To the Editor:
“Some question security of campus labs” (3/31) raises important questions about student safety and laboratory security. It properly recognizes the high priority Dr. Christine DiMeglio places on student safety in Yale’s organic chemistry laboratories, and the success of her long-term efforts in this regard. The article then addresses the potential problem of security risks involving unauthorized access to undergraduate labs.
The examples of specific chemical security risks, access to materials for preparing explosive nitroglycerine and poisonous “cyanide gas,” are inappropriate. The laboratory uses neither glycerin, which the reporter may have confused with triethylene glycol, nor sodium cyanide, which Dr. DiMeglio has replaced with vitamin B as a catalyst for the benzoin condensation.
The lab used by advanced chemistry students that was reported to be “left unlocked and unattended” was in fact locked except for access through the organic chemistry laboratory, which was fully staffed at the time of the reporter’s visit.
As noted elsewhere in the article, Yale is taking prudent steps to ensure reasonable security of its laboratories. We in the Chemistry Department are grateful for the effort Dr. DiMeglio has devoted to reducing risks in the laboratory while maintaining appropriate access for her students.
March 31, 2005
The writer is chairman of the Chemistry Department.