Yejoon Seo, a graduate student in chemical and biological engineering, has been awarded the 2022 Dale Grieb Safety Award by the School of Engineering and Applied Science for his contributions to laboratory and workplace safety.
Seo received the award Nov. 3 during the Environmental Health and Safety Fall Safety Managers Breakfast. The award comes with a cash prize of $2,500.
The Dale Grieb Safety Award was established in 2019 in honor of Dale Grieb, a longtime Princeton staff member who served as CBE department manager and later as the SEAS director of administration and services. She died from pancreatic cancer in 2012. The award is given to those who have made a substantive and positive contribution to improving laboratory or workplace safety within the School.
Seo is a fifth-year graduate student in the laboratory of Rodney Priestley, the Pomeroy and Betty Perry Smith Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering, where he serves as head laboratory safety officer. He was nominated for the award by the entire Priestley laboratory, who praised his self-driven efforts toward establishing “lab practices and conditions to maximize safety within and across subgroups,” according to their nominating letter.
Seo independently sought out an active role in laboratory safety, according to his colleagues, and took steps to identify and remove unneeded toxic substances from the lab. He physically reorganized and repaired storage areas to reduce the risk of spills and cross-contamination, and he spearheaded a culture of tactful critique of lab safety practices.
“As a new safety officer, Yejoon prioritized learning the goals and hazards of each subgroup, which he discerned by embarking on an informal interview process. Along the way, Yejoon’s informed perspective allowed him to evaluate which group-wide practices and conditions served the lab well, which could be improved, and which served no one.”
Seo graduated from the City College of New York in 2017 with a degree in chemical engineering. He worked as a technical sterility services engineer at Pfizer before coming to Princeton. His doctoral research focuses on understanding how the amorphous polymer structure of oral medications change in response to high temperatures and humidity, causing the drugs to become less effective and, eventually, to expire.
His lab colleagues said his efforts to demonstrate personal responsibility inspired the entire group to maintain safe working conditions. “In short,” they wrote, “we strive to work as safely as possible because he has set such high expectations for us.”