We’re not in Kansas anymore.

Nor are we in Boston anymore, either. It’s certainly been a while, but I’m back! And after: -a very busy summer -packing up all of my worldly possessions into a U Haul -driving nearly 600 miles and 10+ hours (traffic and rain were terrible!) with only a cat as my co-pilot -leaving an old home -establishing a new one -beginning grad school -beginning research (already?! I know!) -getting to know the new boss -all the while wondering if this will be worth the effort, I’m here. I’m officially a grad student, and they’re paying me¹ to be here. I’ve been collecting new ‘data’ to write about, and letting previous data stew for a while. I think I’ve reached a good point of stewing, steeping, and fermenting, and I should be able to distill out what Transition States is all about. [1a] Well, not paying much, but they are paying. We’ll see how things go, because… [1b] I haven’t been paid yet. We get paid at the end of each month we work. Although I’ve been here since the middle of August, of course orientation didn’t count as time worked. It’s been a very long month and a half, and although the weather’s been alright, I’ve dubbed this the ‘coldest...

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Shipping Assay Samples: The FedEx Paradox

There is nothing that takes the wind out of your sails quite like when you think you’re being clever, and later find out how totally lame your attempts were. Synthesizing some precursor by a route you think is super streamlined, only to later find a simple, one-pot prep. Driving and taking a ‘short cut,’ only to wind up hopelessly lost. Making eyes at the cute girl in the neighboring lab, only to realize your fly was down. Stuff like that… Recently, my PI asked me to prepare a few aliquots of a compound to be shipped out for biological testing. Of course, I put the samples on the back burner, because hey, I already had the compounds made… how hard could it be to stick a few mgs in a few vials and ship them? (That’s not rhetorical. The answer for this circumstance is “harder than one would expect.”) When I finally got around to checking everything out, and preparing to pack and ship everything, I noticed the HPLC of one of the compounds was a bit iffy looking. After a quick purification, rotovapping down, weighing out, administering aliquots to HPLC vials, and rotovapping them down, all samples were on dry ice and finally ready to ship. The biochemist I’m working with and I grabbed a box, crossed over the labels (it had obviously been shipped a few times before), and loaded the styrofoam cooler into it. However, by this time, we’d missed the 4 PM FedEx pickup at our shipping and receiving. No problem, I thought. “I can just walk it over to the local FedEx store. Their last pickup is at least 6 PM.” So, down the street I walked, with box under one arm, and shipping label in hand. Upon arriving, I felt like a boss. “Here’s this, shipping to here, overnight, and here’s the account number.” As the clerk picked up the box and went to weigh it, the dry ice started to rattle. “Whats in here?” she asked. With minimal thinking I replied, “Oh, a few vials of solid material, over dry ice.” In my head, it made perfect sense – FedEx ships dry ice, it should be no problem. The samples are solid powder, not volatile liquids or anything. No problem, right? The clerk – “Nope. I can’t take this.” Myself – “Uh. What?” “Yeah, we cannot accept anything on dry ice here, we have nowhere to put it.” “It’s… just dry ice? In a styrofoam cooler? In a box? Isn’t that the point that you don’t necessarily need a place to put it?” “We can’t accept it here. The closest place you...

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The rumors of my death have been greatly something something…

Why hello there, It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted, and my apologies to all readers. I’ve been every flavor of busy, and unfortunately I’ve had less time that I’d prefer to write. In the meantime, my co-blogger has had some space to stretch his legs, and I’m very proud of his work. Regular updates will resume shortly, with tales of large scale chemistry for large scale people, GRE gripes, nitpicking, and calls for overhaul, along with the chilling realization that in two months, I’ll be in a new city, and officially a grad student. Oh...

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Yale Student Dies in Chemistry Machine Shop

After standing for some time in the rainy streets of Boston, I finally hailed a cab to the airport. As I tried my best to wring myself out, while not making a mess of the cab, the cabbie chattered away into his bluetooth, and the radio was on some news station, barely audible. My ears perked up when I heard “…chemistry…”. I leaned a bit closer to the speakers. “…Yale student died…” “Hey, can you turn this up!?,” I blurted to the cabbie. “Huh?,” he replied. “The radio – can you turn it up?” “Oh, ok,” he said, turning the radio up as the news report ended. While we sat, listening to the weather and traffic at an uncomfortably loud volume, I hopped on my space-phone to get the full scoop. Last night, Yale senior Michele Dufault died in an accident in the Sterling Chemistry Lab. Details are unfortunately spotty, and for now, the only chemistry-related news is that the accident occurred in the machine shop, but word on what exactly happened. The full story can be found at the Yale Daily News, and I’ll post updates here as they’re available. She was an astronomy and physics major, and by all reports, generally awesome. My deepest sympathy to her family, and the Yale community. Stay safe out...

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Everybody Needs A: Bottle Opener
Mar04

Everybody Needs A: Bottle Opener

OK, it’s a humble beginning to the series of posts that purports to improve the quality of life of an academic researcher, but trust me, a bottle opener is a handy piece of kit to have. If you think about it, it does make sense: if there’s anything that chemists know how to do that’s not chemistry, it’s scrutinize the ‘ingredients’ list, and drink. Furthermore, beer tends to be the drink of choice at group, and departmental gathering, and I’m always one of the select few students who keeps a reliable opener on them. Frankly, I think a good bottle opener should be standard issue to incoming first years, and I’m appalled by their limited use. So if you don’t have one, it’s time to get one. Don’t bother with promotional, plastic bottle openers. Like this one, from DuPont. Sure, they’ll serve their purpose for a while, but they will inevitably snap, leaving you feeling empty, and your beer full. And that’s no good for business. You’re definitely going to want to invest in a metal, keychain mounted bottle-cap eviscerator. They come in many shapes, and sizes, ranging from the standard “alma matter” bottle opener, as seen on the right , to… well, Decaposaurus Rex over there on the left. The possibilities are really endless, and a good one only set you back a few bucks, and provide years of reliable, maintenance free service. I need to update my “Favorite Things” list, because my trusty bottle opener is used at least once a week around lab. My implement? A metal Brooklyn Brewery bottle opener, acquired for free when they sponsored an event around Boston. Marvel at it’s perfection. Slim, flat, and small enough for easy keychain-ing and pocketability, combined with good length for excellent leverage and handling characteristics. And there you have it, just in time to enjoy the weekend! Again, it’s a small triumph to acquire the perfect bottle opener, but it’s something that you do once, and it’s covered for the rest of time your in school. Stick it on your keys, and it will always be at your...

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