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Old 02-17-06, 09:00 PM   #1
jschen
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just lost all my motivation... *RANT*

It's Friday night. At 6 PM, I go to set up my chemical reaction, and I see my coworker about to set up a reaction he shouldn't be setting up. The reaction is not optimized yet, so he should not be running it on a large amount of material. Instead, he's supposed to be trying lots of reaction conditions to optimize this reaction. What was he doing? You guessed it... running it on a large amount of material. More bluntly, all of the material we have. Happily, I stop him in time.

Then I try to discuss with him how he should optimize this reaction. I try to prod and guide in as general terms as possible so that he can feel like he's coming up with the ideas, but that doesn't work. I lead him a bit more directly, which results in him coming up with even worse ideas. (!!!) I ask him to explain his reasoning (something we do in the project team on a very regular basis) and he tells me "I don't know. You do it." ("It" referring to the work he's been assigned.) As those of you who see my posts regularly know, my language is usually very clean, but...

What the [insert profanity of choice] is this [insert derogatory term of choice] [insert profanity of choice]ing thinking? (Now repeat, inserting different choices in brackets. And again. One more time. Okay... now moving on...)

To avert further aggrevation, I give up on coaxing him and simply explain to him to how to do things and explain the logic behind my choices. But now I've lost all my motivation. This guy has a PhD. He's completed three such projects before. I'm earning my PhD right now, and I've never completed such a project (namely a natural product total synthesis) before. Why is it the third time this week that I've had to babysit in order to avert disaster, and then hold his hand (figuratively) and walk him through the process of doing research in such detail that most undergrads would find it insulting if I did the same to them?

Okay, as unmotivated as I am, it's time to go get my work done for the day. Thanks for letting me rant. Just one last comment before going back to running my reaction...


!@#$!@#$!@#$!@#$

Okay, I feel a bit calmer after letting that out.
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Old 02-17-06, 09:05 PM   #2
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Just curious, but do you go to UCSD?
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Old 02-17-06, 09:06 PM   #3
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Tell him his diploma has been recalled. Sounds like a real danger to his future co-workers if he isn't stopped now.
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Old 02-17-06, 09:06 PM   #4
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If i was where you were, and a chemist, I would be making thermite right about now..
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Old 02-17-06, 09:11 PM   #5
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Yikes! That's too bad, jschen. Your lab mates can make your life so much easier or so much harder Is there someone you could talk to that's the head of the whole project? PI?
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Old 02-17-06, 09:16 PM   #6
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Just setup your own checmical reaction: Whiskey, Ice, Water.
Stir with finger, sip, and do not give this Phd to power to ruin your day.

What this #@*! does will not help or hurt you nearly as much as your reaction will.
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Old 02-17-06, 09:24 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by MaxBender
Just setup your own checmical reaction: Whiskey, Ice, Water.
Stir with finger, sip, and do not give this Phd to power to ruin your day.

What this #@*! does will not help or hurt you nearly as much as your reaction will.
I prefer the reaction without the ice. For me it's more whiskey, brain cells, fun...
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Old 02-17-06, 09:27 PM   #8
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jschen you should be my chemistry teacher unlike my boring one who's only exploded like 2 things the WHOLE year! Thats perpostrous while the other teachers class lights stuff on fire every week!! Gah shes soo boring.
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Old 02-17-06, 09:50 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by MERTON
damn... give me the job... i'll do whatever the hell you say for PhD pay. (excluding certain things not related to science)
Sorry, I don't control the payroll, or else I'd invite you to take his place right about now. By the way, postdoctoral fellows don't make all that much. With some supplemental income on the side (consulting income and investment income), I make more than he makes.

Quote:
Originally Posted by explody pup
Just curious, but do you go to UCSD?
No, I'm at the Scripps Research Institute. It's very close to UCSD, and it's a small private research institute that's been historically really strong in biology. It started building up a chemistry program 17 years ago and started a graduate program something like 15 years ago, and today, it's one of the world leaders in organic chemistry. I'm not as familiar with international choices, but for organic chemistry grad students in the US, Scripps and Harvard are the obvious top choices. I'm at Scripps because I already studied at Harvard before.

My professor is the first chemistry professor here and the chairman of the department. The institute has two Nobel laureates, both winning the Nobel prize in chemistry. (One of them is a biologist, but pioneered the use of NMR, generally considered a chemical tool, to study proteins. The instrument we bought to lure him to our institute a year before he won the Nobel prize cost the institute $7 million. It's worth it, though.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by peregrine
Is there someone you could talk to that's the head of the whole project? PI?
Well, unofficially, I head the project. So I guess I can talk to myself. My other coworker and I are seriously considering talking with the PI about this if things continue. It's not a random fight that really annoys me. The other coworker once got me upset enough in a conversation that I walked out and decided not to work for the day. But though we fight, we get over it. And we exchange ideas effectively (if sometimes in a hostile manner) and respect each other's ideas. I know he works harder than I do. He knows I think more carefully than he does.

But the guy we're annoyed at, I wish he would someday propose something interesting. Even if it ends up being a bad idea. He could propose anything, really. I don't care. But in the absence of doing so and communicating results properly, I don't see how he's doing science. Working with him, I've come to realize that doing science involves, in the most general terms, three things. (1) Ideas are born. (2) Data is collected. (3) Conclusions are communicated. Repeat. This guy really only does (2) much of the time. But a robot can do (2). It's (1) and (3) that make a scientist.

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Originally Posted by EJ123
jschen you should be my chemistry teacher
Well, maybe if things go well enough for me, I can be your professor someday when you're in college. Cool demos, though not of much practical use, are an important part of bringing chemistry "alive" for the students.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MaxBender
Just setup your own checmical reaction: Whiskey, Ice, Water.
Later tonight. Gotta go tend to a reaction first.
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Old 02-17-06, 10:27 PM   #10
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Sorry for your encounter of the craptastic kind. I've got an extra beer if you need a chaser.

This makes me very glad I get along with my co-workers. Sure, some are better than others, but we're a pretty easy-going workgroup, thankfully. I get mad at the equipment(when it malfunctions) more than my fellow employees, but that's just one of my pet peeves, really.
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Old 02-17-06, 10:30 PM   #11
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sucks
I feel for you
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Old 02-17-06, 10:34 PM   #12
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so jschen, if i ever needed help on my chemistry homework, youd be the man?
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Old 02-17-06, 10:36 PM   #13
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I think you need to blow off some steam by riding home at twice your normal speed. That way you can tend to another reaction: lactic acid + your muscles = new personal best
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Old 02-17-06, 10:42 PM   #14
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i think the most explosive thing i ever saw done in my class was she threw a pea sized ball of potassium in a big tank of water. Haha we had to wear googles on and we were like 10 feet away from it...while the other, cool teacher, class had twice the size potassium, with no googles on, and they were right next to the tank. why do i get stuck with boring teachers??
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Old 02-17-06, 10:45 PM   #15
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that makes no sense but okay
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Old 02-17-06, 10:51 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EJ123
i think the most explosive thing i ever saw done in my class was she threw a pea sized ball of potassium in a big tank of water. Haha we had to wear googles on and we were like 10 feet away from it...while the other, cool teacher, class had twice the size potassium, with no googles on, and they were right next to the tank. why do i get stuck with boring teachers??
Sodium is bad as hell! We set a tree on fire in my hazardous cargo class. It was awesome!
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Old 02-17-06, 10:57 PM   #17
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so jschen, if i ever needed help on my chemistry homework, youd be the man?
If you ever need an explanation of a concept, post in Foo and I'll try to get around to it. If you want me to do your homework, you're out of luck.

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I think you need to blow off some steam by riding home at twice your normal speed. That way you can tend to another reaction: lactic acid + your muscles = new personal best
Unfortunately, today's not a commuting day thanks to scheduling issues. I had a choice of riding my 15 mile pre-breakfast ride (1800 feet of climbing in 15 miles, including a short 17% pitch ) or riding my commute (6 miles round trip), so I chose my 15-miler. And with the temperature dropping with a storm rolling in, it's hard to set PR's. I felt really good on the climbing today, yet I was 3.5 minutes behind my PR thanks to taking it a bit slow near the beginning (needed to warm up) and going downhill slower (too much wind resistance from my windbreaker).

I wish I was taking on Mt Baldy tomorrow morning... with all the steam I could blow off, I'd probably manage to take a decent chunk out of the 30 minutes I still need to cut out in order to reach my 2006 goal.

Quote:
Originally Posted by EJ123
i think the most explosive thing i ever saw done in my class was she threw a pea sized ball of potassium in a big tank of water. Haha we had to wear googles on and we were like 10 feet away from it...while the other, cool teacher, class had twice the size potassium, with no googles on, and they were right next to the tank. why do i get stuck with boring teachers??
Potassium and water in a high school demo? Yikes! That's pretty nasty if you manage to do it right. ie Carefully clean off all the mineral oil protecting the potassium from water vapor in the air, break it into really fine pieces, and then chuck it into water. But with plenty of mineral oil still coating it and just a ball of the stuff, it's not that exciting. A clean piece of rubidium (below potassium in the periodic table) about the size of a grape with decent surface area dropped into water will generate enough pressure from the combustion of the resulting hydrogen gas to shatter a Pyrex beaker. Cesium (below rubidium), well, I wouldn't want to stand near that experiment.
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Old 02-17-06, 11:09 PM   #18
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We also did Sodium before and that was boring. Yeah the Potassium was all metallic silver on the outside..
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Old 02-17-06, 11:46 PM   #19
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You would've had a heart attack if you saw me mixing liquid nitrogen into my yogurt then...
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Old 02-17-06, 11:49 PM   #20
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slvoid, speaking to me? Or addressing someone else? Liquid nitrogen and yogurt should be no big deal. Nitrogen is very inert, and at those temperatures, not much happens anyway. Mixing liquid oxygen with stuff, on the other hand...
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Old 02-18-06, 12:13 AM   #21
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Then you probably would've had a heart attack if you saw me brewing home made liquid oxygen out of the air in the lab with liquid nitrogen and playing with matches...

Or getting high off my dry ice/ethanol charpy impact tester/temporary bong.

Actually LN and yogurt isn't as easy as you think. You get really smooth frozen yogurt but if you don't do it right you a) get metal filings in your food (bad) and b) get yogurt all over the lab. What tends to happen is that the LN makes it to the inside of the yogurt cup then rapidly expands just as the yogurt freezes. The bubble then bursts and explodes, sending shards of yogurt all over the place. Then its just a race against time to lick the frozen chunks off the equipment and floor before it all melts.
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Old 02-18-06, 12:22 AM   #22
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Liquid oxygen is nasty stuff. Organic chemistry students who are a bit naive or not thinking clearly have been known to accidently end up with liquid oxygen sitting around. Seeing it sitting around where it shouldn't be is usually a good sign to leave the room. Just in case. It's readily recognized by its blue hue. And since only very particular conditions will cause it to collect in the first place. (No, I will not describe how to collect liquid oxygen.) If I'm a professor someday and I see a student purposely generating liquid oxygen with no good reason, I probably would demand that student's expulsion.

As for liquid nitrogen and yogurt, yes, I could see how it could splatter yogurt all over the place. However, extremely good stirring can avoid this. Alternatively, slowly add in the other direction (yogurt into liquid nitrogen). I imagine that should solve the problem.
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Old 02-18-06, 12:35 AM   #23
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I probably would demand that student's expulsion.
Boy i wish you were my teacher if you taught me chemistry in college
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Old 02-18-06, 12:53 AM   #24
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Me me me me can I describe how to suck LOX out of the air???
Yogurt into LN does pretty much one of 2 things.
1) Turbulence can cause it to balloon out as the gas expands underneath it.
1a) Then you get pretty bad boiling and rolling.
1b) Or the top pops open and now you get a liquid nitrogen fountain and chunks of frozen yogurt on the floor.
2) Or it freezes and your chocolate yogurt turns into a long frozen turd.

You know what else you can do is pour some LN in your hand and really quickly flick it at someone in the lab. The LN soaks into their clothes and starts smoking and you scream ACID!!!!!!
Or when your coworker's doing a load controlled compression test from a hydraulic machine, if they're new and the only have 1 mode of control going, pour some LN on their sample while they're not looking and wait for em to start the test. The bang sounds like a shot gun going off.
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Old 02-18-06, 04:34 AM   #25
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Originally Posted by EJ123
We also did Sodium before and that was boring. Yeah the Potassium was all metallic silver on the outside..
They must not be doing it right. Of course, we had a pretty good chunk of clean sodium.

Did they do the non-flammable powder demo? Probably more of a hazcom than a chemistry class thing, really. Scared the crap out of us sitting in the first and second rows of class, tho.
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