Lab Fire Prompts Science Association to Drop UCLA Professor

The association claimed its members were unaware of Patrick Harran’s role in a lab accident when they voted for his nomination.

A UCLA chemistry professor has lost his fellowship in the American Association for the Advancement of Science after members learned of his role in a fatal 2008 lab fire.

Patrick Harran, a 47-year-old professor, had been approved by the scientific society in January when members accepted his nomination, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The decision sparked a backlash from workplace safety experts and chemists because of Harran’s role in a lab fire that resulted in the death of 23-year-old Sheharbano Sangji.

In that case, Sangji suffered severe burns when a syringe she was using to transfer an extremely flammable liquid broke. Sangji, who was not wearing a protective lab coat at the time of the accident, died 18 days later from the burns.

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Harran was charged with four felonies as a result of the accident because he failed to provide proper safety training or require protective lab gear. An agreement was eventually reached in the case that defers prosecution and dismisses the charges if Harran meets certain conditions.

Members of the scientific association said they were unaware of the accident when they approved Harran. After the announcement the group received a letter from Sangji’s family asking that Harran’s selection be rescinded.

AAAS is a 167 year old organization that aims to “advance science, engineering, and innovation throughout the world for the benefit of all people.”

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