AIKEN, S.C. – EM’s Savannah River National Laboratory (SRNL) has hired its first female scientific glassblower at the Savannah River Site (SRS) to create custom glassware for experiments and other scientific uses.
Third-generation glassblower Chandra Babbitt has been immersed in the craft, which she describes as “science mixed with glass and technology,” her entire life. She hopes her new position at SRNL shines light on scientific glassblowing rather than the more widely recognized creative side of the art form.
“Glassblowing is a skill that has to be perfect. In scientific glassblowing, there can be no flaws,” she said. “Someone is depending on you to make it right.”
A Kentucky native, Babbitt grew up attending American Scientific Glass Society meetings with her family, and her love for art and chemistry led to a career in scientific glass technology. While attending Salem Community College in Penns Grove, N.J., Babbitt learned about best safety practices, glass properties and innovative strategies for meeting customer needs.
Babbit said she is proud to be SRNL’s first female glassblower.
“As more women become interested in glassblowing, I’m confident the number of female scientific glassblowers will continue to grow,” she said.
As a scientific glassblower at SRNL’s Glass Apparatus Laboratory, Babbitt creates glassware for the laboratory setting, collaborating with other SRNL personnel to help solve customers’ challenges and ensure end products suit the laboratory’s needs. Babbitt has limited existing instructions because the glassware she crafts is unique.
Established in 1953 at SRS, the Glass Apparatus Laboratory designs, fabricates and repairs glass apparatus. It has supported projects involving H and F Canyons at SRS, other DOE entities and the University of South Carolina and Clemson University.
The Glass Apparatus Laboratory is creating small glass mockups for the Defense Waste Processing Facility (DWPF) at SRS. Mockups by Babbitt and her co-worker Gary Dobos, a 23-year veteran of this laboratory, provide a safe and cost-effective method for DWPF personnel to process high-activity waste in borosilicate glass, a stable storage form.