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Credit: Hossain Shadman, Lab Manager

How a Graduate Student Helped Foster Lasting Safety Culture

Hossain Shadman, winner of Lab Manager’s 2024 Excellence in Safety Leadership Award, spearheaded a change at his university that boosted safety and compliance

Holden Galusha

Holden Galusha is the associate editor for Lab Manager. He was a freelance contributing writer for Lab Manager before being invited to join the team full-time. Previously, he was the...

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In a series of brand-new awards, Lab Manager is honoring individuals who have made exceptional contributions to their lab’s safety endeavors or culture. Hossain Shadman, PhD candidate at the University of Memphis, was the recipient of the 2024 Excellence in Safety Leadership award because of his diligence in driving long-lasting safety culture improvements in a particularly challenging setting: a university. “[Hossain] stood out to me,” says Ashley Augspurger, one of the judges, “because he was able to make a cultural change in a university, which is incredibly hard due to the high turnover rate of students.” The Joint Safety Team, of which Hossain is a member of the executive committee, has faculty involvement, collaborates effectively with EHS staff, and has secured external funding.

Associate editor Holden Galusha spoke with Hossain about what inspired him to get involved with lab safety work and how Lab Manager helped him reach these achievements.

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Q: Can you briefly discuss your background and what you do in your current role?

A: I am a PhD candidate at the University of Memphis. I’m on the executive committee of the UofM Joint Safety Team (JST): a graduate student-led effort to promote positive safety culture in research labs. The JST is intended to add to existing safety infrastructure, providing graduate students an opportunity to play a leading role in their own safety. I helped establish the JST as a Registered Student Organization (RSO) and, together with the rest of the team, I take initiatives that we feel promote a more positive safety culture. We collaborate with faculty and EH&S for these initiatives. As an example of such an initiative, I got together with two other graduate students to organize a department-wide seminar, where we invited senior members from industry (representing such well-known companies as Amgen and Vertex Pharmaceuticals) to discuss how safety was prioritized there. Not only was this an opportunity for everyone to learn more about safety, but we also got to meet and network with industry leaders.

Q: What was your reaction to winning this award, and what does it mean to you to win?

A: I got the email not long after New Year’s Day and I could not believe it. It was a pleasant surprise. This award means a lot to me because it is a recognition of my efforts. Many thanks to Lab Manager for this honor. I must give a shout out to Rachel Wiley and Christy Dyer (my friends and fellow JST leaders), Dr Tomoko Fujiwara (our faculty advisor) and Gabe and Mike (EH&S)—all of whom I have worked with for the JST’s initiatives.

Q: What inspired you to focus on safety in your professional life?

A: I wanted to advocate for an improved safety culture for both myself and my peers (who happen to be my friends) and also save my department money in the long run (i.e., by preventing costly incidents). I additionally wanted to meet and learn from other lab safety enthusiasts.

Q: How has Lab Manager's content helped you bolster your lab's safety practices/culture?

A: I did not originally have any experience with safety leadership; my experience with safety only went as far as the training I was required to do every year. Thus, initially, with the JST, I did not know how I could make it a meaningful organization. I ended up going through some of Lab Manager’s content that, over time, helped shape my perspectives and enabled me to move forward. Another reason to be thankful to Lab Manager!

Q: What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

A: I enjoy hanging out with my friends, reading, listening to a variety of podcasts, and doing CrossFit.

Hossain’s career journey:

I am a PhD candidate in the chemistry department at The University of Memphis, under the supervision of Yongmei Wang, PhD, and graduating December 2024. Originally from Bangladesh, I got my undergraduate degree from Rutgers University in the US where I studied chemical engineering. I realized my interests aligned more with the natural sciences and less with engineering, so I decided to pursue a graduate career in chemistry. I mainly work on two projects: one where I explore ways to generate simplified descriptions of the complex conformational landscapes of intrinsically disordered proteins, and another where I explore integrin receptor genomics. In my spare time, I like to read, travel, sample America’s diverse cuisines, and do CrossFit.