Laboratory renovations lead to student’s success

Student's success
Chemical Engineering Graduate Student Richard Cullum conducts research for his dissertation project.

By Gail Riese

A key piece of furniture in a research laboratory is a lab bench. Without access to it, it’s quite difficult to conduct experiments that are necessary to complete research projects, says Richard Cullum, a graduate student in the Department of Chemical Engineering.  

Richard is completing a dissertation research project that is supervised by Dr. David Riese in the Department of Drug Discovery and Development in the Harrison School of Pharmacy and Dr. Ram Gupta in the Department of Chemical Engineering. Richard’s project is focused on the development of a screening process to identify potential drug candidates to treat skin cancers.  His work will also include the creation of a delivery system that will transport the drug to the specific cell tumor sites.

The research is being conducted in Dr. Riese’s laboratory where the workbench surfaces were initially too high for Richard, who uses a wheelchair. The cabinets beneath the bench also prevented him from being able to sit properly. In order to make the laboratory benches accessible, Facilities Management architect Phil Johnson and project expeditor Wade Kennedy designed a new workspace for Richard.

“We replaced a section of the existing benches with a newly constructed bench that has a lower work surface with no cabinets,” said Johnson.  “The lab bench was specifically designed to accommodate the student’s workspace needs.”

Richard’s research project is funded by a training grant in Pharmaceutical Engineering from the U.S. Department of Education’s Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need (GAANN).  Richard’s first publication, which he co-authored with Dr. Riese, was recently accepted to Seminars in Cell & Developmental Biology. The paper is titled “Epiregulin: Roles in normal physiology and cancer.”

“It was very difficult to work in the lab comfortably and efficiently without the accessible lab bench,” said Cullum. “The renovations have allowed me to be able to work independently in the lab; something I always thought would be very difficult for me.”

The Auburn University Office of Accessibility funded the lab renovation. The Office’s mission is to work with students, faculty, and staff, to reduce barriers and create more usable learning environments.

Last Updated: April 02, 2014