with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office. Harran was to pay a fine and complete community service in exchange for the DA eventually dropping charges of four felony violations of the state labor code. The case arose from a 2008 fire in his lab that led to the death of researcher Sheharbano (Sheri) Sangji. Harran had paid the fine by Nov. 20, 2014, and continues to meet the terms of his community service, Deputy District Attorney Craig Hum...

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Judge says Harran complying with prosecution agreement in #SheriSangji case
Nov20

Judge says Harran complying with prosecution agreement in #SheriSangji case

Post written by Michael Torrice Attorneys for University of California, Los Angeles, chemistry professor Patrick Harran were in court today for a status check on the chemist’s compliance with an agreement with the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office. Harran made the deal in June so that the DA’s office would eventually drop charges of four felony violations of the state labor code stemming from a 2008 fire in his lab that led to the death of research assistant Sheharbano (Sheri) Sangji. Judge George G. Lomeli said in court that he had reviewed reports submitted by the DA’s office and determined that Harran is complying with all terms of the agreement. Lomeli set the next status check for May 21, 2015. In the June deal, Harran agreed to complete community service and pay a $10,000 fine. After five years, if Harran has complied with all terms of the agreement, the DA’s office will drop all charges. After the hearing, Deputy DA Craig W. Hum said that his office receives reports from Harran’s attorneys detailing what the chemist has done to comply with the agreement. Investigators for the DA’s office then verify the claims in the reports. The UCLA chemist has paid the $10,000 fine to the Grossman Burn Center. He also has developed and started teaching a chemistry course for South Central Scholars, a volunteer organization that helps prepare Los Angeles area high school students for college. In court, Thomas O’Brien, Harran’s attorney, said that the chemist had started his first several hours of nonteaching community service at the UCLA hospitals. Harran must complete 800 hours by the end of the five-year term of the...

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Academic lab safety: One chemist’s observations
Aug28

Academic lab safety: One chemist’s observations

Contributed by Brenna Arlyce Brown, who received her PhD in chemistry in 2013 and is currently working in business development for a research funding organization. She is working on setting up a safety consulting business. A few weeks ago, when reading about the deal that prosecutors made with University of California, Los Angeles, chemistry professor Patrick Harran regarding the lab fire that led to researcher Sheharbano Sangji’s death, I commented on Twitter about how the case affected my graduate research group: “My old PhD boss was sure this can’t happen in our lab-then he found out that I used tBuLi-things soon changed .” This of course sparked questions: “What changed?” “Why didn’t he know that you were using the chemical?” Twitter’s 140 characters were just not enough to answer fully. When I say, “things changed” I certainly don’t mean that I, or my fellow graduate students, were behaving in an unsafe manner. For my own part, I had a standard operating procedure (SOP) for working with tBuLi, or tert-butyllithium, the pyrophoric compound that Sangji was handling when it ignited. I developed the SOP, in part, from recommendations from the supplier website. I was also trained by more senior graduate students who worked with tBuLi in other groups. Many of my colleagues were required to handle HF, and the safety measures for this compound were well understood by every member of the group, whether they worked with HF or not. But other potentially dangerous compounds that some of us used were not as well recognized. Did my boss know I was working with tBuLi? He knew I was doing ortho-lithiations, but I was one graduate student out of ten working in an interdisciplinary research group in which students were working on everything from small molecule organic synthesis (my project) to inorganic group 14 nanoparticle synthesis. Is it reasonable to ask one person to immediately recall the dangers of every compound required for each of these multi-step syntheses? Was it his responsibility to ensure that each of us was operating in a safe manner? After all, we’re all adults and these are our own research projects. Is it really necessary to write regulations, put together the documents, regulate training, and keep record of everything? When I first started in the group, such measures did not get a warm reception. Following the incident at UCLA, it became apparent that they are necessary and that, yes, they are the principal investigator’s (PI’s) responsibility—the PI is the manager. From then on, I worked as the group’s safety officer, compiling our SOPs and starting the process of ensuring we had documentation for “near-misses” and training....

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Los Angeles district attorney comments on Harran settlement in #SheriSangji case
Jun25

Los Angeles district attorney comments on Harran settlement in #SheriSangji case

Michael Torrice and I have another story up today on the terms of the settlement agreement between University of California, Los Angeles, chemistry professor Patrick Harran and the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office. The new story includes comments from head deputy district attorney Craig Hum regarding the specific terms of the settlement. What didn’t make it into the story: I also asked UCLA whether the university would release Harran from some of his normal teaching responsibilities to help him manage his community service requirements. UCLA spokesman Steve Ritea responded that that hasn’t been determined...

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