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….