1. How did you get involved in glassblowing?
Wendell: I started my career while working with Health Education and Welfare under the Department of Water Pollution Control Administration, which later became the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The analytical laboratory needed all kinds of glassware and two other technicians and I were asked if we were interested in trying our hand at glassblowing. After several months of practice, our leaders thought I worked well with glass, so in 1965 and 1966, I did my professional training at the University of Georgia under Howard L. Epperson.
Matt: I started working with Wendell as an undergraduate student in June 2003. I met Wendell though my brother, Chris, who had worked with him during his final semester at Auburn as an electrical engineering student. Wendell had helped design and construct the laser for his senior design project. Within a few days of my working with Wendell, I realized that I really wanted to learn how to become a glassblower. I worked in the glass shop for just over two years and learned a good amount during that time. I went from cleaning the floors and benches to constructing smaller and less complicated apparatus. After graduation, Wendell asked me if I wanted to stay and work with him full time and hopefully become his replacement when he decided to retire. It wasn't much of a decision really. I loved what I was doing and I didn't want to leave the place that I had grown to call home. Five years and countless cuts and burns later, I have learned a lot from Wendell and I still enjoy coming to work each day.
2. What kinds of items do you make in Auburn's glass shop?
Wendell: We fabricate, modify and repair glassware, including constructing custom-made apparatus for various groups on campus. These apparatus can be of many different types: photo chemical, instrumentation, extraction, digestion, distillation and high vacuum lines. We also are ready to help in whatever area is needed including apparatus for the unknown, organic and inorganic in nature.
3. What do you enjoy most about your job?
Wendell: How lucky can a guy be? I have been a scientific glassblower for 45 years and I have enjoyed it all. I have made all types of custom apparatus, routine parts and equipment. I have also had the opportunity to meet and work with a lot of interesting people from all over the world. Working with graduate students at Auburn for the last 21 years has been a highlight during my time here.
Matt: The things that I enjoy most about my job are the opportunity to do something different each day, and working for Auburn University. When I was still in school I was always afraid of having a job where each day would be the same. There are times when we need to make 3,000 identical tubes, but the most exciting days are when someone comes in the door with a new project, or a request for an apparatus that I might not have constructed before. Having the ability to do new things each day and to apply the techniques that I have learned to new projects keeps the work fun and exciting.
4. How long have you been at Auburn?
Matt: Wendell has been at Auburn for 21 years. I have lived in Auburn since August 2001 and have been a full-time employee of the university since September 2005.
5. What's your favorite thing about Auburn?
Wendell: The sense of camaraderie and interaction with researchers and others on and around campus has been my favorite thing. People always use the term "family" when describing Auburn. I believe that term is correct. I have often been surprised at the lengths people will go to help one another. In my experience, I have always had success dealing with others who were more than willing to help when it was needed.
Matt: There are too many to list in a paragraph, but if I had to narrow it down to "one" favorite thing about Auburn, it would be football season. There is just something very special that happens here during the first week in September. People who live in Auburn can also tell you about the energy that starts to build up around town during the middle of the week for those big home games. My fiancee, Melisa, and I are huge fans. So much so, that I actually proposed to her at the National Championship game. War Eagle!