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unusually good work day (long)

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unusually good work day (long)

Old 01-14-06, 02:06 PM
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jschen
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unusually good work day (long)

Saturdays are always a drag in the lab. Especially when it's nice out, and I can think of plenty of other things I'd rather be doing. Considering the circumstances, though, today's turning out pretty well. I haven't been as excited about my work for quite a while.

First, a very brief background on what I do. I'm doing total synthesis in an organic chemistry lab. Basically, my team runs lots of reactions to synthesize in the lab interesting compounds found in nature. One of the ways we determine what we have at each stage is a tool called NMR. Using NMR, we can obtain values associated with certain nuclei (usually all the hydrogen nuclei) in the molecule and deduce the structure from those values.

My current project's at the point where my team is working on the key reaction in our proposed reaction sequence, and we have a promising candidate for the right compound on hand. (Not the desired end product, but an important intermediate compound for getting us there.) Unfortunately, we have about 0.0004 grams (0.000014 ounces) of the stuff at the moment, which normally would be on the bleeding edge of what we could reasonably characterize. And we will need about a week to make more of it.

Fortunately, our institute's chemistry NMR facility has just installed a new $300K cryoprobe in one of our NMRs. The probe is cooled to -262C (-440F), and thus "cryo". Thanks in part to these ultralow temperatures, it has fantastic sensitivity, so my team should be able to get the information we need from that small amount and figure out now--not a week from now--whether we have the right stuff. Thanks to the NMR staff knowing and trusting me, I get to be the first to run a research sample with the newly upgraded NMR. Even they haven't had a chance to run a research sample yet--only control samples for fine tuning the setup. At 6 PM, that instrument's all mine for 39 hours.

I'm excited to be the first to be using our upgraded NMR. Especially since I'll be using it on a problem that takes full advantage of the upgrade. The NMR staff is happy, too. They will get to go back to the appropriations committees and tell of how their $300K baby saved the day and how they should be allowed to buy more fancy hardware.
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