Particle physics laboratory

As temperatures dropped, parts of the David Rittenhouse lab were left unheated

A hallway in the David Rittenhouse lab on October 21.

Credit: Matthew Schwartz

Broken heating on the fourth floor of the David Rittenhouse lab forced professors and graduate students to work in cold weather last week.

Svetlana Makarova and Maximilien Péroux, both math teachers with desks in DRL’s 4C wing, said the heating in their offices stopped working on November 3 – because outside temperatures hit a low of 37 degrees. The issue was resolved on Monday, wrote Faramarz Vakilizadeh, executive director of operations and maintenance of real estate and property services, in an email to the Daily Pennsylvanian.

“Due to a heating timer programming issue with the peripheral steam heater system, some rooms did not reach the desired temperature,” Vakilizadeh said.

Makarova said administrative staff from the mathematics department entered her office on Tuesday and attempted to upgrade the heating system to the second highest level. The heat did not turn on, which led Makarova to send an email to the administration of the DRL building. DRL is located at 33rd and Walnut streets and houses the departments of physics and mathematics, as well as several laboratories.

At 3 p.m. on Friday, when it was 54 degrees outside, Makarova’s portable thermostat was showing 63 degrees. The World Health Organization, in its standards for healthy indoor temperatures, recommends a minimum of 64.4 degrees. Makarova said she ended up wearing gloves to keep her hands warm and the math department loaned her a heater.

“With lower temperatures my fingers freeze and I can’t move them so freely,” Makarova said.

Makarova and Péroux both decided to work from home due to the heating problem. Makarova stayed home on Wednesday, while Peroux, who doesn’t teach on Thursday, chose to stay home that day.

“There is no reason for me to come and freeze myself,” Peroux said.

While Makarova confirmed that the heating returned to her office on November 9, a week after it stopped working, others who worked at DRL said it was not the first time that the heating was an issue.

Jiaming Xia, doctor of mathematics. A candidate for the School of Arts and Sciences, said she had suffered faulty heating in parts of DRL’s third and fourth floors since her freshman year at Penn in 2017.

Xia said the difference between reliable heating in undergraduate classrooms and faulty heating in “lousy” graduate offices shows a contrast between the resources Penn is dedicating to undergraduates and graduate students. .

Directors previously cited a lack of funds as the reason why a 2013 plan to renovate DRL did not move forward. DRL was built in 1954.

“Sometimes it works. Sometimes that’s not the case, ”Xia said. “It’s just something really random, and it’s hard to deal with.”

Math professor Ryan Hynd, who works in Wing 4N, said his office heater had been idle for a “large part” of the time he worked at Penn – since 2012.

While Xia and Hynd said the temperatures inside the DRL were always warmer than outside, they both said it could be uncomfortably cold in their offices for long periods of time. For years, both have taken steps to stay warm in their offices during the winter.

“I do whatever I have to do to stay warm, get the job done, and then come home,” Hynd said.

Xia said a friend of his bought a portable heater from Amazon to deal with the cold indoor temperatures and shared it with other graduate students, and Hynd said he usually kept an extra sweatshirt in. his office.

“During the winters, we just congregate around this little heater. It’s really funny, ”Xia said.

Hynd said building maintenance staff addressed previous heating issues with repairs such as re-filling windows that let in cold air. However, his return to his office in person this fall after a year of working remotely caused him to reassess his working conditions.

“I work for an Ivy League institution, as a full professor, and I don’t really have adequate heating,” he said. “It doesn’t really matter.”


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