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Chemical King: CMU’s Stock a vital fixture in campus science operations

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Jamie Stock guards a chemical stockpile that could bring “Breaking Bad’s” Walter White to tears.

Located in a dark corner on the basement floor of the Dow Science Complex, the chemistry stockroom houses 3,391 different chemicals used by faculty and students. As Hazardous Waste Manager and Lab Supervisor, Stock is the sentinel for these chemicals, facilitating grant research and active lab learning for 36 years.

“I love it because you’re allowed the freedom to accomplish your tasks the way you see fit,” Stock said. “It’s just so much fun to work with the professors and students to make an impact. There is little doubt that I’ve made an impact on this university.”

However, his impact is difficult to quantify. Stock describes his legacy as, “taking this department into the 21st century” through a self-created digital inventory system that raised the efficiency of cataloguing and checking out materials exponentially.

Stock’s predecessor did him no favors. When he arrived at Central Michigan University, the stockroom was a haphazard mess and a portrait of disorganization.

Chemicals were sorted alphabetically regardless of their properties, presenting a potential hazard with reactive elements in close proximity. Stock said the first thing he did was separate all organic and inorganic chemicals and sort them to eliminate any chance of reactions.

His next labor was the task of reforming the inventory system. The previous method had physical index cards for the chemicals and the stockroom had to be shut down for weeks in the sumer to go through them all.

Stock created his own solution by building an online barcode system to check out materials. Students and faculty can see the entirety of the stockroom on their computers through a program he invented, including the amount of each chemical and it’s properties.

In the nearly 20-year span since its inception, 13,000 materials have been checked out using his system.

“He’ll save you money and time, and the pace at which he can fill orders and find things is phenomenal,” said Dale Lecaptain, an analytical chemistry professor. “I joke that I can ask him for a certain piece of equipment and it will make it to the lab before I do. He’s very quick and efficient.”

David Ash, chairperson for the department of chemistry, said the need for an efficient stockroom is “critical.” He compared the process of checking out materials to shopping at a supermarket and praised Stock’s efficiency and knowledge.

In his 36 years at CMU, things have changed drastically, especially in the department of chemistry.

“We might have had maybe 10 students at the most doing active research (when I began), now we have 70 or more,” Stock said. “Research has really exploded, and not just the students but the professors themselves. One or two used to have active research going on, now practically every professor does.”

Aside from his work with research chemicals, Stock also takes care of hazardous waste on campus.

Stock said CMU is quite good at producing hazardous materials, ranging from outdated custodial supplies, inks and oils from the art department, biomedical waste and so on.

He said he probably spends $10,000 four times a year removing the waste. This is coupled with nearly a $100,000 price tag on restocking materials each year.

Stock is more than just a vanguard or a mere custodian of the chemicals. He has degrees in biomedical science and chemistry. Stock achieved the latter with a 4.0 grade point average.

“When I took physical chemistry, I got 100 percent one of my exams and the second highest in the class was 52 percent,” Stock said. “So I did some incredible things.”

Eat your heart out, Heisenberg.

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