Long Lab Career Feted at ISTC

retirement party cake with a icing rat on topHis retirement cake was festooned with a big black rat.


That was alright with Jerry Bargren. After four decades in U of I labs, “lab rat” is no slight.


He first retired as lab supervisor at the College of Veterinary Medicine in 2006. But after nine months of living la vida loca around the house, Jerry jumped at the chance to join ISTC.


“I thought it might be a year,” Bargren said. But he fulfilled a key role as a master of sample preparation. “I do enjoy working in the lab,” a phrase he repeated several times over 20 minutes. He first served in a hospital lab in Thailand during the Vietnam War. Next came his long stretch at Vet Med before his post-retirement at ISTC.


With the dizzying technological changes occurring during his time in the laboratory, Bargren says his job has largely stayed the same. Precision lab sample preparation and processing, sample clean-up, isolation and purification. The atmosphere in the lab is collegial and cooperative. When a mistake occurs (a shifted decimal point!) never be afraid to admit it, he said. Correct it.


Director Kevin O'Brien (left) and Senior Chemist (John Scott) congratulate Jerry Bargren upon his re-retirement.
Director Kevin O’Brien (left) and Senior Chemist John Scott (right) congratulate Jerry Bargren upon his re-retirement.

The best moments for this lab rat are when he devises a creative procedure that works as well as the standard published protocol. He remembered once working out a new procedure for evaluating antibiotic dosages using thin layer chromatography. Control measurements using standard methods at a Canadian lab showed the same results.


He and Senior Chemist John Scott recently collaborated on testing Scott’s idea for a quicker and cheaper technique for measuring total phenol. The new method worked as well as the standard one. “That’s the kind of thing I like to work with and get a better method,” Bargren said.


In retirement he said he will read a lot more – particularly books on World War II. He will also spend more time with his wife (also a career lab dam (momma rat)) and their seven children and 21 grandchildren.