September 2019

Dr. Victor Shikuku (middle) and colleagues.  Kaimosi Friends University College.

Dr. Victor Shikuku (middle) and colleagues.

Kaimosi Friends University College.

In Kenya, Dr. Victor Shikuku, can now better test local water quality—thanks to his new XRD 6000 diffractometer, which had been on the verge of landing in a Washington state land fill before it landed in his lab. In Chicago’s South Side, 400 middle and high school students with an interest in STEM are growing their own cultures—with the aid an Esco Laminar Flow Hood, previously scheduled to meet the same fate as that diffractometer. In Tanzania, one rocker laboratory shaker and one tilting incubator shaker, formerly languishing on a storage shelf in New Jersey, are now helping physicians perform critical tests at an outpatient clinic in a remote part of Tanzania.

That’s what we do at The Reagent Project (TRP). We serve as a science Tinder, matching researchers in resource-limited settings with well-funded labs looking to dispose of new or gently used reagents and equipment. After making a match, we handle the time-consuming logistics of shipping the items across state lines or international borders. Our hypothesis: leveling the playing field for all scientists, no matter their national origin or the wealth of their research institution, will create a healthier, more equitable world.

You can make this your mission too—right from the comfort of your Quartzy account. Just peruse your inventory for what’s wasting away on a shelf, then contact TRP so those unused materials can help other researchers progress their work. Plus, every time you test your hypothesis and you’re wrong (it happens), you’ve accumulated the very reagents that could turn someone else’s research around.

“Access to clean water is a major challenge in Kenya, and my present work involves
removal of pesticides and pharmaceutical compounds from water using geopolymeres,
zeolites, and modified clays,” says Dr. Shikuku. “But our University is very young and
lacking laboratory equipment, and I have to travel kilometers away to access instruments.
The XRD will be of significant impact on my research.”

Here in the U.S., where the share of basic research funding provided by the federal government dropped from 70% in the 1970s to 44% in 2015, support for scientists not working for private corporations is harder and harder to come by. Meanwhile, in labs that are well funded approximately 85% of reagents remain languishing on cold-storage shelves unused and destined for the toxic waste bin, according to TRP’s own 2015 analysis. Many people working in those labs would like to reduce the waste by reusing and recycling their supplies. They just need a matchmaker.

With your help, we can level the playing field for science, provide researchers with the resources they need to publish more papers, and ensure all scientists can develop the homegrown solutions that best combat issues faced in their communities—and around the world. That’s #ScienceForAll.

Marcella FloresComment