Research Worth 1 Million Lost After Cleaner “Turns off Freezer”

In an unfortunate turn of events, a janitor at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in New York turned off the freezer where a decade of research work was stored. He allegedly turned off the freezer to avoid “annoying alarm sounds.”

The institute is now suing the cleaner’s employer for improper training. The institute claims that it would cost an estimated $1 million to replicate the work, which took more than 20 years.

The lab was working on photosynthesis and aimed at offering solutions to improve solar panel development.

A $1 Million Lawsuit

The janitor was employed by the contractor, Daigle Cleaning Systems Inc. The institute has filed a complaint against the contractor, seeking more than $1 million in damages and legal fees.

The lab’s freezer, including cell cultures and samples, was extremely sensitive to even the smallest temperature fluctuation, and even a change of 3 degrees was very damaging to the samples.

The 20-year-old research had cultures that were usually stored at -112F (-80C), and when the freezer was turned off, the freezer’s temperature rose to -32 degrees Celsius.

A Mere “Human Error”

As stated by the defendants, the incident unfolded as a result of human error. They do claim that the company failed to adequately train its personnel and will be careful about it in the future.

The freezer which contained the samples was under repair and had a warning sign which warned passersby against turning off the freezer. The janitor sadly didn’t understand the situation and turned off the switch.

Majority Samples Lost

A day after the freezer was turned off, the research students came to the scene, and despite attempts to preserve the research, a majority of the cultures were compromised and rendered unsalvageable.

The incident resulted in the loss of 20 years of research, which is undoubtedly a huge loss to the academic world.

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