Mark Wicker, above, calls on years of experience to craft devices such as the distilling head, left, used
in chemical experiments. Wicker says it takes him about an hour and a half to make such a device.
In an unassuming room on the seventh floor of Dabney Hall, cluttered with cardboard boxes and broken glass, a solitary man practices an endangered art. Mark Wicker is NC State’s cientific glassblower. Using flame, his own breath and skills honed throughout a 34-year career, Wicker creates the glassware required to do complex chemistry experiments.
If you’re thinking of the standard test tubes and beakers of high school labs, that’s not Wicker’s
bailiwick. Those can be mass produced in factories. Instead, he creates pieces designed for specific
experiments. A single apparatus might involve multiple hermetically sealed glass chambers, with
glass coils and bulbs nestled inside, all connected by glass tubes and valves. “It’s one-of-a-kind
pieces,” Wicker says. “It’s sort of like making ships in a bottle. Things a machine just can’t make.”