Picture the inside of a laboratory, such as the top-notch research labs at KAUST, and one of the first images that comes to mind might be rows of sparkling scientific glassware, like test tubes, beakers, cylinders and flasks, awaiting use.
Scientific glassware and the art of scientific glassblowing are crucial for modern-day research across the biological, chemical, engineering, medical and pharmaceutical fields, with almost all scientific researchers utilizing glassware at some point in their work. Without the skills of glassblowers-artisans who bring their high-level training into the research field-it is difficult to imagine the advances that have been made in science and research.
At KAUST, scientific glassblowing is carried out in the Workshops Core Lab, which houses the University’s Glass Shop. There, master glassblowers Ernest Neil Davison and Emilio Harina work primarily with borosilicate and quartz glass, designing, fabricating and repairing glassware used in research across KAUST’s three divisions and with the University’s industry partners. The on-campus Glass Shop is the only facility in the region leveraging such unique infrastructure and expertise to offer highly specialized services.
To pass on highly specialized scientific glassblowing skills to a new generation of Saudi glassblowers, Davison and LaVon Bennett, former Workshops Core Lab manager, developed the KAUST Scientific Glassblowing Apprenticeship Program, the first glassblowing program in the Kingdom. The program’s first two apprentices, Faisal Nour and Mohammed Al-Amri, began training virtually with the Workshops Core Lab team in June 2020, and on-campus training began in October 2020.