Editorial Article: ‘Your reviews help stop me going down the wrong equipment path’

Chief chemist Stephen Hansen reveals why lab product reviews on SelectScience are invaluable for his work ‘saving the world one flush at a time’

12 Feb 2021

Reviewer in the Spotlight Banner
Stephen Hansen Fox Water River
Stephen Hansen is chief chemist at Fox River Water Reclamation District

Lab product reviews can change the world by helping other scientists find the best equipment to accelerate their vital work. Here at SelectScience, we are dedicated to promoting peer-to-peer communication that will make the difference - but we couldn't do it without our esteemed reviewers. In this regular new feature, we put the spotlight on some of our most dedicated and impactful reviewers and find out what inspires them to keep sharing their knowledge with the global scientific community.

For this week’s ‘Reviewer in the Spotlight, Stephen Hansen, chief chemist at Fox River Water Reclamation District, tells us about his work in wastewater treatment, his journey into science, and the legacy he hopes to leave. Stephen also highlights why communication is so critical to scientific advancement and underlines the part played by product reviews on SelectScience, highlighting how they enable faster and better selection of equipment.

Tell us about your role and your current research

I am the chief chemist for three wastewater treatment facilities.  My role is to make sure the lab runs correctly and safely. I supply everyone everything that they need, be it equipment, repairs, chemicals, methods, or information. I develop and improve methods, research new technology, and implement anything new into the lab. I also do 1/3 of the analysis and data handling for our National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits and process control. It’s not boring!

Currently, we are converting two of our wastewater treatment facilities to biological nutrient removal (BNR) processing. For this, the lab provides NH3-N, NO3-N, phosphorus, and volatile fatty acids (VFA) data for process set-up and monitoring. I analyze anions and volatile fatty acids using ion chromatography (IC). VFAs are needed for biological phosphorus removal. Running VFAs by IC will be increasingly important as nutrient regulations increase.

An AirPrex process is also being installed to form and trap struvite (magnesium ammonium phosphate) in the sludge for land application.  For this, magnesium, calcium, and iron are analyzed.

Each month, a river study is done and our lab tests 15 sites for 15 parameters to monitor the health of the river. I analyze river samples for chlorophyll, again directly related to nutrients. We supply valid data to the regulators and environmentalists hopefully resulting in new regulations that are based on reality. 


Stephen Hansen encourages his peers around the world to share their expertise through lab product reviews on SelectScience

What inspired you to get into the world of science?

My mom said I would look good in a lab coat. Seriously, science was always interesting and came easy to me. In high school and college, I gravitated towards environmental science and I wanted to make a difference. Rather than counting crows, trees, and fish, I settled on lab work and after working in industrial and environmental labs, I ended up at a wastewater lab saving the world one flush at a time.

Why is communication vital in science?

Nothing can be accomplished in science without communication. From theories to methods to data, science is built on historic knowledge and keeps advancing through communication. SelectScience is an important link in the chain of science communication.

Why do you think lab equipment reviews are important?

Scientists, and everyone, would rather not worry about time and money but we all have to. Reviews from experts allow faster and better equipment selection. Equipment reviews save time and money so you can get on with your important work.

SelectScience reviews provide information that keeps me from going down the wrong equipment path. Some parameters are specific applications, cost/benefit, ease of use, accuracy, and durability. I use these to choose which instruments and products to buy. This helps keep my data accurate and precise, preventing hair pulling and blood pressure spikes.

What is your favorite piece of lab equipment?

The Metrohm Compact IC Flex: It is durable and consistent, with low operating costs. The IC is flexible for different analyses with almost no waste or environmental concerns. Last but not least, it is fun to run.

Stephen Hansen review

An honorable mention would go to the Jenway 7205 UV/VIS Spec. It is a little jewel that we bought as a backup, but I use it a lot.  A xenon flash (no warmup) and a photometric array read all wavelengths in one flash. It even graphs the absorbances. Again, it is fun to run.

Stephen Hansen review

What would you like to achieve in your work?

I hope to leave a legacy of an excellent, efficient lab and would like to continue to be a resource for other labs and the public. 

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