In the spotlight this week is Jack Houghton-Gisby, a current Doctoral Researcher Rep for Biomedical Sciences whom worked to successfully get the air conditioning fixed in theHeinzWolff cell culturing lab despite months of resistance from building management.
In May 2018, the air conditioning units in the Heinz Wolff cell culturing lab broke down, forcing many Doctoral Researchers to work in excessive temperatures.
In an environment where heat is generated by fridges and freezers, where windows must be shut at all times, and full lab dress must be worn, effective air conditioning is extremely important for the wellbeing and productivity for all those that work there; particularly in the hot Summer months.
With the air-conditioning broken, temperatures inside the lab were recorded reaching over 38oC. Further, given open water baths were used inside the lab throughout the day, the environment was also extremely humid.
This was an issue constantly being brought up at Student Experience meetings by reps, by students in general, and by the research staff who were all ignored or pacified by the building management.
Four weeks after the air conditioning broke down, Jack refused to work in the cell culture lab given the unacceptable working conditions. However, many master’s students and Doctoral Researchers nearing the end of their research felt they had no other choice than to put up with the issues at hand.
By eight weeks, valuable work had begun to be lost as the heat incubators, which usually heated cells to 37oC, were unable to keep cells cooler than their surroundings (which were at times nearly 40oC).
In the heat of late July and nearly 3 months after the air conditioning stopped, Jack was sure that an incident was imminent so decided to email the graduate school and building management himself. The key to this exchange is that he also involved student welfare and within an hour the lab had partial air conditioning again bringing the room down to 25oC.
This experience showed how much power students can have to effect change.
If you are a student rep and would like to be in with a chance of your successes being celebrated in the Spotlight, please tell us about them on the Rep Hub Action Log.