The BSL-3 Whisperer

“I’ve learned to understand what the building is thinking, saying, doing, and feeling,” says Margaret “Margie” Juergensmeyer, IFSH biosafety officer who oversees the BSL-3 pilot plant and laboratory. “I listen to it and can even smell some of the changes that take place.”

A Registered Biosafety Professional—one of approximately 250 worldwide—Juergensmeyer knows the facility like the back of her nitrile-gloved hand. After obtaining a Ph.D. in space biology from Kansas State University, conducting experiments for the space shuttle and space station, and completing her post-doctorate at Montana State University, Juergensmeyer came to IIT Research Institute where she did high-hazard contract work on a wide range of microorganisms. She discovered a passion for biosafety and was hired in her current role in 2007.

“Biosafety is a fascinating mixture of understanding the organisms, the engineering that goes into containing the organisms, and the people who work with them to aid in their ability to use the engineering properly,” she explains. And while she could also explain in great detail the BSL-3’s effluent decontamination system, Juergensmeyer complements her serious side with a bit of humor.

How many people name their cat “Hazmat” or have a toy collection that includes plush microbes, little Albert Einstein dolls, and a LEGO girl scientist?