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Dow to share lab safety expertise with chemistry department

Pilot program will leverage key elements of Dow’s best-in-class practices to help improve university laboratory safety

Contacts: Rhonda Zurn, College of Science and Engineering,, (612) 626-7959
Matt Hodson, University News Service,, (612) 625-0552
Fernão Silveira, Dow Chemical Company,, (989) 638-1006

MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (04/30/2012)—The Dow Chemical Company and the University of Minnesota are expanding their strategic partnership by launching a first-ever pilot program to improve safety awareness and practices in the university’s chemistry and chemical engineering labs. The pilot program will leverage key elements of Dow’s best-in-class practices to help improve university laboratory safety.

This unique safety partnership with the university’s Department of Chemistry and Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science in the College of Science and Engineering reinforces Dow’s commitment to advancing research and development at leading U.S. universities. In support of the company’s goal to support breakthrough technologies and ensure a strong pipeline of scientific talent for the nation’s workforce, Dow announced in fall 2011 it would invest $25 million per year for 10 years among 11 academic institutions, including the University of Minnesota.

“At Dow, we see it as part of our mission to support universities continue the tradition of excellence in chemical engineering, chemistry, and materials science,” said William F. Banholzer, Ph.D., Dow’s chief technology officer and executive vice president of ventures, new business development, and licensing. “The safety pilot program expands the partnership with University of Minnesota and leverages our strength in laboratory safety, which is a continuing challenge for universities everywhere. The Dow safety mindset is based on driving behavior toward incident prevention, sustained by renewed employee engagement and the responsibility to provide a safe work environment to our employees.”

University laboratory safety has improved steadily over the last two decades, thanks largely to the enactment of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration Laboratory Safety Act in 1990. However, university researchers say nurturing and sustaining a safety culture is a challenge with a transient student population and, at times, inadequate infrastructure (especially in pre-1990 facilities).

“This partnership is a tremendous opportunity for us to learn how to improve the safety culture in our two departments, which is always of paramount concern as we perform research at the forefront of chemistry, materials science and engineering,” said Department of Chemistry Chair William Tolman. “The insights and help we glean by working closely with Dow, an industry leader in safety practices, will be invaluable in promoting safe work in our laboratories.”

University administration recognizes the impact of this new partnership to improve safety and the importance of partnering with industry leaders.

“Dow’s partnership with the University of Minnesota is a great example of how today’s companies can work with universities to accomplish mutual goals while contributing to our society,” said Eric W. Kaler, president of the University of Minnesota. “The safety partnership with Dow will help bring a renewed culture of safety awareness to our laboratories that supports our mission of education and driving groundbreaking research.”

Successful elements of this safety pilot program could be leveraged to other departments within the University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering and potentially to other universities.

“We are thrilled to partner with the Dow Chemical Company in this critically important aspect of research and education,” said Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science head Frank Bates. “The consequences of this unique and innovative program will reverberate across Universities around the country.”

For more information on Dow’s partnerships with U.S. universities, visit

Check out the Dow and Minnesota team up on safety blog by Jyllian Kemsley.