The ever-changing University of Nevada, Reno has yet another new innovation, and they opened the doors to it Tuesday. On the 3rd floor of the Applied Research Facility, the new STAR lab (“Safety Training for Academic Research”) will focus on teaching one thing…safety, which from now on will be taught by doing...Not that the lectures were bad. Assistant Director of Laboratory Safety Ben Owens told us, “We recognized that many people learn best by hands-on training, especially for laboratory safety."

Up to now, teaching safety was done in classrooms, through lectures or online, but now it’s interactive…hands on. With its five different stations, each with hands-on activities, The STAR lab is designed for more intense, understandable training with real-world situations. As Owens put it, "It's not enough to know it. You actually have to do it. It's an applied activity."

Owens gave us an example, demonstrating a chemical's air flow. Holding a smoke machine, he showed how “chemical fumes” react to structure openings, "Down low it’s taking it very strongly, however if we were working up like this, you might see that the smoke migrates in but not nearly as much."

For Stephanie Woolf, UNR’s Director of Environmental Health & Safety, they are lessons long due. She told us, “I started my career as a chemist for the U.S. government.” She learned in the classroom and by reading. Her chemical spill training came when she actually had a spill...a knocked over jar of hydrofluoric acid, "I learned how to clean up a spill during a procedure. That's how you learned how to clean up a spill."

In the new lab, students can do a mock cleanup of a spill. There are no chemicals there…none of what you see there is real or dangerous. Only water and table salt will be used, but everyone will treat them as though they're dangerous biological agents. As Owens told us, "It is very close to real life at the level it’s designed to be. This is general baseline training."

For more information about safety training at the university, click below: