Feringa Building labs still not in working order, researchers fed up

There is growing frustration among the research groups that have moved into the Feringa Building: they have been delayed for weeks because they’re still unable to work in the new laboratories.

The hold-up is caused by the ventilation in the building. For safety reasons, air from the laboratories must absolutely stay within the labs. An email sent to all users says this cannot yet be guaranteed.

Installation engineers also still need to check the fume hoods before researchers can use them. Until then, they don’t have permission to move chemicals into the building.

‘We haven’t been able to do any research for the past five weeks’, says professor of polymer science Katja Loos. Researchers had been promised that the labs would be ready after the two-week move.

Complex technology

According to the faculty, things are taking this long because of the complex technical installations and the high safety requirements for the building.

Loos proposed putting the move on hold because of the problems, she says. The faculty board also considered this, but ultimately decided against it. It would lead to a delay of two to three months for the move and the demolition of Nijenborgh 4, and the faculty cannot afford the costs that would come with that.

Alternatives

Currently, Loos is looking at alternatives to continue her research. ‘I have asked if we can go to the old labs for some synthesis work’, she says. She is also looking into the possibility of renting external laboratory space.

Maria Antonietta Loi, professor of photophysics and optoelectronics, is also frustrated. In her group, twenty-five people are now waiting to get back into the lab. ‘I still hope the problem will be solved soon, because my patience and that of the whole group is wearing particularly thin.’

Two weeks

Electrochemistry PhD student Maurits de Roo thinks it’s strange that his group was allowed to move when the laboratory wasn’t ready yet. ‘I understand that there can be teething problems, but a functioning laboratory is very important.’

His group is now discussing with the safety coordinator whether they can transfer chemicals that do not require a fume hood to the new building. This would allow them to do at least some work. ‘They’re estimating that we’ll be able to do so in two weeks.’

The faculty will provide clarity on a timeline for the solution per group within two weeks at the latest. A complete update on the status of the move will be provided by the end of April.

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