Get to know the Bobcats cooking up “CoSE Clean”

Student Achievements

By Xavier Larkin and Yvonne Rhodes  | October 14, 2020

A team of Texas State University student workers partnered with faculty and staff in the College of Science and Engineering (CoSE) in the spring to lay the groundwork to manufacture mass quantities of hand sanitizer when the nation faced a critical shortage. Since then, the operation has grown to fill the more than 200 hand sanitizer stations on the San Marcos Campus, with at least 500 gallons of the product produced in-house so far.

Alan Martinez, a sophomore chemistry major, and Jacob Bisbal, a graduate biology student, experimented with and perfected the recipe, mixing up the first 20-liter batch of the hand sanitizer, dubbed “CoSE Clean” after its birthplace, the College of Science and Engineering.

man working with chemicals in lab
Michael Urena, pictured mixing up a batch of CoSE Clean, is double-majoring in chemistry and math. He works as a Prep Chemist in the stockroom, teaches a General Chemistry Lab, conducts undergraduate research, and plays on the TXST intramural soccer team in his spare time.

Dr. Casey Smith, Manager of TXST Shared Research Operations, initiated the project in April with support from Alissa Savage, IMF Resource Manager, shortly after TXST transitioned to all online and remote courses in the spring.

Carlos Baca, a Senior Laboratory Services Technician who now leads the bulk production of CoSE Clean with support from the chemistry stockroom team, described the network of students and staff who have supported this university-wide effort. 

“There are 13 students that work here in the stockroom,” said Baca. “Even if they weren't preparing the chemicals themselves, they received and staged materials, they helped with labels, and filled small department orders of office sanitizer. Not to mention the people in facilities that are responsible for pumping and distributing to the sanitizer refill stations. The level of support needed is far beyond anyone we could list. Making the stuff is just one small step in the overall process.” 

Undergraduate Alan Martinez reflected on how he first got involved in the project. 

“Dr. Smith reached out to Jacob and I asking if we'd be willing to make some DIY hand sanitizer since, at the time, there was a large hand sanitizer shortage,” said Martinez. “Jacob and I were willing to come in for essential research activity, so we were happy to help the labs in need of it. It was incredible to learn how (hand sanitizer) is made. It's fascinating that a certain percentage of alcohol, like isopropanol or ethanol, can disinfect surfaces.”

man working with chemicals in lab
“The pandemic has had strong implications for the chemistry stockroom as we have contact with chemistry, biology, and biochemistry majors, as well as providing support for research labs. The stockroom team regularly makes large batches of chemicals for distribution to over 100 class sections across seven courses each week. We had all the ingredients needed to make sanitizer and folks needed what we had. We wanted to make our strengths available to the community and to ensure that we keep the beat with the latest guidelines.” – Carlos Baca (Pictured), Senior Laboratory Services Technician

“We used 100% ethanol, glycerin, aloe oil, 3% hydrogen peroxide, and deionized water,” Martinez said. “With some handy chemistry equations, we took about 80 mL of Ethanol from the stock solution into a separate container and put it into our solution bottle. There we put a few mL of glycerin to help keep the hands moisturized, some aloe oil for a good smell, hydrogen peroxide to clean the solution of any possible contaminants, and deionized water to dilute the solution. We then mix it very well and have our hand sanitizer.”

Alan Martinez serves as Secretary for the TXST Astronomy Club and is the former Vice President and a current member of the American Chemical Society Student Chapter of TXST. After he graduates in May 2023, he plans to work in industry helping “manufacture chemicals or equipment that can make the world more sustainable and safer.” 

In addition to pursuing his master’s degree in biology, Jacob Bisbal serves as a Shared Research Operations Trainer and Graduate Assistant for the Analysis Research Service Center. After mixing up hand sanitizer for the TXST community, Jacob went on to make some for his parents. After he graduates in May 2021, he wants to continue conducting research and explore pursuing an MD or PhD with a career in health and human services.

Students on the CoSE Clean team shared some advice for their fellow students on life in the age of COVID-19:

“Be patient, keep trying to adapt to the world we are living in now. Social distance and check in on your friends who need it.” – Alan Martinez, sophomore chemistry major 

“Don’t touch any mucus membranes. The things you don’t see can cause you the most harm.”  – Jacob Bisbal, graduate biology student

Organizational support for the operation comes from Jon Gaddis and Joel Trevino in TXST Facilities, who keep a steady stream of supplies coming to the lab. Fermin Torrez and Custodial Services staff have been distributing CoSE Clean across campus since the spring, making this an initiative of the entire Bobcat family. 

Explore the hand sanitizer station map to see where you can get “CoSE Clean.”

For more information, contact University Communications:

Jayme Blaschke, 512-245-2555

Sandy Pantlik, 512-245-2922