Art of science

Glassblower advances research at K-State.

Combining his love of science and creativity, Jim Hodgson serves as K-State’s scientific glassblower, but his path to this career was not straightforward. Hodgson graduated from K-State in 1982 with a degree in geology. After working for 11 years in oil exploration, Hodgson went in search of a new career where he could combine his childhood desires to be an inventor and a mad scientist. That’s when he remembered a Collegian article he’d read as a student about K-State’s scientific glassblower, Mitsugi Ohno.

In 1961, K-State committed to having a scientific glassblower on campus and hired Mitsugi Ohno, who had been working at the University of Tokyo in Japan. While working at K-State, Ohno constructed the first true Klein bottle. The Klein bottle is a closed surface with only one side, formed by passing one end of a tube through the side of the tube and joining it to the other end. “I remembered the article in the Collegian about Mr. Ohno’s Klein bottle,” Hodgson said. “It seemed to me that scientific glassblowing might fulfill my creative desires and still allow me to use my scientific background.”

While working toward his degree in scientific glass technology, Hodgson was able to work with Ohno during the summers. Hodgson eventually replaced Ohno, who retired in 1996. Having a scientific glassblower on campus is fairly unique and an attribute that attracts leading researchers to K-State. “Jim is able to construct any piece of glassware needed for general lab use or for very specific experiments requiring hand-tailored glassware,” said Dr. Ryan Rafferty, assistant professor of chemistry. “With Jim making pieces for our department, I can give feedback during the fabrication process, resulting in better glassware that will allow me to perform experiments and analysis I would not have been able to do without Jim on our staff. One reason I accepted my position at K-State was that our department has a glassblower that allows me to take my research to the next level.”

While Hodgson’s designs elevate research at K-State, he also continues to learn and conduct research in his field by attending American Scientific Glassblowers Society conferences. His travel to these conferences is supported by philanthropic dollars. “Since a lot of the apparatus we glassblowers make is something that may never have been made before, there are always new techniques to learn,” Hodgson said. “The opportunity to meet with your colleagues, exchange ideas, solve problems and learn new techniques is invaluable. You never know what one new thing might make the difference in the success of a research project. I’m grateful to donors for their support.”

Please contact Tracy Robinson at 785-775-2050 or tracyr@ksufoundation.org to learn how your gift can support the College of Arts and Sciences.

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