Tagged: fun


First try of twitter in real time for a good cause….. AcademicAprilFools:


15 reasons why NOT to date a chemist


Early this week I was reading this “dating advice” on 15 reasons why to date a chemist. Although most of their points are quite good there is always the other side of the coin…. So… 15 reasons why NOT to date a chemist:

1) We may be smelly. We are daily working with thiols, amines, tosyl chloride and so on and so on. We get used to the bad smell in few hours and we don’t care anymore. But the stink of amines stick on you for days giving you that “did you use cat’s pee as cologne” distinct smell.

2) We work 24/7/365. Even when we are not in the lab we are usually thinking about something chemistry related. We may seems interested in what you are telling us, but in all honesty, we are just thinking “maybe I should use less equivalents of X in my reaction”

3) We are stubborn. This sometimes is a good point, but most of the time it is not. We may spend days in trying to figure out why the dishwasher is not working. “Shall I call the technician?” – “No f. way, I’m on it, I have a PhD in chemistry I can do this”. It may take more than one month before calling the technician….

4) We are not big fan of chitchatting. Human relationship are not our favorite thing. If you want to talk about what someone did and why he/she acted in that way it’s kind of meaningless for us. Do you have data, proof, strong evidence of something, can you reproduce it? If yes, then we can analyze that, otherwise it’s just philosophy.

5) We have an analytical mind. We analyze the problem, dissect it into smaller problems and then we solve it. You may not like the solution, but trust us, most of times that’s the best solution.

6) We cannot stand non-scientifically educated person. In a party your best friend is “enlightening” other people on how toxic aspartame is and you see in our eyes the fire of “oh, for Finkelstein sake I’m going to destroy him/her”. Your significant other already told you million times to let it go, but it’s stronger than us bashing someone with some good chemistry.

7) We always have deadlines. Always. Now for a paper, now for a grant. Please do not disturb, I’m trying to write.

8) We are really picky on Tv shows. In CSI someone is storing a pipette upside down? Funk that show, I’ll never watch it again and I’m sending them a two pages long explanation on how to proper use a pipette.

9) We want acetone. Waiting for glasses to be dry is unacceptable, give me some acetone and I’ll take care of them.

10) We may be extremely annoying in the kitchen. “What are you doing? Did you put the steak before the pan was hot??? NOOOOOOOOOOO, for the sake of Maillard, why are you doing this to me? whyyyyyyy?”.

11) Sometimes we can lose a lot of time at the TSA in the airport. It may take a while to explain your research and why the residues on your computer triggered their alarm.

12) We have tons of chemistry books and printed literature around the house.

14) We are superstitious. We don’t believe in that, but if it works….. Having a green cap for your NMR tube is a good sign. Using balloons of different colors for different reaction because it worked with that specific color of ballon. Never change it!!!!

15) We know how to make drugs, bombs and how to kill you with thousand different chemicals.


This list is mainly for organic chemist (that’s because of my background), it may not apply to computational or physical chemists.
So, how many of you I pissed off with this list? Do you think I’m wrong?
Be honest with yourself and you will see that at least half of the points can be easily applied to yourself.


And the winners are….

I’m naturally talking about the “unknown compound competition“. Let’s crunch some numbers first: the post was viewed c.a. 1000 times, 11 chemists participated in the competition and we now have 2 winners.

chemist competitionSo, what was the solution? A tricycle, of course :)




This research was mainly done by our (at that time) (A)Ma(zing)ster student Suzanne, and you can find our amazing Tetrahedron Letters paper here (it is not the final version yet, as we just received the proof).

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaand….. The winners areeeeee……… (drum roll)…………..

1st: Zach Reitz from the university of Santa Barbara

2nd: Manuel Ortuño, ex Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona.

Congratulations to the winners (we spent quite a lot of time (and NMR time) cracking the structure) and thanks to all the participants. It was fun to host this competition.

What did the guys won? A special Dutch pack composed of:

A pair of warm warm klomp for the cold days deciphering  spectra or writing papers in the office:


Dutch food…. When someone say that in the Netherlands the food is pretty bad….. well….. believe them…. But, somethings are pretty good, and as we could not ship herrings (dutch style) nor oliebollen, we opted for licorice and stroopwafels. The latter are pretty good stuff. You should get a hot cup of tea, put the stroopwaffels on top and wait 5 minutes, the syrup inside the waffles become warm and the cookie is amazing.


Some 3D printed stuff. I’ve got a 3D printer and I’m still learning how to use it properly. Here the silver metal with the Bohr electron shells.


Nice thing of this print is that, although printed in a single piece, is completely movable. Pretty funny. I would love to say that it is something I designed, but it’s not the case. You can find all the atoms on thingverse.


Once again, thanks to all the winners, participants, random readers and HR people. Enjoy chemistry and have fun!

EDIT: John Anderson (@NMRChemist) explains here how the LR-HSQMBC could have helped us in solving the structure. Thank you, once more, twitter and thank you John.

How to deal with Lab Thieves


Disclaimer: this is (as most of the case on this blog) a funny, non-serious post. DO NOT do the following things in your lab!


You are ready to set up a reaction, open the flask drawer and…. Nothing… All the 50 mL flasks that you cleaned yesterday are gone. All. Of. Them. All the NMR tubes are gone as well and your freshly distilled DCM is half of what it was this morning. There is a white layer of crap in your separator funnel.
Who you gonna call???
No, the guilty person was not a ghost nor a parallel universe. You have been touched by the infamous glory of Lab Thieves.

This category of people is widely spread in the university labs all over the world.
They are among us!

Those are few tips and tricks on how to deal with Lab Thieves:

1 – First-Aid reaction set-up. Always store the bare necessity glassware for setting up a reaction in your backpack. 50mL Flask, stirring bar, a couple of hamilton syringes and a stopper. In this way, no matter where you are, you will be always ready for starting a reaction on-fly. Just remember to put it out from your backpack when you travel around. TSA people are usually not that happy when they discover that you are a chemist.

2 – To clean or not to clean. DO NOT WASH your glassware. NEVER! Lab Thieves are well-known to steal only clean glassware. Recent studies have shown that a group of Lab Thieves were extremely confused when in a room with only dirty glassware. After a short while they just left the room in search of freshly cleaned glassware.

3 – Fight back. Intentionally contaminate some clean glassware with something sticky but colorless. A drop of silicone oil is usually enough. Do the same trick with some NMR tube as well. Just remember which ones are the contaminated and which ones are not. When during a group meeting someone is showing an NMR spectra with a huge peaks around 0-1 ppm then you are allowed to stand up and scream at them “GOTCHA!!”. Then  challenge them to a spatula duel to the death or whatever other duel you use in your lab for solving controversies.

4 – It’s a liquid problem. It’s not a big deal that “someone” is using the solvents in your fumehood, but still, it’s pretty annoying to pour fresh solvents in your 250 mL bottles every hour. The secret here is in the labels. Randomly change the labels on your bottles, but remember the labeling system you used….  Or use a secret code for each solvent…
Water = That’s not water
EtOH = Water of life
CHCl3 = Liquid goodnight
Acetone = Napalm
Et2O = Magic Dreams
Cyclohexane = I’m on a boat
And so on……  Now just sit and watch the Lab Thieves sweating in panic like Indiana when he has to choose the right Holy Grail (not so subtle citation).

5 – Lock and Key. Lock, lock and lock everything you can. Be the keymaster of Gozer (little bit more subtle citation). Do not forget the keys at home.

6 – Dye, Lab Thief, Dye (another subtle citation). Use few dye packs in some of your drawer, better if bluetooth connected on your phone. They will not explode only if your cellphone is in proximity. Then walk around the department looking for pink colored people.

7 – Hello I’m X and I am a Lab Thief. Talk with them, show them that there is still a possibility for them to be accepted in the society. They can redeem themselves. Teach them how to clean their glassware. Show them the LTAA (Lab Thief Anonymous Association). Give them hope. Bring them to the bright side of the lab. It will take some time, probably years, but day after day they will clean their own glassware and they will stop to be Lab Thieves…….
Now you can finally go and steal their freshly cleaned glassware….



Another glorious day on twitter….

Google Safety Glasses

A couple of literature from “anonymous” sources….

The first scientific paper using google glasses (or at least chemistry related paper) is out. And what’s better than sponsoring it with this kind of amazing TOC????

Nn 2014 00614k 0012

Few questions arise from this picture. Are the google glasses safe for the lab? I know quite some safety sheriffs that will be not so happy to see people working around just with the google glass. Then, why on earth the labcoat is striped???? 
The paper is here, enjoy.

Second paper of the day…. Apparently T-BAG is a well known term in the surface chemistry world…… if you don’t know the other meaning, DO NOT walk around the department asking explanation to random people…. DO NOT!!!



paper here.


Protruding Nanoballs Vs Recessional Nanosuckers


Using “Protruding Nanoballs” and “Recessional Nanosuckers” in the same title is not something easily achievable. Luckily someone managed to do it: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/nl4048042 

In the paper some more amazing NanoThings:

“shrunken nanoball architectures”

“…produced a great amount of suction when applied to other surfaces, similar to the effect of suckers on an octopus’ tentacles”

“The overall structure changed from a nanosphere to a “nanosnowman”-like structure with a smaller ball affixed atop the larger one.”

“The nanocup structure had a relatively small opening mouth on top of a spherical cavity”

“No matter the length of immersion in acetonitrile or the size of the nanoballs, those nanoballs displayed homogeneity in size and the same period of sequence; that is, smaller nanoballs had larger spaces between them.”

“…the nanosucker design presented in this article is the only octopus- inspired design”


P.S. The research described in the paper is extremely interesting, and achieving such strong adhesion with dry film is quite impressive. Check the videos in the supplementary information for the stress test (and a brutal vertical video).


Twitter bird dead

Another funny day with twitter. One rule: six words for the title of your paper….
Here my top something, in no particular order: 

in-FXXXKing credible!!!!

Another day, another paper…. 

Finally papers are getting closer to the real lab life, and sooner or later I’ll be free to publish all the cursing I’m generally doing in the lab.


The paper is “Conventional transmission electron microscopy” http://www.molbiolcell.org/content/25/3/319.abstract

If you read the paper (it can be quite interesting if you like the TEM) you will find also some other pearls like:

“In any event, embedding and curing in any resin should yield a hard “block” with the sample in it: congratulations, you’ve created a fossil.”

In the Summertime – Chemistry Edition

This post is part of #chemsummer blog carnival (C&EN powered). What’s better than a good summer song? Probably more than 170 chemistry related songs, but that’s another story.

One of my favorite “lightheartedness” (does this word exists?) summer song is “In the Summertime” by Mungo Jerry. Whistling this song while biking to the university it’s amazing. And, come on, the upright bass, the blown bottle, the stereo sound, the 70s mustaches…. This song is simply perfect. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here the original song: (WARNING: it’s addictive)

And that’s the chemistry version of the song. Feel free to sing along (if you record it and put it on youtube it will be even more amazing):

In the summer time when the student are gone
You can stay in the lab
like an empty home
When the time is right
You got products, you got products on your mind
Have a solvent, have a hood
Go there and synthesize it pretty good

If there are more spots, purify it well
If there are no spots, you’ve lost I can feel
Speed along the lane
Do a ton or a ton and twenty-five
When the sun goes down
You can make it, you can make it, that’s your life

We’re not bad people, but we are dirty and we are on caffeine
We love every solvent even the nasty bad benzene
When the weather’s fine
We’re in the lab or we do some spectroscopy
We’re always tired
Life’s in the lab, yeah, that’s our philosophy

Synthesize along with us, dee dee dee dee dee
Da da da da da, year we’re che-mi-sts
Da da da dee da doo dee da dee da dee da da, yeah
Da da da da da, de da da dee da da

When winter’s here, yeah, it’s promotion time
Bring your booze, wear your clean labcoat ’cause it will be soon labtime
And we’ll start again
Synthesizing and purifying some other stuff
If it’s black, if it’s grey
I don’t care if it is good for an X-ray

In the summer time when the weather is hot
Most of your solvent bottles for the pressure will pop
When the weather’s right
You got data, you got data on your mind
Have a drink, have a chat
Check the data for any correlation you can find

If the data fit, write it down on your book
If the data is crap, back to lab and cook
Speed along the synthesis
Do a turn or return to step twenty-five
When the sun goes down
You can sleep, you can sleep in the lab

We’re not bad people, but we are dirty and we are on caffeine
We love every solvent even the nasty bad benzene
When the weather’s fine
We’re in the lab or we do some spectroscopy
We’re always tired
Life’s in the lab, yeah, that’s our philosophy

Synthesize along with us, dee dee dee dee dee
Da da da da da, year we’re che-mi-sts
Da da da dee da doo dee da dee da dee da da, yeah

X-Men School for Gifted Chemists


Charles Xavier, Professor of synthetic organic chemistry. All his papers have been accepted without passing for any referees. Legend wants that the only things he needed was to call the editor of the journal. Most of his students work for 72h non stop, and they don’t even know why. Hates comic sans.


Cyclops, Post-Doc. MALDI expert, some undergrads have seen him recording the MALDI-TOF by simply watching the matrix. His red-filtered fashion safety goggles are also perfect for red fluorescence and raman. The goggles, however, make almost impossible to use a pH paper. Do not ask him to prepare a buffer solution (he is a Post-Doc, so he will not do it anyway). 



Iceman, Post-Doc. His ability of preparing cooling bath is renowned in all the department. Busy all day long with cooling NMRs, preparing cryo-TEM samples and random -78C cooling bath for other people in the lab. Looking for the 0K.



Beast, Post-Doc. He is simply a living safety issue and he is not a good view when he is fully shaved. Trying to make his way up in computational chemistry. Some people are allergic to him.



Wolverine, PhD student. Amazingly precise in cutting TLC, silicon wafers and scratching preparative TLCs. Still in doubt if he can get close to the NMR or not. He is usually banned from the lab when some other students are trying metal catalysis. 



Storm, PhD student. She was hired for changing the weather while working. Since then no one in the lab said anymore: “look what beautiful weather outside and we are closed in the lab”. 



Banshee, PhD student. Whit him in the department the ultrasonic baths have become obsolete. No fused glass joint can resist his power. Pay attention: the guy can be quite annoying when asking questions during the group meetings. 



Pyro, PhD student. A living bunsen burner, no solvent will remain liquid in his hands. Distillation wizard, no vacuum needed. Never.  Quite good in elemental analysis as well. t-BuLi his favourite reagent. 



Rogue, undergrad student. She is currently studying for his MSc. No one really knows why she is walking around the department touching as many chemists as possible.



Magneto, technician. Can fix whatever instrument in matter of 5 minutes. When in a huge centrifuge can also be used to record a NMR. Do not mess with him if you want to find your stirring bars tomorrow.  

When your labmate becomes a meme

EDIT: part 2 of this story is here

It was a (not surprisingly) rainy night in my place. Drinking for (one of my) last farewell party with the working group. Suddenly Giulia captured this amazing “Piotr moment”:


Two days later the first meme appeared in our group mail:

wise piotr


The “Create your Piotr meme” game was just started….

Now, you can do such things only if:

a) you are in an amazing group (10 active creative players in a group of 15 people)

b) you have Piotr in the group. (Btw, his perspective on DCC is freshly pressed on JACS)

In this gallery few of the created memes (so far we reached 50… and counting):

now we are going to print stickers :)

Marmite…you know…the black tar


This post is somehow connected to @reneewebs‘s aroma analysis of Marmite (part 1 and part 2). As I love NMR I did a couple of fast and brutal H-NMR and gCOSY experiments:


1H-NMR (D2O, 400MHz): quite a lot of (what I bet are) sugars, fatty acids, and I have no clue about the aromatic stuff. (Edit: the aromatic stuff are Niacin, Riboflavin, and Thiamin, according to wikipedia)


the gCOSY is even worst, I spent only 3 minutes on that, so, sorry if it’s not informative at all (a good TOCSY would have been amazing).

Anyway, the most interesting things (or at least unexpected) was that the Marmite water solution was extremely foamy. A couple of drops of the foamy solution from the NMR tube to the microscope glass and this is what happened next:

P.S. I hate Marmite, I tried the first time last year in New Zealand as breakfast…. As I’m used to “sweet” breakfast, I originally thought it was some kind of chocolate…. Stupid, stupid me. That was, let’s say a surprise (and not a good one). A couple of days later I finished swearing against the black tar from the hell, and I discover that is not that bad with bread and cheese, maybe with ham….. but for God sake…. NOT FOR BREAKFAST!!!!

Science in Social Media

Today it was my last literature update here in Groningen, so I decided to do “something completely different”(cit). In 10 minutes I tried to show the good points of using social media for science communication and other reason. 

It would make no sense talking about social media and then not sharing the slides online (downloadable and with creative commons):

Science in social media from vsaggiomo

Naturally 10 minutes are a short time for explaining and showing more interesting stuff, and I have the feeling that too many good things were left outside the presentation. Anyway, If you check the links in this blog you will find many great blogs to read :)

A nice paper about twitter and science is “The role of twitter in the life cycle of a scientific publication”
The infographic about this paper is here: http://www.katiephd.com/twitter-and-science-publications/ 

As always, I’m happy for random comments, bad remarks, general blasphemy and so on: @V_Saggiomo

#RealTimeChem week 2013 – the top something

Twitter bird dead

Or at least my personal “top something”. In the full spirit of LabSolutely, I selected only the funny/non common/crazy ones (check for example my last year RealTimeChem blogpost. This time there were too many tweets that it was almost impossible to check them all, so forgive me if I miss some one):


I had to remove three postcards from my fumehood because of “safety” issue. This fumehood is well…. :

Continue reading

The 5 Ws

The 5 Ws are the basics of journalism: Who, What, When, Where and Why. These questions are also the minimal set of questions you should ask yourself when writing a paper, a blog post or in general for setting up a good talk/poster. 

Few days ago I was laughing reading this, pretty precise, post on “how to piss of an Italian” and I recall that some time ago in the lab we did more or less the same thing searching the 5 Ws on different nationalities. What’s better than doing it now on the blog? 

I decided for three nationalities (Who): Italians (MSc), Germans (PhD) and Dutch (PostDoc).

What italians

What germansWhat dutch

It’s clear that Americans are extremely worried of what Italians and Germans think about them. Dutch oven seems to be the winner of this contest. There is also the possibility that most people imagine Italians like Mario Bross, and they are disappointed when it’s not like this. This could explain the “what italians look like” question. No clue about “black people” and the painter one…..

When italians

When germansWhen dutch

Don’t laugh. The google suggestion when you write “when italians” is “place a finger under the eye…..”. It actually means that someone is a “good guy”, quite intelligent. When we drink cappuccino? Seriously? Always, of course, from breakfast to the after party. I had to search for “say maron” because I had no clue on what they were searching. Then I realized that it was misspelled. It’s “maronna mia, or maronn”. And then I also realized that most of the Italians in the states are probably from the southern part of Italy (It’s actually my dialect).

let’s move to the Germans…. “when the germans bombed pearl harbor”???? I really hope they were looking for a quote from National Lampoons Animal House (video here). I really hope so…. And I have also to stand on the german side about the last question. They DO say nice things and they are nice too, but you cannot realize it when they say it in german. It’s not their fault it’s only their language…

Where italiansWhere germansWhere dutch

Apparently, Italian and Germans moved to texas, and most people don’t where where Dutch is spoken or where they are living, thinking that they are just imaginary people…. Maybe I’ll surprise you with this, but, they are real!!!

Why italiansWhy germansWhy dutch

I’ll not even comment on the WHY question……

Best preface of a MSc thesis


Few days ago I was reading this preface of a MSc thesis. It’s from a chemist fellow, drinking buddy and “philosophical” discussion pal. I find it quite amazing as it clearly catch the spirit of the daily work in a chemistry laboratory. Blood, sweat and tears in the frontline of science:


“Twelve months ago I started this project as a catalysis project, but it turned out to be long battle against a small molecule. This paper is the report of this long process. It cannot express the long days spent in the lab, battling shoulder to shoulder with my fellow scientists and friends, the joy for the synthesis, the hope for good results and the sadness and tiredness with each failed attempt.”


And this also reminds me about my own PhD thesis (that by the way you can download from the university library here). At the end of the first page (acknowledgment) I wrote this line:


“At the end, thanks to you, reader. If you are reading this line after the others, you at least read one page of my thesis. Thank You.”

Moreover, as (a nerd) easter egg the page number 42 of my thesis is in italic…..

What about you? Did you write something funny in your thesis?

Correlation = Causation ?

This post started yesterday when I saw this tweet from @BlameRafa. Naturally my mind comes back at all the crazy correlation graphs that I memorized during my web wandering. 



The next one is history: The amazing correlation between numbers of pirates Vs. the average temperature. It’s history because this is when the “Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster” started its mission. If you don’t know what it is this amazing religion, you better read it here.


Naturally there is a strip on XKCD about that (and about almost everything).



This could actually make sense. I’m way less stressed when I’m not using Internet explorer…. 



Chocolate Consumption Vs. Nobel laureate per population…. No, I’m not kidding you. This is a research paper (Chocolate Consumption, Cognitive Function, and Nobel Laureates) on “the New England Journal of Medicine”.



And I discover that my blasphemy level increase with the increasing of the eluent polarity for the column chromatography, and so far reach the maximum when I use Alumina Basic as stationary phase… 



So, when your product is not coming out from your alumina column, even after 10L of eluent, who ya gonna call????