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80 graduate students, faculty and staff members from seven universities, including Texas A&M, the University of Texas, the University of Houston, Baylor University, the University of Florida, Georgia Tech and Washington University in St. Louis attended the recent Partners in Academic Laboratory Safety Workshop at the ExxonMobil Baytown Technology and Engineering Complex in Baytown, Texas. (All photographs courtesy of ExxonMobil.)

BAYTOWN --

ExxonMobil's Baytown Technology and Engineering Center recently hosted 80 graduate students, faculty and staff members from seven universities for its annual Partners in Academic Laboratory Safety (PALS) Workshop.

Eight graduate students from the Texas A&M University Department of Chemistry and Texas A&M chemists Michael Rosynek and Michael Nippe participated in the June 5-7 workshop, along with representatives from the Mary Kay O'Connor Process Safety Center in the College of Engineering and Texas A&M Environmental Health and Safety.

"The PALS workshop was both enlightening and instructive, because it provided an opportunity for our attending graduate students to witness firsthand the rigorous safety standards that are required in industrial laboratories," Rosynek said. "The experience was particularly apropos for the students, given that more than 75 percent of our Ph.D. graduates are employed in industrial facilities similar to those that we visited at ExxonMobil. We also benefited greatly from our interactions at the workshop with faculty and students from other universities and the opportunity to learn details of the safety programs at their institutions."

Now in its fifth year, the PALS program encourages mentoring relationships between ExxonMobil and faculty, staff and students from partner universities to enhance laboratory safety culture. The workshop was established after ExxonMobil recognized new employees needed additional lab safety training besides what was offered at their universities.

"Safety is a core value at ExxonMobil," said Dirk Michiels, Global Polymers Technology Manager. "This program shares ideas and best practices to help ensure students have adequate laboratory safety training incorporated into their curriculums and we learn a lot from the students and universities as well."

In addition to Texas A&M, students from the University of Texas, the University of Houston, Baylor University, the University of Florida, Georgia Tech and Washington University in St. Louis participated in ExxonMobil laboratory tours to highlight different aspects of laboratory safety, including rotating equipment and chemical handling, to documentation and engineering controls. Each participating group presented on the current laboratory safety policies and practices at their institution, with the goal of promoting extended discussion among the participants.

"The Department of Chemistry is actively pursuing modern strategies to increase our safety culture and promote safe operating procedures in our laboratories," Nippe said. "The ExxonMobil coordinated and sponsored PALS workshop was an important experience to us as faculty and, more importantly, our graduate students. We learned a lot of new techniques and approaches and are keen to implement them into the day-to-day operations of our department."

Rosynek says he and Nippe plan to meet later this week with the students who attended the workshop to discuss the establishment of a graduate-student-led safety committee within the Texas A&M Department of Chemistry.

ExxonMobil, the largest publicly traded international oil and gas company, uses technology and innovation to help meet the world's growing energy needs. ExxonMobil holds an industry-leading inventory of resources, is one of the largest refiners and marketers of petroleum products, and its chemical company is one of the largest in the world. For more information, visit www.exxonmobil.com.

-aTm-

Contact: Emily Russell, (409) 201-1735; Dr. Michael Rosynek, (979) 845-3552 or rosynek@chem.tamu.edu; or Dr. Michael Nippe, (979) 862-4471 or nippe@chem.tamu.edu
  • Texas A&M third-year chemistry graduate students Nandini Kundu (second from left) and Rachel Davidson (second from right) as well as Texas A&M Environmental Health and Safety Assistant Director Brad Urbanczyk (third from left) were among the workshop participants who toured ExxonMobil laboratories in Baytown to see best practices and safety standards in action.

  • Texas A&M chemist Michael Rosynek said it's worth noting that all members of the tour group shown in these photographs are wearing the required safety glasses and flame-retardant lab coats issued to them by ExxonMobil.

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