R Dhasaratha Raman
Scientific Glassblower
Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science

The fine art of scientific glassblowing

As far as Mr R Dhasaratha Raman is concerned, glassblowing “saved his life”. Not only did it give him a sense of purpose, it also fueled a passion he never thought he had and brought some excitement into his life.

Raman was a businessman in India but did not have a taste for it. He wanted to work with his hands, to build and create things. After two years at a Scientific Apparatus Training Centre in India, a few years in King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals in Saudi Arabia perfecting the art of glass blowing, he finally settled at NUS in 2009 at the Department of Chemistry. During his interview with Associate Professor Lam Yulin, he presented a glass chess set, and also animals and birds he had sculpted – these glass creations made such a great impression that he did not return for a second interview!

So what does a scientific glassblower do and why is glassblowing so important? A scientific glass blower designs the glass instruments that chemistry professors and students need for experiments. Scientific glass blowers are indispensable to chemists who require their own customised designed glassware for their unique chemical reactions. Glass repair work, for example, could take up to three months if outsourced, depending on its difficulty and complexity. However, Raman can get the repair work done within an hour or a week. Duke-NUS Medical School, labs at Nanyang Technological University and Biopolis are among those which work with him.

Raman enjoys working with the students. “Some have a keen interest in glassblowing too, we sit together and work on their drawings, review what they need and together we make bespoke glassware”, he shared. “I also learn so much from them.”

It’s not just test tubes

Scientific glass blowing is an art and Raman is a perfectionist. He has to be 100 per cent satisfied with his creations which is extremely important in his line of work. He takes great pride in his work, ensuring that every creation is sculpted with painstaking care and precision.

It takes many years to hone the artistic skills required to perfect the art of glass blowing, and Raman seems to have mastered this dying art. He shared that very few universities have their own scientific glass blowers. However, he remains optimistic saying, “I’m hopeful that the future of this fundamental vocation can be secured, enabling a new generation of glassblowers to continue supporting top-notch scientific research.” Certainly, he hopes that perhaps one day, his youngest son might be interested and can continue in his footsteps.

Raman’s work of art on campus is little known and may not be fully appreciated. Nonetheless, in a small way, Raman feels he is making a valuable contribution with his craft that is helping a young scientist make the world a better place.


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