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UCI Students Return to Labs

Fire: Researchers resume experiments after discovering that last week's blaze spared nearby rooms.

July 31, 2001|ANDREA PERERA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

UC Irvine students who worked nearest a laboratory that exploded in flames last week returned to their experiments Monday and found the damage so minimal, most were able to pick up where they had left off.

The work of Justin Vitale, a fourth-year graduate student in organic synthesis, was in a third-floor lab, one level up from the July 23 explosion in the east-wing second floor of Frederick Reines Hall. Though the lost week was inconvenient, Vitale said, "It seems pretty much like business as usual."

Other students agreed that the major loss was time.

"Experiments were ongoing, and they definitely suffered," said Jackie Dalgard, a second-year organic chemistry graduate student, who also works on the third floor. She continued to study during the week but could not proceed with her experiment in radical chemistry.

"It's strange not to be working, because that's what a grad student does," she said.

UC Irvine officials said students and professors are now free to return to all parts of the building except the immediate fire area, which is blocked off with cardboard.

Fire officials and insurance adjusters are still investigating that area, where a graduate student's chemistry experiment blew up.

"The rest of the building is wide open and functioning," said Tom Vasich, a university spokesman.

The west wing, which houses mostly physics labs, opened Friday afternoon. Students and professors were allowed briefly into the east wing Saturday to retrieve personal items.

Though people are back to work, many are jittery. Physics professor Bill Molzon said someone pulled a fire alarm Saturday afternoon after noticing an unusual odor.

The building was briefly evacuated, and Molzon said he didn't mind the interruption because lingering worries are normal.

"People are cautious now," he said.

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