Thursday, March 7, 2013


So this is what the 100th post looks like. I started this blog so that I could participate in the chemblog culture that flourished back in the early days. I wanted to be anonymous for a number of reasons mostly having to do with my students. Anonymity on the web is of course a delusion (or illusion) as many of the anonymous chembloggers found out. If anything, the anonymity was a paper wall kept intact by an honour system more than anything else.

I made the trek back to my alma mater today and came across my first research lab. 

It was 1982 and the departmental Synthetic Main Group research group had suffered a string of unfortunate explosions the most recent one had mangled the fingertips of the senior graduate student and they needed "a pair of hands" to continue the work. I was the undergraduate student with the highest marks in inorganic chemistry and was offered the job. They had a small lab filled with debris and my first job was to clean it out. That first day I was told to wash out a rack of dirty 1 liter flasks left by a post-doc. I remember one flask went into the sink of hot soapy water and started to hiss and I immediately ducked below the edge of the sink just before a resounding boom that brought the entire floor to the door.

It turned out I had an aptitude for the work and six years later I would have my PhD.

My PhD supervisor is in the process of shutting down. A lifetime of paper, equipment and chemicals must be processed, disposed, stored or given away. I thought I would be more nostalgic than I was even when I looked through the doorway of my old lab and saw back thirty years. I did not even take the chance to pick up a souvenir.

I guess I am in a mood to let things go. Live well.


Chemjobber said...

If this means what I think it means, thanks for some great reading.

Cheers, Chemjobber

P.S. Thanks for "Process Man" by the way; it's a personal favorite now.

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Julie said...

The thing about blogging (like the thing about anonymity) is that you never know when somebody will stumble onto your stuff and love it.
I've got a teen boy with a thing for science. Sending this to him to peruse. You never know....


Stephanie said...

I just found your blog through Chemjobber's blog. Not sure if you still look at these comments, but I just wanted to say thanks for writing it.

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About Me

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For a while it was all about research and then it was all about teaching and now it's all about trying to find a balance while teaching at a small liberal arts and science university.