Tagged: lablife

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.


The PhD Tao


That’s an amazing guest post from my labmate Rui Carvalho (@rkramska). The Tao of a PhD:

“The further one goes, the less one knows.” 
Lao Tzu – Tao Te Ching – 4th year PhD

“When nothing is done, nothing is left undone.” 

Lao Tzu – Tao Te Ching – Speaking of lab work

“Do your work, then step back. The only path to serenity.”
Lao Tzu – Tao Te Ching – During coffee break

“Take care with the end as you do with the beginning.” 

Lao Tzu – Tao Te Ching – While writing a paper

“Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: what is soft is strong.” 

Lao Tzu – Tao Te Ching – When reology results do not make sense

“Our enemies are not demons, but human beings like ourselves” 

Lao Tzu – Tao Te Ching – Speaking of referees

“If you search everywhere, yet cannot find what you are seeking, it is because what you seek is already in your possession.”
Lao Tzu – Tao Te Ching – Before figuring out how to use the chemicals list

“Stop thinking and end your problems.”
 Lao Tzu – Tao Te Ching – On a Friday evening

“A beaker is only as useful as the emptiness inside it, very much so like my thesis.”
 Lao Tzu – Tao Te Ching – Talking about his thesis

The Feng-Shui Lab

Bagua map octagon

Planning to renew your lab? New space to fill? New instrument to set-up? 

Did you think about the energy flow of the lab? No? Then do not complain if the phds are fighting each other, the rotavap is not working and the dry solvents are 20% water. The only real solution is to set-up the lab using the ancient Feng-Shui philosophy…

North, water: rotavap, water distillation, refluxes (pay attention that the fire should be in the south, so the oil bath should be in the south and connected with an unimaginable sets of tubing to the condenser in the north part of the lab), ice baths, cold fingers and so on. The water is your life path, put an old picture of you on the first year of university, and start crying.

Northeast, earth: Put here your collection of alkaline earth metal ions. Put here also the instrument that only you in the whole department know how to use and show your skills.

East, wood: Chromatography paper, cotton, white papers and whatever generated by a well destroyed and processed woods. Family? What?

Southeast, wood: Prosperity and abundance of dirty glassware to wash.

South, fire: Oil baths, metal baths, heat guns, ovens, and why not, an always burning bunsen…. Organic chemists love to have open flame in the lab. It keeps them always in the edge.

Southwest, wood: Again? there is wood everywhere. It seems to be in an old 1970’s lab. Southwest is also about love, put here the tiny and clean 5mL flask that you are hiding from the rest of the lab.  

West, metal: It goes without saying, collection of transition metal. No children in the lab.

Northwest, metal: This is pretty close to north/water, so i would put all the alkali metals you have, just for adding a little bit of spices. Apparently you should also store helpful people here. There may me not that many around, so keep the few of them always locked in the northwest part of your lab.


Easy isn’t it? If you find it too complicated you can also use the standard lab arrangement: North=Northeast=East=South=Southwest=West=Northwest= MESS, MESS and more MESS. Southeast = few cubic centimeters for doing a column. 

Best email answer? PhD writing craziness!

Hoxford fan film

The facts narrated in this blogpost are based on a true story:

One of your labmate is writing his phd thesis in a building far far far away from your lab (ok, not that far away, but still…). You hear the alarm going on in that building multiple times in the same day.  At this point you write an email to your friend, just for asking if everything is ok there. Something like:

“hey I heard the alarm going on there, is it everything fine?” 

Then few minutes later you got this email:

It’s such a mess!

Someone started a fire in a fumehood, and then it started to spread around.
The guy went on fire and started to run around. Then the alarm rang, but someone locked the doors, so not everybody could escape!
Unfortunately, the guy who was burning down was synthesizing a mutagenic compound, and since it was spilled all over him, he started getting crazy and attacked other people, biting them and somehow contaminating them. I could not escape, so I took refuge in my office by locking myself in. Then suddenly, after 10-15 min Seb
(another guy working in the same building n.d.r) came knocking to my door, so I let him in, he told me that the situation is getting worse and worse, people on fire are contaminating everybody, but fortunately he came with some chemicals so that we can defend ourselves against those monsters.

I’m sorry but I don’t have much time to talk, they are now trying to enter the office, we are thinking about jumping from the window, it’s a bit high, but I’d rahter break a leg than get contaminated!

They are now destroying the door,

They are coming…


True story…. I mean the email part. The guy who wrote it was Mathieu (the 50% brain of the Super Mario Bros Column Chromatography). Writing a phd thesis can drive you crazy ;)

P.S. Kudos to whoever knows the amazing comic book artist that did the drawing in the frontispiece. 

The Monster Silica Ma(e)sh

Happy halloween from LabSolutely:

and, in case you missed them, don’t forget the other classic LabSolutely video:

Mario Bros Column Chromatography  and the making of

So God Made a Chemist and the picture comparison with the original spot

Extreme Sport: Chemistry

the #RealTimeChem trailer 

and here if you want to see some fun with the old working group in Groningen

When the synthesis doesn’t work

This morning come to the lab and found this at the bike parking.
Some people cannot stand the failure…. 

Remember that doing research means to fail thousand times and go back to work more motivated than before

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#sciconfessions – confess your lab sins

Twitter bird dead


Another day, another funny “scientific” hashtag. It’s time to confess your lab sins. Last time was #overlyhonestmethods, now it’s the #sciconfessions moment.

Enjoy some of the funniest ones (as always, I removed the tweeps)


Once, while sterilising an inoculating loop, I nearly set the lab on fire. #sciconfessions

I have eaten an organism I couldn’t ID just to get rid of it #sciconfessions

I eat and drink in my lab. Even during dissection and microbiology practicals. #sciconfessions

The lab skeleton was called Steve. It took my mother, a retired radiographer, to point out Stephanie was more appropriate. 

I once MRI-scanned my colleagues kid’s fluffy bunny toy. Had to soak it in water first to get an image. #sciconfessions

Did an experiment horrifically wrong, just repeated it a few times and called it anomalous because i was to embarrassed  #sciconfessions

#sciconfessions Back in the deep past in Cambridge – corridor cricket with a glass measuring cylinder and a rubber bung

As an undergrad, I managed to melt laboratory glassware during practicals. Now I am doing bioinformatics. #sciconfessions

At my old lab, a bottle of acetone was kept “because it had always been there”. I.e. that bottle is probably as old as I am. 

PI wanted us to keep the lab “as clean as the radioactive lab”. He must have missed that we never had a radioactive lab 

I call myself a Neuroscientist because I still can’t pronounce ‘Immunology’ #Sciconfessions

#Sciconfessions “accidentally” left open bottle of b-mercaptoethanol to disguise a curry fart. Sorry!

I chose my current University for PhD because its logo is blue and it totally looked like Hogwarts. #sciconfessions

Have used experimental petrology lab equipment to fix a bike, a squash racquet, a pair of trainers and a phone. #Sciconfessions

Out of every dewar of liquid nitrogen I fill, 50% is for ‘science’ & 50% is for ‘fun’ #sciconfessions

A long time ago, I twisted my 1000 ml pipettman around to read 9999. I was young. #sciconfessions

I’ve licked many rocks and lived to tell the tale #sciconfessions

I once calculated the surface area of a gram of Ti nanoparticles to be larger than a house #sciconfessions

That smell of b-mercaptoethanol in the lab the other day, well, it wasn’t b-mercaptoethanol #sciconfessions

Fallen asleep on microscope while counting worms (who knew it’s just like counting sheep?) #sciconfessions

No sir, I cannot recreate my data… It’s been a year worth of trying… #sciconfessions

I own a dog speculum. #sciconfessions

I’ve never used the dog speculum on a dog #sciconfessions

We think Schrödinger should bring his cat to the vet. #sciconfessions

I use the textbook *Behavioral Issues and Autism* as a wedge to fix the noisy radiator in my apartment. Just the right size. #sciconfessions

I would set people’s pipettes to zero. #sciconfessions

I once set a 72 hour HPLC run on someone else machine just cos he annoyed me. #sciconfessions

I actually said to my director:”the problem with this paper is not that it will be rejected, it’s that it might be accepted” #sciconfessions

#sciconfessions Tried to distil an organic azide once. It blew up & shot a glass stopper across the lab like a missile!

I do more washing up in the lab than I do at home. #sciconfessions

Sometimes, I eat the popcorn I make for Tsunami the Orangutan. #sciconfessions

Forgive me! I once sabotaged a student’s PowerPoint by inserting “penis” into a slide and then he presented it to medics 

The last sentence on the last page of my PhD thesis says ‘Well that’s what I think anyway”. Nobody’s noticed yet. #Sciconfessions

I used to put Hello Kitty stickers on all my solvent squirt bottles so none of my (all male) labmates would steal them. #sciconfessions

I probably get more done in one hour of “thinking” than in two hours of meetings. #sciconfessions

I’m a physics major but hard math problems still make me feel like I’m dying. #sciconfessions #ughughugh

I am supposed to do some actual science, but I am tweeting bullshit. #sciconfessions

Had timer paused at 12 minutes permanently in lab coat pocket. Would set it running if called into boss’s office. #sciconfessions

I enjoy hearing my non-Dutch colleagues try to pronounce “professor Kouwenhoven” #sciconfessions

One PI i worked for, used to let us smoke in the lab. Knew it was OK when the safety office started joining us ! #sciconfessions

15 min incubation = time for coffee. 1 hr = lunch. 18 hr = screw it, went home and slept. 48 hrs = took a weekend off. #sciconfessions

Spend more time taking photos from the pigeons outside the lab than photographing my samples, the pigeons were cuter! #sciconfessions

#sciconfessions When your chemistry teacher hands you lemons to extract limonene from, make lemonade…

First post-doc almost done (10 days to go)

Roy batty life coach

I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe,

pentane on fire off the shoulder of Orion (the neighbors lab),

I watched the e-beams glitter in the dark room of the TEM,

people talking for hours in group meeting,

HPLC machines spraying eluents from everywhere.

Helicopters flying in the corridor

and safety inspector complaining about 3 postcards,

Mario Bros music blowing from test tubes,

ancient and powerful machines still working,

 rebus on the blackboard and SIR NMR.

Asbestos, asbestos everywhere.

Black Hole Quencher modification,

Bottom-up approaches.

Filthy glassware and uber-representative TLC,

fairytale inflatable house in the middle of the campus,

screaming vesicles and playing squash in the office,

weird algae in the ITC wash water and aliens on the rooftop.

Crappy vessels and rocking chair,

extreme safety during MD calculations and playing ukulele in the office.

And all those moments will be lost in time,

like a final product on an

alumina column.

Time to dye.

What’s going on? May 2013

It have been quite a long time since the last blog post. Let’s say that I’m quite busy at the moment, so I’ll just highlight what happened last months (naturally in random order).

1- The video “mario bros column chromatography” won the best tweet of the #RealTimeChem week. As prize we’ve (me and Mathieu) got a super nice labcoat. We tried to fit both of us, but it didn’t work out: 

IMG 1343


2- Did an intolerance test….



3- I saw this video n times but only recently I realized how bad were the few “scientific” scenes. Upside-down separatory funnels, smoke everywhere, graduated flasks used as collection flask, bubbling stuff in the separator funnel and so on…




4- The RSC is organizing a conference on Mercury…. The hassle of bringing people there with space shuttle, bringing oxygen and water… It’s going to be tough 



-5 Some people in our group start taking safety issues very seriously 

IMG 1237


-6 Discover that finding a rocking chair in a corridor of the department is not that difficult

IMG 1276


-7 Apparently one way of dealing with leaking instrument is to stuff them with paper

IMG 1361


-8 on a more serious topic, I’m moving to Wageningen next month. This is the main reason why I’m so busy at the moment, trying to finish stuff here in Groningen, start packing for moving, and dealing with huge amount of bureaucracy.

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