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


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Like a pharmacy, the chemical stockroom in the Dow Science Complex has an easy access window, where staff members help check out over 3000 chemicals. (Taryn Wattles | Staff Photographer)

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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.

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Jamie Stock shows the barcode he created on a bottle of chemicals. Coming to CMU in 1978, Stock found the chemical stockroom lacked proper organization, so he did a full overhaul of the room. He created an online filing system using these barcodes to better catalogue the chemicals so that students and professors could easily find and check out chemicals for their experiments. (Taryn Wattles | Staff Photographer)
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Jamie Stock picks out a bottle of isoamyl acetate from the shelf of esters inside a refrigerated room of the chemical stockroom in Dow Science Complex. Opening the bottle, an aroma of bananas gently wafted through the room.(Taryn Wattles | Staff Photographer)
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Jamie Stock walks through the aisles of organic chemicals in the back room of the chemical stockroom in the Dow Science building. Stock over the years has completely redone the checkout and catalogue system for the stockroom. (Taryn Wattles | Staff Photographer)
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A 'nerve tonic' from the late 1800s can also be found amongst the nondescript bottles inside the chemical stockroom in Dow. Though not used anymore, Dr. Shoop's Restorative tonic was said to rebuild the inner nerves. (Taryn Wattles | Staff Photographer)
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Over three thousand chemicals are catalogued and stored in the chemical stockroom of the Dow Science Complex. Keeping chemicals separate was an important step in keeping the stockroom as safe as it can be. No chemicals around each other on the shelves will react to one another. (Taryn Wattles | Staff Photographer)
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Jamie Stock checks out a bottle of chemicals to a student Tuesday. Through his computer filing system, every student has a barcode, which helps track which chemicals are with who. "I get to interact with the kids... help them with chemicals and their lives," said Stock. Very proud of his current and former students, Stock knows he made a major difference in some of these kid's lives because of his dedication to chemistry. (Taryn Wattles | Staff Photographer)
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Chemicals cannot be thrown away in a nearby trashcan, but must be disposed of properly through specific means. Jamie Stock, the Lab Supervisor, redid the chemical waste management facilities for the Dow Science Complex chemical stockroom, which produces around forty thousand dollars worth of chemical waste each year. (Taryn Wattles | Staff Photographer)

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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