Made to Order:
Shop Creates Custom Instrumentation for TSRI Investigators
By Mika Ono
Enrique Saldivar, an assistant professor in TSRIs Molecular
and Experimental Medicine Department, knows what he needs:
a special rotational device that will enable him to study
the flow of particles in suspension. Although the device has
never been made, Saldivar is not concerned. He has confidence
that the craftsmen in TSRIs Instrumentation and Design
Shop have the flexibility and skill to create it.
Novel experiments often require novel apparatus,
says Saldivar, an M.D.-Ph.D. "Im in the Instrumentation
and Design Shop about twice a month asking for something new.
As an engineer by training, I appreciate the fine work the
shop produces. In engineering, I look for precision of parts
and elegance of designand thats what I see."
The shop, located in the upper basement of The Beckman Center,
helps researchers customize their labs by offering a full
range of services, including the design of equipment, the
actualization of sketches, the modification of tools, and
the repair of machinery.
"We focus on service," says Ward Coppersmith, who has directed
the shop for 22 years. "Whatever the scientists need, we do.
Thats why were here. We provide a level of accountability
and quality that you couldnt get consistently from outside
Coppersmith works with craftsmen John McDowell, Stan Block,
and Chris Fish, as well as an administrative assistant, Jerry
Bush, to complete the variety of projects requested by scientists
across campus. Together, the Instrumentation and Design team
can boast over 100 years of shop experience.
The supplies and equipment in the shop itself reflect the
range of projects that keep the crew busy day-to-day. Stainless
steel, aluminum, a little wood and many types of plastic are
piled against the wall. Large saws, lathes, grinders, sanders,
drill presses, shearers, and welding devices are strategically
located around the small space.
"We have some high-performance equipment," comments Coppersmith,
"Those milling machines over there are worth some $60,000.
But I like to think were like a kitchen. Were
famous for what we put on the plate, not how we get it there."
A pile of snapshots documents notable projects the shop
has produced. Photos of a plate washer that Coppersmith patented,
an ice crusher made from scratch for Professor Peter Schultz,
a support for a flu virus model all evoke memories. "John
is smiling in that picture because were done." "Look
at those parts! Arent they beautiful?" "We stayed in
the shop for three days to build that support. Stan slept
on that table over there..."
But no one has time to linger long over past accomplishments.
"Weve got to get going," Coppersmith explains. "Were
working on some time-sensitive projects..."
Chris Fish is one of the four craftsmen
in Instrumentation and Design.