Biological Safety Cabinets: Making them work for you

When properly used, Biological safety Cabinets (BSCs) protect investigators from exposure to infectious materials and prevent contamination of research material.  They must be certified annually to help ensure that these objectives are met. Individual labs are responsible for arranging this service through an outside vendor. (Vendors’ contact numbers can usually be found on the sticker affixed to the frame of device at the time of the prior certification or you may contact EH&RS/EH&S for a reference to a company that provides this service.)


Proper BSC use also includes collection of aspirate. The drawing below is from the CDC/NIH’s primary biosafety reference. Use small collections flasks (250-500ml.) pre-filled with an adequate concentration of disinfectant.  A large flask kept on the floor invites accidental breakage and promotes fungal growth which may impact your work.

A filter [C] must be placed on the vacuum line just before the valve [D].


This protects the lines from corrosion and provides a level of security to maintenance staff that may have to service the vacuum system. Contact EH&RS/EH&S if you need information on obtaining the correct filter. bsc

Nuclear Reactor at Columbia University: A brief history

The story of the University’s nuclear reactor facility began in 1960 when the project was launched with a grant of a quarter of a million dollars from the National Science Foundation for the purchase and installation of a TRIGA Mark II reactor for education and research purposes. In 1963, the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) accepted the University’s application for construction of the facility.

Construction of the reactor building began early in 1964 and installation of the reactor facility followed shortly thereafter. The building project was completed in April of 1967, at a total cost of approximately one million (1967) dollars.

In January 1968, the University applied to the AEC for an operating license.
In March of 1968, the AEC filed notice in the Federal Register of its intention to issue the license and it immediately received petitions for intervention from activists and concerned area residents.

Because of the prevailing climate in 1968 (student unrest and community opposition) the University asked the AEC to defer further action on the application for an operating license.

In June of 1969, the University reactivated its license application. A lengthy court battle followed; many documents were supplied to the courts including estimates of the amount of radioactive material that would be released in a postulated accident.  The University’s position was upheld in June 1974 and Columbia needed only to apply to the AEC to obtain the license.

At the time, the University was re-evaluating its Nuclear Science and Engineering program and examining the need for a nuclear reactor.
With changes in top management and financial considerations, it was decided to put the project on indefinite hold and then canceled

The concrete shell of the nuclear reactor (see picture below) stands in the Engineering Terrace building rusting away, never fueled, never radioactive. All instruments related to the nuclear reactor were given away to other institutions that had similar reactors.



Environmental Health & Radiation Safety /Environmental Health & Safety


Medical Center
630 West 168th Street, Mailbox #8
New York, NY  10032
Phone:  (212) 305-6780

Morningside Campus
S.W. Mudd Building, Suite 350
New York, NY  10027
Phone:  (212) 854-8749

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