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Staffed by veteran master glassblower Sally Prasch, the campus’s recently re-opened scientific glassblowing lab is now open two days per week to provide high quality, affordably priced standard and non-standard items, glassware modifications, repairs and custom designs for instructional and research needs. Prasch works closely with campus researchers, lab managers and others to design, fabricate and repair specialty glass and scientific instruments.
A central core facility managed by College of Natural Sciences executive director of operations Patti Cromack, the lab is open to the campus community in the basement of the Lederle lowrise from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m on Thursdays and Fridays for basic services and to accept orders for special projects. Prasch says she welcomes walk-ins.
“I keep some tubing and parts in stock to help with routine repair and replacement and to keep turnaround time to a minimum,” she notes. She has experience with all types of glass including borosilicate, quartz, aluminosilicate and soft glass. The glassblowing lab is fully equipped with annealing ovens, glass lathes, a diamond saw, lapping wheel and a variety of torches.
“Many major universities have scientific glassblowing labs today that offer personal consultation, design and manufacture of special pieces as well as stocking commonly used items. This is really a necessity in today’s research environment,”Prasch adds. “Without glass, they are not going to be able to conduct their experiments. And many researchers can’t buy what they need out of a catalog.”
Further, many labs cannot afford the time and expense involved in sending a piece away for repair. In one recent case, Prasch saved a campus lab hundreds of dollars in replacement cost by repairing a one-of-a-kind object. “We can save them time and money while making sure their glassware is vacuum-safe, for example,” she says. Chemistry labs, in particular, often put glassware through tortuous extremes.
Prasch learned glassblowing as a teen-ager in Nebraska, after which she went on to earn three degrees in various artistic and science-related aspects of the craft. She holds a B.A. degree in fine art glass and ceramics from the University of Kansas, and in 1985 received her certificate in scientific glass technology from Salem College in New Jersey, followed by a degree from there in applied science. In 1986 she came to UMass Amherst as a scientific glassblower and glass instructor for chemistry and physics graduate students.
Prasch has been a member of the American Scientific Glassblowers Society and has participated in seminars on such subjects as vacuum technology, quartz technology and glass sealing. She has taught glass workshops at Urban Glass in New York City, at the Niijima Glass School in Japan, Pilchuck Glass School in Stanwood, Washington, and elsewhere in California, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Turkey and Sweden. In addition to staffing the campus scientific glassblowing lab, she is the owner of her own artistic glass shop in Montague.