Among the people elected as fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science this year is University of California, Los Angeles, chemistry professor Patrick Harran. In one of Harran's labs in 2008, 23-year-old staff research assistant Sherharbano (Sheri) Sangji was transferring tert-butyllithium by syringe when the reagent caught fire, fatally injuring Sangji.
UCLA and Harran subsequently faced felony charges of labor code violations relating to the fire. Both are still fulfilling the terms of settlement agreements reached with the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.
AAAS elects fellow "to recognize members for their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications," according to a press release. About Harran's election, association spokesperson Ginger Pinholster told the Daily Bruin:
Ginger Pinholster, AAAS director in the office of public programs, said the AAAS fellow selection process is based strictly on scientific achievement.
"(Selection as a fellow) doesn't reflect behavior or other issues," Pinholster said.
Pinholster added the AAAS administrative members who oversaw the selection process for the fellowship were unaware of the charges against Harran.
AAAS publishes Science, which ran several stories about Sangji's death and subsequent events:
- The Burning Question of Laboratory Safety (Science Careers May 1, 2009)
- Building a Culture of Safety (Science Careers June 5, 2009)
- When Will They Ever Learn? (Science Careers May 6, 2011)
- UCLA Professor to be Charged in Lab Death (Science Jan. 6, 2012, page 18)
- Settlement Announced in Patrick Harran Criminal Case (Science Careers June 20, 2014; flagged in Science June 27, 2014, page 1432)
- The Landmark Patrick Harran Case Ends Inconclusively (Science Careers July 9, 2014)
- $4,500,000 (Science Oct. 24, 2014, page 402)