I was a pharmaceutical chemist at Merck & Co. Inc, Cherokee Plant in Danville, Pa., for 15 years before coming to Bucknell. The Cherokee Plant is an intermediate pharmaceutical site. That means it makes no "final products." During my time at Merck I worked in four labs: process water environmental lab, fermentation lab, finished goods lab and in-process lab. Most of my time was spent in the in-process lab. I ran chemical samples submitted from the factory on a real-time basis using similar instruments to what is in the Environmental Engineering & Science Laboratory (EESL) at Bucknell.
On a daily basis it is very common for students to come into the EESL and say, "I need to find how much X is in this sample. How do I find that?" I explain the different instruments we have that can detect what they are looking for and we make a decision together on which instrument to use.
There are currently 11 larger instruments in the EESL:
- gas chromatograms
- gas chromatograms with mass spectroscopy
- total organic carbon analyzer
- ion chromatogram
- liquid chromatogram
- atomic absorption
- CHN analyzer
There are also many smaller hand-held and field instruments. All of the instruments are fairly simple to operate, but they all require preventative maintenance, repair, calibration, and detection limit analysis. This is what I do behind the scenes, so students and faculty can just set up their sample and press START. Many of the students that use the EESL will not have to use these instruments in everyday life once they graduate. However, they will have to interpret similar data and understand the theory of these instruments. The Environmental Engineering & Science Laboratory prepares students by giving them a hands-on approach to obtaining their results. They, along with my help, prep their samples, choose their instrumental analysis, and interpret their data.
I believe Bucknell's EESL is unique. The laboratories I used at my undergraduate university were not nearly as equipped with these types of instruments. Bucknell goes above and beyond in making it a priority to offer new technology for students to analyze their samples.