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.I’ve posted previously on the sheer stupidity exhibited by these chemists of tomorrow, but I don’t recall a time when I was an undergraduate when I went out of my way to make the life of the demonstrators in the teaching labs really difficult. First things first this morning was a bromination of aniline. Dissolve bromine in acetic acid, and slowly add to a solution of aniline in acetic acid at 0 oC until the bromine colour persists. Easy right? Wrong. Having watched people carrying fairly large quantities of bromine around in the lab in open flasks, I could practically feel myself brominating. A few less than kind words to certain individuals may or may not have made me the flavour of the month, but at least I knew I wasn’t going to end up in hospital.
Following a barrage of stupid questions (Why isn’t my solution boiling? What colour is my reaction meant to go? Does my non-halogenated, organic waste go in the non-halogenated organic waste bottle?) and equally ridiculous actions (turning up the tap connected to the reflux condenser as high as it will go then proceeding to attempt to put a reaction on in what can only be described as monsoon-like conditions) to back them up, I gulped down a substandard baguette and a coffee at lunch before returning to more of the same. I for one didn’t realise that a recrystallization was a difficult concept to grasp once it has been explained once or twice but apparently I am in the small minority here. I watched today in disbelief as time after time people dissolved their product in huge amounts of ethanol and then wondered why lovely white crystals were not forthcoming. I gave up in the end and just watched them struggle for a while. My understanding, helpful side had literally been bludgeoned out of me and been replaced with my cynical, sarcastic one. The final straw that broke the camel’s back was being informed that someone “had no crystals, innit?” which was rasped at me in such a way that the assumption was that it was clearly my fault that a 5 gram reaction had produced 20 mg of amorphous crap. Having resisted the urge to throw myself out of the window at that point, I calmly pointed out that the activated charcoal they had used now consisted of approximately 80% pure crystalline 2,4,6-tribromobenzene and that a quick recrystallization would result in a much higher yield. He looked at me as though I’d just urinated on his shoes, threw his little bag of crud in the box and walked out. I can only hope I am marking his script, that’s all I’m going to say.
A two hour French lesson following my day of demonstrating was not high on my list of things I wanted to do. However, I persevered and am now a minute step closer to understanding that bizarre language they speak across the Channel. I sit here now, with something to eat and listening to some Elliott Smith, ranting about my day and it is definitely having the desired therapeutic effect. I hope everyone who has the (mis)fortune to stumble upon this enjoys reading about my day half as much as I did not enjoy taking part in it :P
Until next time, thanks for reading as always.