Everybody Needs A: Brain


Even if you have one of these, you may forget to label a vial. Be careful to remember! (Flckr user Liz Henry)

In a post several weeks ago, I examined the debate of synthesis or purchasing of commercially-made compounds.  If you recall, it appeared that I could not synthesize the correct compound, and the compound I had bought did not appear to have been synthesized correctly.  I took the advice of one of a reader and decided to call the company from which I had bought my compound.  Luckily, I had a great conversation with customer support, and they said that they’d run some tests on the batch that they had sent me.

Shortly after this call, I realized that I had taken the wrong compound from the wrong vial, and had labeled my aliquot wrong. I ended up finding the vial I needed and the positive control worked as expected. The lesson is pretty clear here.    Make sure that you label everything!

Feel free to share embarrassing stories like mine in the comments below.  Might just make me feel better about making such a rookie mistake.

Author: Sidechain Bob

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  1. First summer working in a real working lab. Having great fun playing with liquid nitrogen. Took some LN2 and froze some coffee with it. Licked the coffee.

    Postdoc who was observing this fun then noted that the LN2 and its container had been freezing biological samples all day/week/month/year and was probably contaminated with various virii and other creepy-crawlies.

    Spent the rest of the day and evening spitting as much as possible.

  2. lol @Chemjobber.

    I’ve made so many lab blunders, but I seem to block them out of my memory so it’s taking me some time to recall even one of them…

    Okay, here’s the worst one: As an undergrad, I was recrystallizing a diastereomer and was several steps in on a large-scale synthesis. I took several grams the dry crystals and placed them in a roundbottom, then placed the flask into a heating mantle. I cranked up the heat and turned around to grab the solvent to dissolve the crystals, but then I got distracted (as I often do) and started working on something else, like checking a TLC. A few minutes pass and I turn around and my gorgeous white crystals were smoking and looked like black tar! I was so humiliated, but my undergrad research adviser was so nice, he said, “Those heating mantles, they’re so bad they’ll do that.” It cost me about a week of work. Lesson learned: don’t turn on the heating mantle until you’ve got your solvent in!

    Thanks, Sidechain Bob, for reminding me of why I am no longer an organic chemist! (For the record, I’m a chemical biologist, the non-organic kind).

  3. Ha! And, Chemjobber, somehow even explanations of this can’t help me convince that borrowing a random LN2 ewer from various departments for a party in which things are frozen and consumed is a Bad Idea.