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 at 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 safety officers.
  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, cover a safety topic
  • Safety Week
    • Events during previous safety weeks have included presentations from DRS and Urbana Fire Department, safety seminars, DRS waste facility tours, and BBQ with fire extinguisher training
  • TA Training
    • Hands-on, role-play-based training for laboratory TAs before each semester
  • Student Wellness Seminar Series
    • JST sponsors one seminar to be a part of the Wellness Seminar Series in collaboration with other student organizations (DCGSAC, WCC, YCC, SACNAS)
  • 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: Sophie McClain

Vice Chair: Rachel Nixon

Secretary: Kelly Powderly

Treasurer: Sophie McClain

Facilities and Services Coordinator: Rodrigo Tapia Hernandez

Faculty: Dr. Martin Burke (Chemistry)

Ex officio: Dr. Josh Vura-Weis (Chemistry), Dr. Stephanie Hess (DRS), Chad Stevens (SCS), Shane Brownfield (SCS), Serenity Desmond (Chemistry)

Previous Members: 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