Bullying: The Breakdown

In early 2018 Sherry Moss, professor of organizational studies at Wake Forest University, was approached by a woman struggling under a verbally and mentally abusive adviser– the subsequent investigation led to her recently published research article regarding the atmosphere of abuse commonly found in university laboratories. Moss finds, as her title makes clear, that research is set up for bullies to thrive. In her article, Moss journeys into both the psychological premise for these bullying antics, and the reason they are not only allowed, but enabled.

 

 

Why is this happening?-

Moss finds that academic settings have higher rates of bullying than other workplaces, but claims, “I have no evidence that scientists are more likely than the general population to have characteristics of abusers or their targets.” She finds that the atmosphere of demand on supervisors to produce results can lead to displaced aggression towards students and the position they have of control commonly leads to what is called “power-poisoning.” Not only that, but because there is rarely an established system of accountability in place, the students have no guarantee that complaints will be investigated or heeded and place themselves (and their years of research) at risk. “When penalties are rare, bad behaviour can thrive.”

 

What can be done about it?-

As with any pervasive dilemma, there are a host of solutions at hand and the best one really depends on the individual situation. Clear communication of the students’ disgruntlement and expectations to either the supervisor or other faculty members is an option, but one which can prove risky, as it could easily results in loss of an essential reference and affect future positions and grant possibilities. There is also the option for students to simply not work with a supervisor who is notorious for bullying antics, but the benefit of this direct tactic is hindered by the power of prestige, Moss finds all too often students will opt to work with “a big name who has lots of publications instead of heeding warnings.” Moss’ ultimate conclusion is that “research institutions must do more to watch for and eliminate abuse.” Institutions should take more serious inquiry into not just peer-review, but also student reviews, during and following research opportunities. These practices should be in place not only for teachers suspected of abuse, but in general. Funding is also an essential reinforcement tool and should be used to reward institutions which partake of such practices. Consequences for egregious behavior should be instituted, addressing complaints with dismissal or stripping of supervision privileges. Finally, Moss calls for the creation of “navigable paths for early-career researchers to switch supervisors.”

 

Safety covers all aspects of human health, including mental and emotional. Safety in the workplace (or research facility) is a contributing factor to peace of mind, well-being, and quality of work. Following Moss’ prescribed steps to eradicate the sources of negative research atmospheres may be quite an undertaking for any institution; however, if quality of research is to be the highest priority, the reward of such an undertaking outweighs any setbacks.

 

Human Lifespan

Prolonging the human lifespan is “the biggest thing that is going to happen in the 21st century,” says Harvard biologist, David Sinclair. The idea of the Bionic human, is conceptually one of the earliest schemes of science fiction. Thoroughly investigated through creative outlets such as books and film, the universal fantasy has reappeared time and again. However, if the mysterious example of Arthur C. Clark has taught us anything, it is that what can be imagined, could also be proven. 

A recent article from MIT Technology Review, elaborates on the theory espoused by David Sinclair, that human regeneration is now within actual reach. Though evidence of the progress of such trials has been kept relatively contained, this technological review reveals a glimpse of just how far scientists have been able to come in the biological rejuvenation of animals, especially dogs, and the confidence in human application. That the human lifespan is finite, has long been a scholarly question, and it is exciting to witness the revelation of advances to parry that question.

Dinosaurs in Our Time

YaleNews writer Jim Shelton has been following the findings and publications of Yale assistant professor and assistant curator Bhart-Anjan Singh Bhullar and his team for the past few years. According to Shelton’s 2015 research review, Bhullar’s lab has been successful in replicating “ancestral molecular development to transform chicken embryos in a laboratory into specimens with a snout and palate configuration similar to that of small dinosaurs such as Velociraptor and Archaeopteryx.” The study has been years of work to further investigate evolutionary processes. More recently, this research revealed an observable correlation “between the brain’s development and the roofing bones of the skull.” Regarding this finding, Bhullar states, “We suggest that this relationship is found across all vertebrates with bony skulls and indicates a deep developmental relationship between the brain and the skull roof,” implying “the brain produces molecular signals that instruct the skeleton to form around it.”

The ramifications of such research are not, as may be dramatically assumed, to pull a Jurassic Park and initiate the recreation of Dinosaurs, but more so to expose what secrets their fossil remains can disclose about genetic makeup across species.

 

Technological Advances Reducing Outbreak

Technological advances come in all shapes and sizes. They serve many different purposes, and solve many problems, from how to help you connect with people around you to how you view the world. Technological advances are how we translate growth in this day and age. They affect everyday life, including our health. When it comes to working in hospitals, the success of your technology can determine the success of your patients. Where potential exposure to pathogens is involved, less is more. The less exposure to pathogens, the greater potential for successful patients. Here is a list of 5 innovative technological advances that employ this “less is more” theory and could reduce outbreak of infections in hospitals.

 

  1. Respiratory Technology Innovations.

Starting things with the basics. How do you improve upon the wheel? In many ways, gaining small advances over a long period of time. In a similar fashion, respiratory technology has been improving since it’s conception and continues to strive for the best in that most basic human necessity, breathing. Simply stated, respiratory technology is making gains by slimming down. Respiratory Advancement insider John Raimondi states, “ergonomics can be imperative to getting the job done safely…increased fields of view and lighter-weight masks are becoming increasingly important attributes to users who may be working in respirators for extended periods of time.” Ergonomics are key to advances in safety for respiratory technology; a more wearable device encourages the health of the wearer in times of necessity.

 

  1. Kinnos Highlight.

Four years ago there was an ebola outbreak in the United States. One contributor to this outbreak was contamination from doctors’ uniforms. Contamination occured because of two problems with the required method of decontamination, which involves spraying bleach on uniforms. The first problem is that when normal bleach is sprayed it forms droplets instead of covering the entire surface of the uniform. Additionally, since bleach is not visible to the naked eye, coverage could not be confirmed visually. The solution was adding KInnos Highlight to the bleach used for decontamination. Kinnos Highlight is a bright blue dye which reduces the formation of droplets and then gently oxidizes with the air, giving doctors plenty of time to confirm full coverage of materials and reducing potential for outbreak.

 

  1. Copper coated Uniforms.

Kinnos Highlight, though a simple and effective solution to potential clothing contamination, might be rendered unnecessary with the growth of this technological advancement. According to a recent article reporting this breakthrough, a new composite material made from antibacterial copper nanoparticles has been successfully produced. Also developed is the ability to bind this composite to fabrics such as cotton and polyester in a durable way. The resulting innovation has excellent antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. According to the research findings, the “cotton and polyester coated-copper fabrics showed excellent antibacterial resistance against Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) and E. coli.” Once the process of producing this new technology is simplified, it will be more accessible to healthcare professionals, providing a safer work environment and less risk of infection and outbreak.

 

  1. Cloud-based Analytics Platforms.

Hospitals all over the world are stripping down their data centers and putting efforts into pursuing cloud-based analytics platforms. This technological advancement serves to keep patients and practitioners safer by safeguarding information. However, according to Richard Stroup (Director of Informatics at Children’s Mercy in Kansas City), use of these platforms goes beyond the function of data security and increases chance of overall wellness. Stroup states that their facility uses cloud services to host an app and data that “literally save lives of at-risk pediatric patients by tracking them after they leave the hospital”. Children with compromised health have weakened immune systems are more susceptible to pathogens present in hospital settings. Communicating conditions and receiving feedback via applications leads to less chances of outbreak. Additionally, other applications ensure that methods for accountability and knowledge to keep up with best health practices are more accessible than ever before. Technological advances through apps like SafetyStratus help nurses and doctors more easily assess patient schedules and keep assignments manageable, so that accidental exposure to illness can be avoided.

 

  1. Wearable Medical Devices.

In the healthcare industry, small wearable devices are making huge steps in innovation. The potential for these devices to facilitate remote patient monitoring increases patients ability to maintain awareness of their own conditions and reduces the need for hospital visits and exposure to pathogens. Additionally, according to an article from Today’s Medical Developments, “the precision of such devices have the potential to improve diagnosis, and a more customized treatment or post-treatment recuperative plan.” The increase in consistency of feedback of medical conditions leads to higher success rate in recuperation, and directly reduces potential for outbreak.  

Whether these advances come through aesthetics or more technical avenues, they all are improving patient and professional health and safety.

 

SafetyStratus College and University Award

February 18, 2018. The American Chemical Society (ACS) division of Chemical Health and Safety (CHAS) has announced the winner of the 2018 Safety Stratus/ CHAS College and University Award. Douglas Walters, the 2018 CHAS Awards Chair, states that, “The award is given to acknowledge excellence in undergraduate chemistry safety programs.”

The award this year goes to the Department of Chemistry, and the Department of Environment, Health and Safety (EH&S) at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Nominations are submitted before December of the previous year, and chosen to be recognizedbased on numerous qualifications to assess their dedication to establishing, promoting and perpetuating a highly effective undergraduate chemical safety program. The presentation of the award and acceptance of the commemorative plaque will take place in the afternoon on August 19, 2018 at the 256th Annual National Meeting and Exposition for the ACS, Nanoscience, Nanotechnology & Beyond, in Boston Massachusetts. Previous Winners of the SafetyStratus College and University and Safety Award are listed here:

2017: Stanford University

2016: Duke University

2015: University of Pennsylvania

2014: University of California Davis

2013: North Carolina State University

In addition to the Universities who have invested in maintaining safe projects and facilities for undergraduates, the awards highlight the contribution of supporting technology and consulting safety professionals.

To learn more about the ACS and chemical research and safety, visit any of the links provided or register to attend any one of the ACS national or regional meetings.

Civil Rights and Safety

Last week we celebrated Martin Luther King Day. Martin Luther King Junior was a civil rights leader whose voice shook the foundations of America and resonated throughout the entire world. In the United States we celebrate King’s life on the third Monday in the month of January each year; this year we celebrated on January 15th, King’s actual birthday. Many cities celebrate this holiday with parades and community get-togethers. Federal legislation often preempts the celebration by encouraging American citizens to volunteer, therein embodying Martin Luther King’s cause of bettering society and helping your fellow man. As we reflect on the past week and remember our day of celebration, we can remember that innovative thinking is a cause which will continue on. While we honor one who dedicated his life to civil rights, we can continue to propel his dream by educating ourselves on all the details of life that civil rights entails.

The fight for civil rights has not ended. Basic civil rights include not just the right to work, but the right to work in safety; not just the right to vote, but the knowledge of how voting affects your everyday life. Jordan Barab,  former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor at OSHA, makes the statement in his online newsletter, that all American workers, “need to know that there are technical resources out there. And they all need to know that politics matters, voting matters — in national and local elections. Politics and voting affect workers’ likelihood of coming home alive and healthy,  how much they’re getting paid and what their rights are. Everything is connected — tax cuts, growing deficits, federal budgets, executive orders, regulatory “reform” — it all affects workplace safety every day.” These “technical resources” Barab refers to include Barab’s own blog, myriads of webinars, OSHA’s website, and many more. As we remember a man who famously fought for the civil rights of American citizens, it is important to remember Martin Luther King Jr. both in word and deed, to use the resources at hand to educate oneself on and vote to establish the civil right of safety in the workplace.