Glasswash Clears the Way for Science at TSRI
By Mika Ono
From my point of view, the experiments start here,
says Deloris Harvey, a Glasswash supervisor at The Scripps
Research Institute (TSRI), looking around the room at busy
staff, industrial-size glass washing machines, continuously
running dryers, and carts full of sterilized glassware. "Without
Glasswash, a lot of science at TSRI would come to a stop."
Glasswashspread out in five locations to be close
to the labs they servecleans roughly 1,000 pieces of
scientific glassware a day. The Glasswash staff, who work
in shifts starting as early as 3 AM, wheel carts to the labs
to pick up dirty glassware, then deliver it clean and sterilized
the next day.
Miguel Garcia, Glasswash supervisor in the Molecular and
Experimental Medicine Building who recently marked his 35-year
anniversary at the institute, notes that the glassware he
picks up from every lab is different. "Some labs produce lots
of test tubes; others, lots of plastic or bottles," he says.
"Each lab has its own specialty."
Getting the glassware clean can be a high-tech operation.
Glasswash uses a specially formulated (and highly corrosive)
soap that can tackle not just dirt, but also salts, agar and
protein. "Even our soap cant handle everything," comments
Harvey. "There was one lab in Molecular Biology that was using
something that reminded me of cod liver oil. I had to get
out the chemical books to find a way to cut the heavy, gooey
Cleaning procedures can be quite elaborate. Tissue culture
dishes from the Immunology labs, for example, are put in the
industrial-strength washers with hot water, soap and bleach
for 20 minutes. Staff then scrub the glassware by hand before
it is put back in the washing machine to be rinsed with hot
water. After a stint in the dryer, the pieces are marked with
autoclaving tape, then autoclaved at 270 degrees Fahrenheit
for complete sterilization. Throughout, safety is a priority
so that Glasswash staff do not come into direct contact with
chemicals when they handle the glassware or use cleansing
Professor Emeritus Neil Cooper, who oversees part of the
Glasswash operation, concludes: "Its a big responsibility
to produce sanitary glassexperiments depend on it. And
its not easy to keep glassware from 40 or 50 labs where
it belongs. Fortunately, the staff working in Glasswash are
solid citizens who take pride in their work. A lot of people
count on them."
Miguel Garcia, Glasswash supervisor
in the Molecular and Experimental Medicine Building, has cleaned
and sterilized glass at the institute for 35 years.