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Managing crises, keeping lab safe

Sitting in her office, surrounded by motivational posters, she seems calm. But at any moment, Jennifer Hogan, 32, may have to dash out to save the day … or at least an experiment.

“I put out fires … or mop up water,” Hogan said with a chuckle in reference to a recent incident involving a flooded 2nd floor and a broken distillation unit. “No day is ever the same.”

As the laboratory operations manager of the Health Research and Education Center (HREC) at WSU Spokane, she has a varied job. You are as likely to see her creating or updating a database as repairing a broken piece of lab equipment.

Much of Hogan’s job is making sure everything in the lab is running safely, avoiding hazardous problems. But if things do go awry, she must be able to problem solve on the spot in order to keep everything safe.

“We have a lot of pieces of equipment that can produce all sorts of issues,” she said. “And because of the biological, chemical and radiation safety issues, it is easier to just handle the situation without calling on other individuals who are not familiar with laboratory hazards.”

In addition to aiding researchers in Spokane, Hogan is a scientist herself. A graduate of WSU twice over, she has a bachelor’s degree in zoology and a master’s degree in neuroscience.

“The fact that my coworkers and I have the same background is a big advantage, because I know the materials, terms and equipment -— we converse well,” she said.

Hogan’s list of accomplishments and firsts are too numerous for detail, but include the following:
• Created and keeps current a quick-reference chemical inventory database for more than 600 materials that may be easily accessed on the Web.
• Developed a comprehensive safety program for HREC.
• Established a hazardous-waste management program for HREC researchers.
• Developed and manages effective training programs with database, tracking and Web-based training resources for users. She coordinates training needs and provides necessary training materials to researchers.

When asked what the best part of her job is, Hogan said, “I love my job, but I am not married to this position. I enjoy working with these people and I like crisis management, but at the end of the day I am a wife to my husband, not my job. And that’s really good.”

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