You may see him in the background in cardboard cutout form behind home plate at Busch Stadium, but do you know why chemist Lawrence Rocks is featured?
Rocks’ cutout is just one of many taking the seats of real fans this season. But Rocks is not just a normal fan. The St. Louis Cardinals honored Rocks with this cutout for the work he is doing with starting shortstop and former Illinois State University baseball player Paul DeJong and DeJong’s agent Burton Rocks for the Ronald McDonald House and for advocating for healthcare workers.
Supporting the Ronald McDonald House hits close to home to the 87-year-old retired chemist and his family.
“When my son was very young, he was very ill for asthma,” Rocks said. “We brought him to a hospital, and they did not want us to stay. That made us realize that parents can help. That is right around when Ronald McDonald’s House was starting. The idea of it is that it is a charity that parents can stay with their kids while at the hospital. It has always been close to my heart to keep sick kids around their parents. I was proud to wear a mask with the Ronald McDonald logo.”
DeJong and Rocks recently were featured for their work advocating for health care workers on MSNBC. DeJong and Rocks have teamed up multiple times in the laboratory and at charitable events.
“Dr. Rocks is a great chemist and lab partner,” DeJong said. “We always have deep conversations about the nature of our world. I respect his opinions on the carbon activated masks, he has many great ideas.”
Rocks’ newest idea he and DeJong were promoting was for a new, more effective mask to block the spread of COVID-19.
“I started with the mask. The masks we have now do not absorb all viruses,” Rocks said. “It depends on the tightness of the mask and the weave. But the one chemical that will stop viruses is activated carbon.”
Rocks’ design is very similar to a normal mask but comes with a small pouch that a small carbon filter can be inserted into. According to Rocks, this filter can absorb nearly 100 percent of viruses. Rocks’ mask would require people to change the filter regularly.
But Rocks’ idea hit a wall when he presented a blueprint of his mask to the state of New York as well as private firms where he has been unable to gain any traction.
“I have spoken to some private people, but nothing ever happens, the way it goes is they take a big-money idea,” Rocks said. “There is no big money in these masks. You should not tell people to make their own clothe masks nor should you should hand these masks out. Homemade masks don't stop everything, they're cloth. So you need to take care of them and use them properly for maximum protection."
Despite his idea not getting off the ground, Rocks is still confident in his design.
“The average mask can pass 80 percent to 10 percent of the virus while the activated carbon will absorb almost 100 percent of the viruses. Activated carbon is the world's best chemical absorbent. It will absorb not only viruses and organic vapors. It is activated if it is only vacuum sealed and not exposed.”
While Rocks’ work doesn’t limit himself to finding a more effective mask, he has other ways to pass his time.
“I have a few projects and one of them is to find a cure for the virus,” Rocks said. “I am working on finding a variety of the projects that are proprietary. I am trying to find and initiate a surge to see if a chemical to see if it will kill the bacteria. Basically, it is an antibody.”