Monday, 28 February 2011

The Curse of Man-Flu

            Evening all, apologies for the lack of a post over the weekend. I’ve been all over the place this weekend and haven’t had a chance to do much at all blogwise. I had a game yesterday which involved a 6 hour round trip and standing in a field for 3 hours in between. As such, I have been struck down finally with that most terrifying of maladies, the one which strikes fear into the hearts of all it inflicts. That’s right folks, I’ve got man-flu. To the female readership, none of you can possibly imagine the minor flu-like symptoms which constitute man-flu but I can assure you that I am currently at the brink of death and am far more ill than you can possibly contemplate.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

A few of my favourite things...

Chemjobber, the guys at CBC, Azmanam, LabMonkey4Hire, ScienceGeist and others I'm sure I've missed have been posting about their favourite things in the lab so I thought I would wade in with some of my own personal favourite moments inside and outside the lab:

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Midweek Blues

I arrived slightly later than I would have liked this morning due to the fact I may or may not have had one too many midweek lagers last night.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Lab Mishaps No. 4 - How Not To Clean Your Glassware

Today passed in the lab pretty swimmingly, I got two steps done on one thing I am working on along with the final step of making that precursor I was talking about last week AND the work-up of the N-phenylproline methyl ester I was working on over the weekend. To top this off I managed not to drop anything, break anything and managed to maintain a fairly decent mood throughout the day. All in all, I can’t complain. 

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Saturday at work...

Yesterday was largely uneventful and I decided against boring you all with the details. The week ended on a moderately high note in that nothing went wrong and everything seems to be working. I put on a reaction last night, one that I had never done before; a Cu(I)-catalysed N-arylation. Refluxing proline, bromobenzene, K2CO3 and copper (I) iodide in everyone’s favourite solvent DMF (according to my last post) sounds pretty nasty but it does go blue, which is always nice to see. 

Thursday, 17 February 2011

The Story of the Neverending Column

I draw ever closer to something that resembles my target molecule. Today’s attempt at chemistry comes in the form of adding a TBDPS group to a primary alcohol I spent yesterday making. The reaction in question was put on last night and worked up this morning. TBDPSCl, imidazole, and my substrate at room temperature in DMF was stirred overnight and quenched and worked up in the normal way this morning. 

 The literature reference for this compound told me it required purification by column chromatography (a phrase that always makes my blood run cold) eluting with 2:1 petrol and ethyl acetate. This compound has taken me a few days to prepare and I learnt very quickly as a PhD student not to trust the literature on stuff like this so I thought I would play it safe and use 4:1 instead, just to increase the separation of the three spots. “This should be a nice easy column, I’ll be done in an hour or so” I thought to myself and set about taking fractions. The first two spots came off within the first ten fractions along with the first signs of the major product which I can only assume to be the one I want.  NMR of the first two fractions showed me that one was assorted crap and one was what I assume to be unreacted TBDPSCl. I then increased the amount of ethyl acetate in my solvent mixture and continued collecting fraction after fraction after fraction...

Eighty fractions later following a particularly interesting regimen of “take fraction, TLC, stain, cry, repeat” my patience was starting to wane somewhat as this final product showed absolutely no signs of slowing down. As I’m sure I have mentioned previously, I will do almost anything to avoid running a column but this one really takes the cake. I assume what is coming off is pure (I’m removing the solvent as I write this) but cannot describe to the non-chemists amongst those of you who read this how boring it is collecting fractions that come out the bottom of a column. I don’t make anything which is a nice colour, I don’t make anything fluorescent and I don’t make anything which smells nice so I just have to sit there and hope my column is working OK before I check at the end.  This purgatory can and does go on for extended periods of time and takes up a solid proportion of my time in the lab. Anyway, if this stuff is not completely pure and in at least 95% yield I’m going to be dramatically unimpressed (I joke of course, anything remotely positive will do for me at the moment).

Anyway, I have training tonight so I’m going to spend the next two hours running around in the cold to hopefully let off some steam so I can get back “in the game” so to speak in the morning. Tonight I can only pray to the chromatography gods in the hope that tomorrow will provide me with a slightly more fruitful way to spend my time, like doing some chemistry that might actually be publishable at some point in the future.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011


            It has been pointed out today that yesterday's post could have put the institution that I work at in a bad light. I hasten to add now that this was never my intention and that I had merely had a particularly poor day yesterday. The actions of a few students and/or myself are not an indication of the day-to-day events within the department. I have nothing but fine words to say about my department and group. I am relatively new (three weeks to be precise) to the whole process of blogging and realise now that I'll have to reign in my slightly more extreme opinions on certain topics. They don't necessarily represent the views of the University at which I work and are in fact completely my own.

Apologies to anyone who has taken any offence, it was in no way intended.

Monday, 14 February 2011

The Woes of Demonstrating

I’ve had a day of demonstrating today. While this does put a bit of extra cash in my pocket at the end of the month, it is one of the more thankless tasks I have ever had the pleasure of doing.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

End of another week...

It’s been two days without a post from myself now so I thought I would break the deadlock, so to speak. Thursday passed by largely without incident, apart from the fact I had my first American Football training in a year. That was what can only be described as a shock to the system, and Friday morning was spent hobbling around in a John Wayne-esque manner moaning about life and generally not doing much in the way of anything too strenuous.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Starting Material

Today, the day that all chemists secretly dread finally came for me. To make any of the catalysts I have used thus far involves a three step synthesis to form a precursor which can then be turned into any number of different compounds. Yesterday, I ran out of said precursor. Thus, the time has come to make some more.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

The Quest For Crystals

Apologies for the lack of a post yesterday. A (very) late night out watching the Superbowl as well as a 2 hour French lesson yesterday evening meant I was running on empty by the time I got home. An early night and a session in the gym this morning as well as some completely uncharacteristic warm and sunny weather and I am revitalised and ready to tell you about my continued failure to get anywhere with my many and varied ideas for the next big advancement in the chemical sciences and more specifically, organocatalysis.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Lab Mishaps No. 3 - The Old Switcheroo

            Strangely, no-one did anything in the lab this week which one would class as either stupid or remotely dangerous. I was however regaled with a tale by a new postdoc we have working in the lab which he was witness to at his previous institution. At first I did not believe a word of it but he swears blind this is true.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Some Perspective...

            Following my frankly rubbish Thursday, my supervisor came into the lab at 5:30 and informed me I would be going to the pub with him, and that I would be doing so within 5 minutes of being told as such. I’d not really had anything to drink since New Year’s Eve, and I had had a pretty below par day so I thought I would go and have a cheeky pint of Guinness before going home and sorting out some notes and assorted other rubbish I had accumulated over the past week, ready to finish up some chemistry on Friday and have nothing to do over the weekend.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

A new day, a new cock-up.

Nothing much of note happened yesterday, although I did spend a full 11 hours in the lab. Alas, when I finally got through the door at around 8:30pm I had what can only be described as writer’s block, possibly due to the fact I had only eaten soup all day. Considering I am what some people describe as fairly hefty, this was just not cutting it and I proceeded to eat everything I had left in my all but bare cupboards.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

An Uneventful Day...

I don’t really have too much to write about today. Everything went well for me all told which is excellent for me but alas, somewhat uninteresting for you. I didn’t drop anything, I didn’t break anything, every item of glassware I could think of was available to me, I got everything I wanted done and I still had time for three separate coffee breaks and a gym session!