Mar 31, 2010

It is SO holiday time!

Oh yeah! It's holiday time. That time in the year when you just CBF doing any work whatsoever and you just need a week or so off to get your act together. As it is I am sure some people have considered a holiday and others have taken them and I plan to do similarly.

I honestly cannot wait. I am plodding around the lab procrastinating any work and I just want to leave. Unfortunately, the bossman knows this and keeps giving me work to do. DAMN! Oh well, I will do what I can, then go and finish up the odd job or two when I get back with renewed vigour and fervour and such. Hooray! 

I must also mention that tomorrow is April Fool's Day. I haven't played a decent prank in a long time and I dearly wish I had a good one this year but, alas, I don't. I serious have no originality when it comes to a planned prank. I am pretty good at the spontaneous prank but the ones that take the planning just never work out as awesome as I had planned. You would think being in a place filled with chemicals and other things I could rustle up some cool pranks but I always think that people will hate me afterwards.If you have any ideas I am open to suggestions though.

Mar 26, 2010

Farewell old friends

Well, it has been a sad evening. Tonight we were saying goodbye to two members of the group, Z and W, who were both very valued members as well as friends. Regardless of the time we spent with these people I find it very difficult to accept that they are leaving. It really does seem that we never really got to know them as well as we could while at the same time know them very well and would be proud to call them both friends. On behalf of the group and our little online community I would dearly like to wish both of you very well in your future endeavours and hope that your yields be high and your Rfs separable. Tonight was, for me, a great night out, I have had such a great time with you both and I hope to continue our friendship outside of the lab and in person, rather than this cyberspace.

Hopefully, W will remember the small details of Rugby League that I tried to pass on and Z will land safely every time you are jumping out of those planes. Travel safely, enjoy the sights and sounds and make sure you take the time to smell the roses.

Good luck and farewell.

From MSG:
Just want to add some of my own words to this farewell. It's been awesome having both of you around, both as colleagues and as friends. One of the lasting legacies (at least until our cohort graduates) of W will definitely be infecting our brains with Modern Talking madness. And to A: thanks for letting us pick on you in the lab ;) and thanks for all the good times. In terms of chemistry, without your pioneering work I would not have been able to complete my total syntheses.

Hope you both enjoy your farewell presents. A: hope the Cook's Companion will bring you much joy in the kitchen for many days to come, and W, World Cup jokes aside, I really hope the gift brings you fond memories of your time in Australia every time you put the shirt on.

All the very best - MSG

Mar 11, 2010

Late nights in lab

So normally I am prety casual about staying back in the lab to finish some work. Most of the time I have done enough during the day to not really need to stay back and pound through another experiment. However, sometimes, when I am slack or stupid I find myself back in the lab in the dark pushing litres of solvent through a column. 

That was the story last night, but fortunately, for some reason a lot of my workmates were keen to work back late too. So, after the new girl T broke a few pieces of glassware and had had no luck with her experiment we decided it was time to crank up the angry oldskool neu-metal and have a bit of angry lab time.

Needless to say, it didn't last long, I was getting pestered to finish up because I was really late getting home and T and P both wanted to finish the reaction up. So, when my lift arrived it was pretty late and I was just finished with my column. 

I seriously hate late nights in the lab. To me there is always some sort of fear that if something goes wrong noone will be around to mop you up off the floor till the next morning. Hopefully, I won't have to go through that too many more times in my PhD.

Mar 9, 2010

RBF Teaches: Common Sense

Today, young ones, I thought I would go through a little thing I like to call common sense. Some of you have it, others (most) do not. It is something that can be developed however, by using that thing scientists call "the Brain". First, an explanation of why this is important (not the brain, common sense). 

Initially, when I started tutoring I taught 1st year science and engineering students very basic chemistry, mostly organic. However, a number of frequently asked questions came up. Most notably, "can I pour this down the sink?" and "which bin do I throw this in?". Well, after a while I started adding the answers to a short intro speech I gave at the start of the practical session. Unfortunately, people tend not to listen intently and I, admittedly, do ramble on occasion. So, in the hopes of saving some other poor sod the hassle, here we go.

  • Typically, if you wouldn't eat it or drink it normally, don't tip it down the sink. If in doubt, put it in a  waste container. Most typically, put it in the waste container labelled with your said waste.
  • Next, gloves always go in a toxic/hazardous waste bin simply because its safer for you and the cleaners (if you have them) and these things have a habit of coming around again. Don't whinge or ask why, just do it.
  • Washing you glassware - First, ask yourself, "am I going to use this for a dry (anhydrous) reaction?". If yes, then wash with water then acetone and dry it in the oven. If it's a burette for a titration, don't go washing it with acetone, rinse it with distilled water and then rinse it a couple of times with your solution. If you are going to use water in your reaction why the hell would you wash your flask with water, then acetone? Unless of course you see lumps of organic solids still stuck to the flask (unlikely).
  • If it stinks, keep it in the fumehood. Noone else wants a whiff. If you have to rotavap it do that on a rotavap that is isolated and preferable also in a hood. This includes gloves.
  • If you are doing an extraction, hold the stopper. If you hold the stopper pressure with build up, so release the pressure every so often. Once you are done, take the stopper off.
  • Use a funnel to pour liquids. This avoids spills *rolls eyes*.
  • Drying salts (MgSO4 NaSO4) are kept in the oven so they stay dry and therefore work more efficiently. Don't take them out and walk them back to your fume hood. Take a container or test tube, get some drying salt and then take it back.
  • When you take a flask off the rotavap, occassionally it sticks, a slight, gentle twist will usually get it off without too much effort and you won't have broken your flask on the water bath. Oh and it's usually a good idea to make sure the vacuum is released properly too.
  • Put things back where they belong. It makes it easier to find when you are looking for it next time.
  • Wear gloves and lab coat at all times in the lab, that will save you wondering when you should and shouldn't need gloves.
  • Wash your hands, even with gloves you don't want to risk it. Imagine going to the toilet and putting all those lab goodies on to your goodies. Not so goody.
  • If you break some glassware, use a dustpan to clean it up so that you don't get cut with contaminated glass.
  • Only tighten clamps to the point at which the glassware stops moving, any more is redundant and will probably result in breakages.
That is probably a little too much and some a little too obvious, but seriously, all of these things I have been asked or witnessed. Take some time, think, pray, then think again, then do. That should  eliminate some of the basic mistakes you will make until you are reach the super 1337 levels. Even then we are all human and we can just have bad days. There are most likely a dozen other things that I haven't gone through but I will put them in when I think of them.

Mar 3, 2010

Lab Duties

So, after one great cleanup and me and MSG getting fed up with the standard (or lack thereof) of the lab, we decided to go nuts and purge the lab of its hopeless situation. I was sick of finding items missing or moved and things left messed up because someone couldn't find something so decided to toss the place just to find it and then leave it as it was because it was someone elses fault that they had to toss the place.

So, after a nice little hold hands session in which we all decided we would keep the lab in order and assign each other duties (some of which were not desireable but had to be done) we came up with a few jobs that people in the lab were responsible for.

  1. Solvents - Someone to keep a nice level of distilled solvents on the shelves so that we didn't run out and save a bit of time for everyone else in the lab.
  2. Stock manager - Responsible for keeping lab supplies at a manageable level (e.g. gloves, paper towel), mainly consumables but this means one person that knows where stuff is and can get it without tearing the place apart.
  3. Lab Nanny/Handyman - Responsible for general upkeep and running of the lab. Keep benches clean, keep glassware where it belongs, get liq N2 in the morning and most importantly look after any lab equipment (e.g. microwave, MPLC, fridges) and fix it if it needs fixing)
  4. Stills - Someone to look after the solvent stills (THF and DCM). Keep them clean (every few months) and dry and not rooted when someone forgets about them. 
We figured this was the best way to go. Everyone has a responsibility, everyone knows their job and knows who to ask when they need something. Also, everyone knows who to blame when things go awry and therefore keep that person attentive on their job. So, we are trialing this for now and we will see how it goes, there are still a few glassware hoarders in the lab *puts own hand up* but it's getting much better.

Onward, upward and all that crap.

Mar 1, 2010

Damn I hate undergrads sometimes

So today it is raining and I was up late last night writing a paper for pblication. I slept in this morning and after slogging it out in chock-a-block traffic finally made it to uni. I rolled down the road where I usually park only to find my parking spots are all taken, and after doing a full lap find that there are no parking spots at all in the university. Stupid undergrads. I spose I should have remembered it was their first day back at uni and that most of them, especially the noobs would all be coming in to classes. And, because they are all super soft would all drive in rather than be shoved onto a bus full of other noobs lest they all be grouped in the sam noob category, because nobody wants to be called similar to someone else. Heaven forbid they lose their individuality. 

Anyway, there was only really one thing for it. I couldn't just drive home. I have work to do, as much as I loathe it sometimes. No, I had to get in to work, be it late or whatever. So, I drove to the local shopping centre, parked and caught the noob bus. Which, I may have expressed earlier, also irks me to no end. It was the same b.s. people pushing to get into the bus first. Which always amuses and frustrates me. It's like they can't stand to be outside one second longer after standing outside for 15-30min previously. Anyway, after waiting patiently in a line which was more like a cone and not really like a line at all, I step on the bus and find a completely empty seat straight away. I have no idea what the noobs are pushing for, but next time I might throw a few elbows in just to see whose nose gets broken. It might be entertaining, most of them only come up to about my elbows anyway. 
Anyway, if the same happens tomorrow I will take a picture and show just how stupid these people really are. That way my words really aren't that meaningless. Then again, if it happens again tomorrow, I will be the one too stupid to wake up early and get a (ludicrously overpriced) parking spot.