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 vendors."
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
But no one has time to linger long over past accomplishments. "Weve
got to get going," Coppersmith explains. "Were working on some time-sensitive
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Chris Fish is one of the four craftsmen in Instrumentation