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A Glass Act Image 1
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A Glass Act (Image 1)

July 30, 2010
Perched on a stool behind a large glassblowing lathe, a long, narrow blowing tube snaked around his neck, Gary Coyne, a scientific glassblower at California State University, Los Angeles, steadily heats his latest project. As the glass flares, taking on the colors of the flame, it softens, allowing him to gently pull a small section of tube, which dangles like melted sugar strings from the main stem. [See related image Here.]

More about this Image Over the years, Coyne, who has worked at the University for over a quarter century and is the only scientific glassblower in the CSU system, has completed thousands of service orders--from glass hooks and coils for experiments to customized rounded-bottom flasks and cells that transmit UV rays. Coyne's glass work has been integral to many National Science Foundation-supported chemistry projects at CalState L.A., ranging from intricate custom designs critical to catalysis research, to beaker repairs that keep undergraduate labs humming.

Coyne, who holds a bachelor's degree in oceanography from Humboldt State University, got into scientific glass blowing in college, while choreographing Hungarian folk dancers. The dancer's had a number that required them to have bottles on their heads. For the bottles to stay put, though, the bottoms needed to be concave, he explained. He sought help from a chemistry professor, enrolling in the professor's glass blowing class to use his tools and complete all the bottles. Coyne discovered he had a knack for working with glass and realized that a career that combined his two interest--glass and science--would make for a bright future.