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To Court

Patrick Harran, a chemistry professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, is facing prosecution over the death of his research assistant, Sheharbano Sangji, in a lab fire, the Associated Press reports. Harran is facing three counts of felony workplace safety violations in Sangji's death. If convicted, he could be sentenced to up to four and a half years in prison.

Sangji died following a lab fire that started when the syringe she was using to transfer tert-Butyllithium, which can ignite when it contacts air, broke, Reuters adds. Sangji was not wearing a flame-retardant lab coat, and her polyester sweater caught fire.

Prosecutors are accusing Harran of not providing Sangji with the proper training for handling such chemicals. The AP adds that the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health fined UCLA $32,000. The school, Reuters says, was also charged, but its case was dismissed after it adopted new safety measures and established a scholarship in Sangji's name.

Both the school and Harran say what occurred was an accident. "The accident that took Sheri Sangji's life was a terrible tragedy for our campus, and I can't begin to imagine the devastation to her family. We must remember, however, that this was an accident, not a crime," says Gene Block, the chancellor of UCLA, in a statement, according to the AP.

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