Yale hosted its first Connecticut BioScience Conference in Harkness Auditorium at the School of Medicine Tuesday afternoon, attracting a crowd of about 50 people.
The conference was jointly sponsored by Yale and the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington. The morning presentations were held at UCHC, and the University hosted the afternoon events. The conference was organized by ABCO, an industrial gas provider for medical, biotechnological and pharmaceutical research enterprises based in Connecticut.
Topics discussed at the conference ranged from the Patriot Act and the Department of Homeland Security’s impact on scientists and laboratories to the handling of hazardous agents in laboratories. The conference targeted a wide array of people, including administrators, laboratory technicians, professors and both undergraduate and graduate students.
“This is the fist year that we have been able to hold the conference at Yale and UConn in the three years we have been holding the conference,” Matt McCourt, ABCO’s marketing manager, said. “We would like to educate lab professionals here at Yale to learn more about different aspects of the lab.”
The two previous conferences were held at the Omni New Haven Hotel, and this marks the first year it was held at an academic institution. ABCO coordinated with the Yale University Office of Environmental Health and Safety to arrange this year’s conference on campus.
One speaker on the conference program was Benjamin Fontes, the biosafety officer and manager of the Safety Advisory Program for the Yale OEHS. His presentation, “Elements of Laboratory Bio-Safety,” touched on topics such as government laboratory regulations, research experiment ethics and who can work on an experiment in the United States.
“A laboratory supervisor has to know who is working in their lab and what is going on in the lab at all times,” Fontes said. “For example, people from countries that the United States government considers a threat, such as Syria, Sudan, Libya, Cuba, Iran and Iraq cannot handle bio-hazardous agents. This may be a problem, especially in academic institutes where people come from all over the world, but the law’s the law.”
Fontes’ presentation included an all-encompassing view of the do’s and don’ts of the lab and described what Occupational Safety Health Administration inspectors look for in labs during routine inspections.
Audience members said the conference as a whole was informative and met expectations.
“I attended last year’s conference, and I decided to return because I enjoy the presentations,” said Cheryl Lechok of Stamford, who attended both the morning and afternoon presentations. “I have worked in the public relations and marketing communications side of the industrial gases industry, and it is nice to get an update on the business and how the labs are doing.”
McCourt said the conference went well, but attendance is not yet at ABCO’s desired level.
“We are still not where we want to be with participation, but it is only the third year we have this conference, and the first year we held it at an academic institution,” McCourt said.