Who We Are

Who we are: The Joint Safety Team (JST) is a student-led group tasked with improving safety culture throughout the Department of Chemistry at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. The JST is open to all graduate students and postdoctoral researchers in the Department. Working groups within the JST meet every two weeks, lab safety officers meet every month, and the committee (faculty included) meets once per semester.

How we got started: In January 2017 the head of the chemistry department (M. Gruebele) distributed a charge letter commissioning a departmental committee with the goal of improving the safety culture of the Department. The JST committee was formed in response to the Final Report of the Safety Committee commissioned by Professor G. Girolami and chaired by Professor S. Denmark.

What the JST does: The mission of the JST is to improve Chemistry Department safety through communication, awareness, and training. The five main goals of the JST are:

  1. The JST functions to improve the safety culture of the Chemistry Department.
  2. The JST serves as a liaison between campus safety entities (i.e., Division of Research Safety, Facilities and Services), School of Chemical Sciences safety personnel, and individual research group lab safety officers (LSOs).
  3. The JST advocates for new safety resources, policies, and training on behalf of laboratory researchers who feel unsafe in their current working environment.
  4. The JST brings input from the graduate student and postdoctoral researchers to faculty and administrators and vice-versa to improve communication within the Department.
  5. In acknowledgement of the integral role of health in laboratory safety, the JST facilitates programs and events to promote the mental and physical wellness of graduate students and postdoctoral researchers.

JST Core Initiatives: The Core Initiatives for the JST are established initiatives that are to be undertaken by the committee each year:

  • Lab Safety Officer Meetings (LSO): Occur on a monthly basis (10 per year)
    • During each LSO meeting we go over recent incidents in the department, discuss facilities issues, and cover a safety topic
  • Safety Week
    • Events during previous safety weeks have included interactive safety demonstrations by DRS, presentations from the Urbana Fire Department, safety seminars, DRS waste facility tours, and a BBQ with fire extinguisher training
  • TA Training
    • Hands-on training for laboratory TAs before each semester
  • Annual review of incidents and near misses

If you are interested in improving safety, working with us, meeting new people, or improving your leadership skills, please email chemsafety@illinois.edu or attend the next monthly lab safety officer meeting!

Current members: 

Chair: Rachel Nixon

Vice Chair: Sayantani Sur

Secretary: Laura Bickart

Treasurer: Wenxin Zhang

Facilities and Services Coordinator: Dr. Tingjie Song

Working Group Coordinator: Amrinder Bhuller

Student Wellness Coalition (SWC) Representative: Harshit Jain

Faculty: Dr. Martin Burke (Chemistry)

Ex officio: Dr. Josh Vura-Weis (Chemistry), Chad Stevens (SCS), Serenity Desmond (Chemistry)

Previous Members: Rodrigo Tapia Hernandez (Facilities and Services Coordinator), Kelly Powderly (Secretary), Sophie McClain (Chair), Jonathan Matsuura (Secretary), Nikki Hoang (Treasurer), Jason Cournoyer (Initiatives Coordinator), Casey Olen (Facilities and Services Coordinator), Haley Vapnik (Communications Coordinator), Andrew Greenlee (Chair), Shannon Murphy (Chair), Selena Hernandez (Communications Coordinator), Chris Reed (Working Group Coordinator), Jacob Turner (Chair), Maria Philip (Facilities and Services Coordinator), Morgan Cencer (Treasurer), Clare Leahy (Communications Coordinator), Jae Jin Bing (Secretary), Sarah Perlmutter (Chair), Jose Zavala (Wellness Coordinator), Scott Dubowsky (Chair), Michael Drummond (Secretary), Marina Philip (Treasurer), Dr. Prashant Jain, Dr. Ben McCall.

Bylaws: Approved May 1st, 2018,

              Edited September 19, 2019

Department of Chemistry JST Bylaws