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March 28, 2006
Also appeared in print April 3, 2006, p. 13


Blast Kills French Chemistry Professor

Explosion destroys chemistry lab, kills chemist, and injures student

Michael Freemantle

Shortly after midday on March 24, an explosion rocked the city of Mulhouse in the east of France near the border with Germany. The blast, at the National Institution of Higher Learning in Chemistry at Mulhouse (ENSCMu), killed 41-year-old chemistry professor Dominique Burget, seriously injured an 18-year-old female student, completely destroyed a research building, and damaged adjacent buildings.

The blast occurred in one of the laboratories of ENSCMu's department of general photochemistry, says Geneviève Durrwell, who is assistant to University of Haute-Alsace President Guy Schultz. ENSCMu is affiliated with the university and is located on the university's Illberg campus in Mulhouse.

For safety reasons, Schultz closed the Illberg campus to students until March 29. The three-story building in which the explosion took place will have to be rebuilt, Durrwell tells C&EN. Known as Building 5, it is one of five research buildings on the campus belonging to the School of Chemistry.

"It is too early speculate about the cause of the explosion," says Patrick Gilot, professor of environmental risk at ENSCMu. A formal investigation into the cause will be carried out, he adds.

ENSCMu was founded in 1822 and moved to the university campus in 1965, the school's website notes. The school currently has more than 70 chemistry professors, assistant professors, and researchers; 90 Ph.D. students and postdocs; and 185 undergraduate students who follow a three-year program in chemistry.

Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
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