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10-Oct-2006

Contact: Kathleen Phillips
ka-phillips@tamu.edu
979-845-2872
Texas A&M AgriLife Communications

Respect: Young researcher rejuvenates old lab equipment

COLLEGE STATION Dr. Luis Cisneros had too many things to think about when he became assistant professor of food science at Texas A&M University. There were new projects to start, students to teach, a lab to run and a dossier to prepare for promotion.

"I was under a lot of stress, I guess" Cisneros remembered, laughing. His lab, on the first floor of the Horticultural and Forest Sciences Building at Texas A&M University, had seen plenty of experiments through the years. Old, unused equipment and supplies filled the nooks and crannies, stuffed there long ago by researchers since retired.

Not a problem. Young professors quickly learn about state surplus a place to send anything purchased with public money but no longer needed. Such items ultimately get listed to auctions usually to land a bargain for a collector or to end up as scrap metal or other recyclable.

Cisneros began stacking the multitude of machinery to one side of his lab to clear the old and make way for the new. But then he remembered lessons instilled by his grandfather, Pedro Cisneros in Peru: Respect your elders.

"He was someone who taught me how to respect senior people and value their wisdom," Cisneros said. "And I believe that when you put things on display, and you show people to value these things, you will have more respect for the profession."

What might have been collecting dust in the surplus warehouse or turning to rust in a landfill now is displayed for the public at the entryway to Cisneros' lab. He calls it the "Benton Storey and Ed Burns Antique Gallery," after two of the long-time Texas A&M horticulturists whose equipment now stands as examples of previous scientific methods. Burns was a food technologist who joined the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station in 1956, and Storey came to the Experiment Station in 1957 as a pecan researcher. Both now are retired.

"This gallery is very unique in the sense that it gathers pieces of equipment in the lab in a period of 50 to 100 years in the life of the university," Cisneros said. "We realized that we have something special. Part of the history of the department was in this lab."

A set of books, some from the late 1800s, are gathered. The manual typewriter Burns used to type his dissertation stands upright, its ribbon in tact. A 100-year-old balance perches on the floor, each side adorned by a potted plant to indicate that its scales still work.

"There is a lot of neat stuff that would have been thrown away," Cisneros said.

The graduate students who work in Cisneros' lab take care of the items and have learned how each of the items were formerly used. "In some ways it is our way of introducing anyone who comes to the lab and letting them know we are serious about what we do and that we have a tradition that we want to keep," Cisneros said. "You never know. It is possible that some of the equipment we are using now will actually end up in museums."

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Anyone interested in seeing and learning about the equipment may contact Cisneros at 979-845-3244 or lcisnero@tamu.edu , or come to the Horticulture and Forest Sciences Building, Room 131. Examples from the collection can be viewed online at http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/faculty/cisneros/index.html.