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Spring 2000

Research Magazine > ARCHIVE > Summer 99 > Article

Behind the Scenes

Long before their findings ever make headlines, researchers rely on dozens of UGA laboratories and other support services to advance their work. At right we spotlight a laboratory that provides support to research programs.

For centuries, glass blowing has been a popular art form. But to Richard Harrison and Robert Ketch, it's all about science. The two men create scientific glassware for the UGA Glass Blowing Shop.

"We fabricate, modify or repair scientific glassware for research purposes," said Harrison, the shop manager, who began his craft at UGA in 1975 as an apprentice.

The shop's artistic duo create a variety of precision glassware, from beakers and test tubes to more specialized items like membrane feeders and diffusion pumps.

Research instruments often are made of metal or plastic, but those materials sometimes react to what's inside the instrument. That's when glass is necessary. "Glass in most cases does not react to the solvents and chemicals a researcher may use, thus giving the scientist a more pure and accurate result," Harrison said.

The Glass Blowing Shop produces an average of 35 special orders each month; without them, some of the university's scientific research wouldn't be possible.

The shop receives requests from various disciplines across campus, including geology, chemistry, microbiology, pharmacy and veterinary science. About half their work comes from the UGA campus, the rest from local companies, other universities and federal agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency.

"We make the more customized items, but we can also modify the factory items to better meet the scientist's needs," Harrison said. "Sometimes a scientist will come in here with a blueprint drawing or sometimes it's just scribbled down on a paper towel. Many times it's just a matter of them explaining what they want."

For more information, access http://www.ors.uga.edu/glass/index.html.


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Richard Harrison