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Forest Park Chemistry Professor sets Lab Safety standards for district plan

October 10, 2013

Joe Wilson and Vince Featherson  
Joe Wilson, left, and Vince Featherson

A Forest Park chemistry professor has contributed his knowledge in the hazardous waste treatment area to help make St. Louis Community College science laboratories safer.

To help the school prevent chemical exposure that could result in injuries or harm to students, faculty and staff who use laboratories, STLCC is required by Laboratory Safety Standard to have a chemical hygiene plan in place.

Marcy Cline, an environmental, health and safety specialist in STLCC’s  Risk Management office, said she has been working on a new plan for several years. After the last draft, Joe Wilson, an assistant professor in chemistry at Forest Park, was enlisted to write it, and crafted a 92-page document in a week.

Wilson’s report, which defined work practices and procedures addressing safety, included information on laboratory standards, recognition of hazardous materials, standard operating procedures for laboratory chemicals, waste disposal, biological and chemical safety, personal protective equipment, spill response, accident response, medical consultation and evaluation, and record keeping.

His plan not only met the requirements of the Laboratory Safety Standard and has been accepted, but the Forest Park Science department will be used as a template for the other campus science departments.

“His hard work has helped STLCC comply with regulations and ensure safer environments in our laboratories. He has made a great contribution to environmental health, safety and risk management,” Cline said.

Wilson has taught chemistry classes – fundamental, general and organic – at STLCC-Forest Park since 2010, and has been actively involved on campus academic, faculty, staff and student committees. He formed the Chemistry Club last year, and is the adviser of the chapter now affiliated with the American Chemical Society.

Wilson, a native of Litchfield, Ill., was fascinated by science at an early age.

“I have been interested in science for as long as I can remember. I have known since I was in the second grade that I wanted to be a teacher someday. To me, the explanations of what things are and how they work are very fascinating,” he said.

Wilson graduated from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville in 1991 with bachelor's degrees in chemistry and psychology, minoring in biological sciences. He earned a master’s degree in chemistry (organic synthesis) in 1994. He was a teaching assistant in labs and also worked in the university’s Hazard Waste Treatment Laboratory, eventually running it.

During the past three years at STLCC, he has created courses for the MoHealthWINS program and his department, streamlined curriculum and technical procedures, been published in peer-reviewed journals, and volunteered for campuswide projects. He received an Outstanding Teaching Award through the Student Government Association’s annual staff and faculty honors this past spring.

“I know firsthand how difficult it can be to do well in science classes, so it has become my mission to help students succeed in science by breaking down all of the details of the topics we cover so that they can see from a ‘step-by-step’ approach how to deal with problems in science – especially chemistry," he said. "I always am excited when students make those ‘breakthroughs’ in their understanding, and then see for themselves how beautiful science is.”

His experience helped in formulating the chemical hygiene plan. He has also worked for Ethyl Petroleum in 1993, doing environmental health and safety work. And while working for Dennis Chemical Co. (now Geon Corp.) from 1995 to 1998, he produced material safety data sheets for their polymer products. He also completed courses in OSHA training.

While teaching at Olney Central College, Wilson served as the chair of the Health and Safety Committee, and wrote the chemical hygiene plan for the college. He returned to the Metro East, and taught at Lewis and Clark Community College from 2002 until 2010, where he was the chair of the Health and Life Safety Committee for three years. He also taught at Southwestern Illinois College and Sanford-Brown College.

Currently, he is working on a doctorate at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, expecting to be finished in spring 2014. At UMSL, he earned a second master’s degree in chemistry (physical organic) in 2011. He resides in Edwardsville.