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Laboratory Accident Injures Grad Student

By Saul Blumenthal
Associate Night Editor

A graduate student was cut in the face last Tuesday when a flask overheated and shattered in a chemistry laboratory, prompting an evacuation of Building 18.

Shuang Qiao G was distilling 1-Trimethylsilylethyne in a chemical hood at around 11:00 a.m. when the small flask she was using overheated and shattered in front of her. Other students in the fourth-floor laboratory responded by dialing the Campus Police emergency line. They reported the incident as an explosion.

The Cambridge Fire and Police Departments and MIT emergency teams responded to the scene. Following standard procedure, the fire alarm was sounded and the building was ordered cleared. About 200 people were evacuated, according to The Boston Globe. "We have a responsibility to act on what we hear, to activate our full response system," said Chief of Campus Police Anne P. Glavin. People were allowed to return to the building at 11:47 a.m.

Qiao, who was wearing protective glasses at the time of the accident, was taken to the Medical Department, treated for a cut on her cheek, and released. No-one else sustained any injuries as a result of the accident, and there was no damage to the lab, the Safety Office said.

Assistant Professor of Chemistry Gregory C. Fu '85, who is in charge of the lab, said that there were a few students in the lab at the time, although he was not there when the accident occurred.

Glavin said that the number of incidents each year reported as "explosions" during a given year are very low. The Campus Police Annual Report lists none in 1994, two in 1993, four in 1992 and five in 1991. She added that rarely have injuries from explosions been life-threatening.