Feb 1, 2019
Wendell Scott likes his new lab coat
The new lab coats are made of a highly protective light-weight fabric which was developed by a former UCLA organic chemistry graduate student.
 
The department was able to purchase a large supply of the new innovative lab coats through a financial collaboration with the UCLA Office of Environment, Health & Safety (EH&S).  
 
UCLA is one of the first universities to adopt the new lab coat which retails for $175 and is made with specialty fibers which provide chemical and flame protection. The department was able to arrange for a discounted price for the coats as well as custom embroidery of “UCLA Chemistry & Biochemistry” on each coat.
 
(Left) Ten different sizes of the coat are available – five in women’s sizes, five in men’s. (Right) The custom embroidery and the fitted sleeve are two popular features of the new lab coats.
 
Distribution of the coats began on January 29, 2019, and in the first three days of distribution, over 300 coats were given to the department's faculty, graduate students, postdocs, staff researchers, and to undergraduate student researchers who work with hazardous materials in our faculty labs. 
 
The purchase of the coats was coordinated by Professor Craig Merlic, Chair of the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry Safety Committee and Executive Director of the UC Center for Laboratory Safety. “Lab coats are an essential protection for researchers while working in the laboratory,” Merlic said. “Our ultimate goal is that all our researchers are safe in our labs".
 
The Workrite FR/CP (flame resistant/chemical splash protection) lab coats are made with a special new fabric called ShieldCXP which was developed by Chemistry & Biochemistry alumnus Dr. Jason Spruell (MS ’08) (pictured left) when he worked for Milliken, an industrial manufacturer in South Carolina. The fabric offers excellent flash-fire protection, as well as the ability to resist degradation from chemical contact, such as exposure to many acids, corrosives, oxidizers and reducers. The base for this new fabric is Nomex which was developed by Dupont in the 1960’s, as a heat-resistant and strong synthetic fiber which has been used in the manufacturing of lab coats for years. Spruell developed a way to put a coating of a material similar to Teflon (also a Dupont invented polymer) over Nomex, which makes it protective from corrosive liquids. A video demonstrating the fabric's resistance to corrosive liquids in comparison to other fabrics can be viewed here.  
 
Spruell is now a Principal Investigator at Halocarbon Products Corporation in Georgia. He started his graduate research at UCLA with Nobel Laureate Sir Fraser Stoddart and received his masters degree in chemistry in 2008. He then moved with Stoddart to Northwestern University where he received his Ph.D. in Chemistry. 
 
Safety Committee Chair Professor Craig Merlic (wearing his new lab coat) (center) with Shipping and Receiving supervisor (left) Jose Gonzales and store keeper (right) Julio Zabala, who are responsible for organizing the distribution of the coats. 
 
First-year organic chemistry graduate student Ani Mustafa (Garg group) is excited about the new coat for several reasons – safety, comfort, and style. “Safety is of paramount concern. With everything I do in the lab, I have to be very careful. With the older coats, if I raise my arms to get something, the sleeves slide down, exposing my arms, which is a safety concern" Mustafa said. "I often work in a glove box with air-sensitive materials. The older looser lab coats, which aren’t cuffed at the wrists, slide up which makes for an uncomfortable stuffed fit at the upper portion of my arms when I'm using the glove box. The cuffed sleeves on the new coat have eliminated both problems because they keep the sleeves in place. Another added bonus is that the new coats are more stylish with the black collar and cuffs!”
 
Graduate student Ani Mustafa (Garg group) demonstrates how the sleeves on the new coat (left) provide much better protection than those on the older coats previously used in the department (right).
 
The light-weight fabric, which is much softer on the skin than older lab coats, is another popular feature and, with ten different sizes available, it is easy for everyone to find a coat that fits them comfortably.  
 
First in line to pick up several lab coats for the lab assistants in the instructional labs that she supervises, Maria Dimaano-Salanga said “This is an exciting day!  Because we work with many corrosive chemicals, these coats will be especially important to us.”
 
On the first day that the coats were distributed, Instructional Lab supervisor Maria Dimaano-Salanga was first in the line of students, postdocs, researchers, and faculty waiting to pick up their free lab coats. 
 
(Left) Graduate students Wendell Scott (Deming group) and Rachel Day and Margeaux Miller (Sletten group) pose for photos after picking up their new coats.
 
The lab coats were purchased from Oxnard, California-based Workrite Uniform Company. More information about the Workrite FP/CP lab coat is available here
 
Shipping and Receiving staff will continue to distribute the new lab coats on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays only from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. in Young Hall 1294. The coats are currently only available to researchers who have a connection with the UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry. Faculty and graduate students can simply show photo identification, such as a BruinCard or driver's license, to obtain a coat. Postdoctoral researchers, research staff, and undergraduate reseachers, who are conducting research in UCLA Chemistry & Biochemistry labs using hazardous materials, can also obtain a free coat, however, in addition to photo identification they must also bring a completed Lab Coat Request form (download PDF here) which has been signed by their research advisor or supervisor.
 
Questions about the distribution of the coats should be directed to Shipping and Receiving supervisor Jose Gonzalez, 1224 Young Hall, 310-825-3024 or 310-825-1966, jgonzalez@chem.ucla.edu.
 
Article and photos by Penny Jennings/UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, penny@chem.ucla.edu.