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When the sun rose Thursday in a cloudless sky, Alicia Herr, a science laboratory specialist at Old Dominion University, yelped out a cheer. She didn't care at all if groundhogs saw their shadows.

She had worked day and night during the past three months to plan ODU's new major instrumentation chemical analysis laboratory, and all of that work had come down to one big day in which nearly $2 million worth of instruments were to be delivered and installed in the lab.

The delivery day was Feb. 2, Groundhog Day, which more often than not seems to serve up miserable weather in Hampton Roads. Rain or snow or bitter wind could have made it very difficult for the special team of riggers to deliver the $1.3 million Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometer and $500,000 nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer, which are the centerpieces of the new analysis facility.

But this Feb. 2 was sunny enough to be perfect for major instrument rigging, even if it meant that groundhogs saw their shadows and, as a result, winter hangs around for six more weeks.

"It's all working out great," Herr exclaimed as she stood outside the Oceanography and Physics Building Thursday morning in the midst of 10 large crates that had been offloaded from an oversized 18-wheeler. The crates had come from England, Germany and several factories in the United States. Altogether they weighed about 10 tons.

Herr, whose job it is to keep laboratories running smoothly in ODU's chemistry department, was pressed into service last fall to quickly plan a temporary site for the College of Sciences Major Instrumentation Center (COSMIC@ODU). The facility's permanent home will be in a new science wing, for which construction has been delayed.

"It's been hectic, but we've had a lot of fun, believe it or not," Herr said. "I've done quite a bit of renovation of teaching labs. It makes my job not as mundane. I like to sketch things out. I guess I get it from my father, who was an engineer for NASA."

Herr, who has worked for the College of Sciences since 1982, teamed with Tammy Subotich, a senior lab tech, and Randy Farley, a planner/estimator in facilities management, to accomplish the considerable renovation, wiring, venting and other preparatory work.

"When the installation engineers (from Bruker Companies, the manufacturer of the two instruments) arrived and saw the room, they were pleased," Herr said. "They said they usually find chaos at an installation site."

The COSMIC director will be Patrick G. Hatcher, a geochemist who has won national awards and commendations. His wife, Susan, will be the on-site manager. The couple, who formerly worked at Ohio State University, arrived at ODU last month.

"It didn't take us long to say, 'Thank goodness for Alicia, and Tammy and Randy,'" said Susan Hatcher.

This article was posted on: February 3, 2006

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