Foiled Office Shows Community Spirit, Makes News

Posted on July 28th, 2010 by

Gustavus Professor Scott Bur's office foiled by research students

Gustavus chemistry professor Scott Bur's office was cleverly redecorated using aluminum foil in July 2010 by his summer research students. Above is the entire office after he had already unwrapped the coffee pot and garbage can. Left is his desktop with books and eyeglasses. (Photos by Stacia Vogel)

Some students and faculty members at Gustavus Adolphus College conduct serious research during the summer, when classes are not in session, but they also manage to have a little fun.

Indicative of the community spirit that permeates Gustavus and the collaborative relationships that develop between faculty members and students, last week a faculty member returned to campus after a week’s vacation and found his office cleverly redecorated by some of his research students.

Chemistry professor Scott Bur’s office and all of its contents — from floor to ceiling — had been carefully covered with aluminum foil.

“I have a sense of humor,” Bur says.  He’s slowly unwrapping items — the coffee pot and telephone were among the first items to be uncovered.

This harmless prank, which wasn’t the first time Bur came back from vacation to find his office decorated by summer research students, made news from coast to coast and beyond.

What started as local news in the Free Press of Mankato on July 23, 2010 quickly spread. Articles, photographs, and video have appeared in numerous media outlets from newspaper and television reports to radio stations and online blogs.  Some noteworthy media coverage includes National Public Radio, the Washington Post, CBS News, the San Francisco Chronicle, and more.

It may have remained a quiet campus secret if it weren’t for another unusual occurrence — the blooming of Perry the Corpse Flower.  The shiny tinfoil office was noticed by a local journalist who was on campus visiting Perry and interviewing its grower Brian O’Brien, a chemistry professor whose office is right next to Bur’s.


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication JJ Akin



  1. JLP says:

    FYI: I just read about this in today’s website version of the English newspaper “The Guardian” (…so you’ve gone international! Hysterical hack, worthy of note.
    JLP, MIT PhD 1986.

  2. Cathy Waldhauser says:

    Glad to see fun and hard work live on at Gustavus. Chem students should know however that the refining of aluminum is one of the most toxic processes on the planet. Use less, not more!

  3. Joanne Derner says:

    Sounds like fun…… Hope the building custodians were not responsible for the clean up.