Tagged: Laboratory

Fear of the Duck

“Fear of the duck, fear of the duck
I have a constant fear that something’s always near
Fear of the duck, fear of the duck
I have a phobia that someone’s always there”

Finally, after I don’t know how many months of teaching and writing, I’m back!!! Back in the lab.
To celebrate this awesome moment, here some ducks:

During our last course (Nanomedicine) we used a home(lab)-developed micelles for showing the students how a multimodal imaging probe works (fluorescence and MRI contrast agent). Usually for this kind of experiments a “phantom mouse” is used, but we thought that a mouse is kind of boring. What’s better than a duck???
We printed a mold for making small ducks (here on thingverse) and we had quite some fun with agarose ducks:
agarose pdms duck

left an agarose duck, and right a PDMS duck (not really for depth penetration study, but I love PDMS so….)

phantom duck2

Here the dyes injected in the head (red) illuminated by a UV lamp.

phantom duck1

Same duck, this time illuminated by a laser (right).

Then we moved for some MRI experiments… Have you ever seen a 2cm NMR tube?

2cm NMR tube

Well, now you have :) (and a comparison with a standard NMR tube). See how the duck is happy to get a bath in the NMR tube? Now let’s try to measure something…

MRI duck1

This is an MRI of the agarose duck. In white the contrast agent injected in the duck. the black stuff is just air. Nice isn’t it?

MRI duck2

Another duck another MRI. This time without contrast agent (and also without air bubbles inside the agarose…..)


But, wait a minute, the students also formed some quantum dots during the course…. Shall we put them in agarose??? Well, why not?

QD = Quantum Ducks:

quantum ducks 1 quantum ducks 2 quantum ducks 3


Luckily no students suffered from anatidaephobia, but in any case, if you are afraid of the ducks, you are not alone:

Disclaimer: this blog post and the experiments described herein were not sponsored nor supervised in any way shape or form by @chemjobber. Any resemblance to @chemjobber, living or dead, is purely coincidental. No @chemjobber were harmed during this course.

Microfluidics Galore (and ranting)


Finally my paper on how to, in an extremely simple way,  fabricate complex 3D microfluidic devices, even with external components embedded directly in the PDMS block. And let me tell you, it was not an easy ride.

Funnily enough, if you open any review or perspective in any journal, one of the most request for microfluidics is to simplify their fabrication. Here I just put some examples from Nature journals:

For these microfluidic devices to be actually useful, the devices must be usable; that is, these tools must be simple and robust. The ultimate test for the usability of these devices is whether researchers who are not experts in microfluidics—such as most worm biologists—will use them to discover new biology. We encourage you to try!

All the signs indicate that there is no simple solution for accelerating the adoption process; however, there are design choices engineers can make in order to lower the barrier to entry for biologists. How the end-user interacts with a new technology is a critical aspect of whether the method is adopted……… problems should be viewed through the lens of user-friendly assay design…

Much of today’s microfluidics market is driven by large biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, and the key to larger adoption of microfluidics solutions is to make the devices simpler.

Finally, integrated miniaturized systems should eventually be relatively cheap. They will be much more affordable than full lab facilities — not least in developing countries.”


Now, you read all those reviews, comments and perspective, and all of them ask for simple fabrication, cheap and portable microfluidic devices. So you start working on that and you develop a new simple methodology for the fabrication of microfluidics device, you don’t need a clean room anymore,  you don’t need to seal the PDMS on another surface anymore. You can even make complex 3D structures or embedding external components in it: heating, sensors, stirring bars, UV-LED and so on. It is also extremely cheap, you can fabricate a working NMR head for less than 2€…. And it’s a methodology paper, that apparently are the most cited papers (at least in Nature journals).

Hilbert's cubeYou finish your work and think: it should be extremely easy to publish, isn’t it? At the end you did everything they were constantly asking in review, comments and perspective: simple fabrication, complex devices and cheap. Naturally it was not the case…. I’ll not tell to which journals I sent the paper, nor the editors that didn’t see the improvement of this methodology. I’ll just tell you that it was not easy, not easy at all. The only way to cope with all those rejection was to read this blogpost once every week: Papers that triumphed over their rejections. Not that I’m going to win the Nobel with this paper, but I think it’s quite interesting, and getting rejection over rejection was kind of frustrating. This paper was lying on my desk for a full year, before finally finding an editor and a couple of referees that finally saw the simplicity and the power of this new methodology.

At the end of the day I’m a researcher, I like to be in the lab and coping with rejection is part of the game. A silly frustrating game….

And i like to make videos (as you probably know):

I did also an Homer microfluidics:

Homer microfluidics

and this, for obvious reasons (I swear I didn’t send it to any editors):



End of the story: Never ever give up!!! Did I just Rickroll you??? Seriously???
Ok, ok, you may think this post is just spam, and well, maybe it is, but this is my blog isn’t it? :D

American Dad’s chemistry

Yesterday I was watching an old episode of American Dad and part of the story was set in a chemistry class…. Are the writer of American Dad as scientifically good as the one of the Simpsons or Futurama? The episode is the 11×05 “now and Gwen”.

american dad chemistryClassic periodic table but weird molecules poster… And why the hell there is a world globe in a chemistry class????

american dad chemistry

Sexual joke while cleaning the test tube. Pretty accurate I would say :D

american dad chemistry

Quenching a fire with organic solvent…. not a brilliant idea (but I saw it happen once).

american dad chemistry

Uhm… a couple of protons missing?

american dad chemistryApparently they solved it few seconds later. Part of the periodic table is also correct.

Not that much chemistry, but it’s still fun to see chemistry in pop culture :)





Parafilm Galore


Parafilm is without any doubt the most used consumable in all the laboratories in the world. Need to seal something quickly? Parafilm! Need to repair something? Parafilm! Need to stop bleeding from a glass scratch? Napkin and parafilm! Your shoe is broken? Parafilm for keeping it useful until going back home!

Parafilm! Parafilm! Parafilm!!!!

But, this magic plastic, is used only in labs? Of course not, such amazing material is used to keep oxygen out of your favorite whiskey, wrapping your flowers or painting your models… It’s one of the few things that you can find in the lab and in the “real world”.

But, who invented this magic film? When, and how? Useless questions that I tried, without any luck, to answer:

Parafilm is a 50:50 mix between polyolefins and paraffin wax. It was trademarked in 1934 but some previous references are found in a patent dated 1932. Those dates are quite important as they are between the two great wars, therefore the parafilm was not one of the invention pushed by the war (like for example the silly putty). And it fits with the discovery of the synthesis of polyolefines.

And that’s more or less everything I managed to find about it. Who was the man (or woman) that discover it? I don’t know, but THANK YOU!!!

Naturally if you have any good hint on the parafilm history, please contact me :)

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.


Me and my thermal camera

Recently I’m working on some hot hot hot reaction and I needed something fast to monitor the heat, what better excuse to buy another toy??? I’ve got a seek thermal camera for my iphone (http://thermal.com/see_the_unseen.html), pretty cheap and extremely simple to use.

Now the main question: is it working?

I should say, I’m pretty impressed by it. For its price is quite amazing (again, I’m not getting paid by them :) )

Pictures pictures pictures:

RotovapA beautiful rotavap, you can clearly recognize the bath, the hot pump and the cold parts for the collection of the solvents.

Fumehood thermal cameraMost important things in a fumehood, a reaction refluxing, a 5L DCM (the handle is warm as someone was using it) and a packing silica column.

officeBack in the office with my macbook, still the heat from my arms and a freshly laser printed papers on the left. This is probably the meaning of “hot papers”….

Hot flaskOne of the first lesson that you lear when you enter in a lab is that a cold flask looks the same as a hot flask. Not anymore!!! You can also see the heat transfer where the flasks touch.

Oh, and I almost forget…. You can make video as well :)

Is your heating plate working?

Or you can make beautiful drawing with acetone and then wait for the evaporation:

Or maybe you just want to drop a pellet of NaOH in concentrated HCl…..

At the end of the day the seek thermal camera is an extremely nice toy to have in the lab. Hopefully sooner or later you will also see the use in one of my future paper :)


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….

Are lab instruments male or female?


If you are reading this as first post of the blog you should know something: nothing is serious on this blog. No, not even this post. This is just for fun and mainly based of maybe-true-maybe-not stereotypes.



Some topics connect all the labs in the world: the hate for alumina columns, the crappy university food, the mysterious ghost that steal clean NMR tubes, and naturally “are instruments male or female?”


It may be sounds a trivial question, but it is definitely not. After spending so much time working on a single instrument you start talking with him/her. Having a proper discussion with your instrument can make the difference between a successful or unsuccessful experiment. You need to talk with the instrument, understand him/her, hug the instrument, caress and comfort him/her. “There there, don’t worry, here the new solvent my dear” 


So, are the instruments in your lab male or female?



Male: He’s usually huge, not only the physical part, but his ego is expanding well behind his metallic shield. Usually traffic cones or yellow tape are used for outline his impressive ego.

He’s mono-thematic, ask him to do a 1H or a 13C and there will be no problem, ask to go for a 31P or a 15N and then he needs to change his mind, reflect a little bit and maybe, and only maybe, he will do it.

Female: She is still huge, but shiny and nice. Can destroy your credit cards in matter of seconds. Sometimes needs a lot of tuning foreplay before starting the measurement. It’s so hot you need liquid nitrogen to cool her down. 



Male: He has a tip. Repetitive movement of the tip. I’m not going to add anything else here.

Female: She is oversensitive. No matters what, sooner or later she will go crazy for the minimum movement or sound you will do in the room. It’s like having a discussion with your lovely half, you will always end up saying something wrong. On the other hand, when she is in good mood she will give you beautiful pictures.



Male: He is repetitive, injecting the same stuff time after time after time after time…. Annoying.

Female: Her thermal sensitivity is impressive “It’s hot in here, no, now is going to be back to normal, now I’m ok, oh no, now is hot again…. Wait, now is going better….” And so on… Forever.


UV-Vis / Fluorescence:

Male: Usually his software is extremely old. Bad memory: “did I record the blank? I don’t remember, do you?” 

Female: The software is far far away to be linear. Millions of sub menu, boxes to check or uncheck depending mainly by her mood.



Male: He can resist quite a lot of over pressure. Noisy, that kind of repetitive noise that can drive you crazy in few hours. Just stop talking. Just stop. Please.

Female: She is moody as well. Sometimes perfect separation other time a single huge peak. If too much pressure is applied she will start crying, spraying solvents everywhere. Requires daily care.



Male: Dude, I can measure from 1mg to 150g. Something outside that range it is not my damn business.

Female: Make up your mind once for all: “it’s 1.56g…. no 1.55g…. no, no, wait… 1.54g… yes, i’m sure about it…. 1.57g, this is the correct one, trust me….. 1.55g”. Make up you mind!!!


Ultrasonic bath:

Male: Sensitivity? Not his best point. Throw something at him and he will destroy it.

Female: That noise that pass trough your skull directly to your brain. 


That super old instrument that is still working:

Male: He is way older than you, sometimes you just want to drink a whiskey with him sharing good old stories from the lab.

Female: She is the grandmother you never had, you cover her with a warm blanket during the cold winter. 

So, are your instruments male or female? Let’s check it out #MFInstruments 

Magic Acid?

Seriously Aldrich? Magic? Seriously?




from thefreedictionary.com:

1. Of, relating to, or invoking the supernatural: “stubborn unlaid ghost/That breaks his magic chains at curfew time” (John Milton).
2. Possessing distinctive qualities that produce unaccountable or baffling effects.

Why not “the mysterious Grubbs catalyst”, “the black art of C18” or “the superstitious pH indicator” ?


Remember to clean your fumehood before going in holiday……




And (as you can see in the second picture) remember to leave a reaction for the new year, a token for the Gods of Chemistry.

IMG 0095


Happy holidays to all of you.

Column Hell

IMG 0095

Although I usually have fun with column chromatography (it was also the topic of my first post one year ago) and TLCs, sometime sith happens (no, it’s not a typo).

You know, that spot that is not moving at all even in 8:2 DCM/MeOH with 1% of TEA. The feeling of “this is not going to end well”.

That shiver on your spine thinking about alumina column, or even worst: the infamous C18.

Today is one of those days (previous one here).

IMG 0092

Scientists from 80s (80s movies may explain something)

Can some movies reflect our attitude in the lab? Let’s see….



The gremlins:
Never, and that’s very important, never start a new experiment (or purification) after midnight. You are tired and the risk of crashing your precious product on the floor is quite high. For organic chemists: never get your solvents wet.
Pro: Sometimes your product is so cute you want to cuddle the flask.



It doesn’t matter if the the competitors have more instruments, a better lab or more people working on your same project. You can still win. Never give up.
Pro: You are american and publish on an american journal. 



You are not alone. Collaboration and group working is the key to find the One-Eyed Willie’s treasure or to finish a project. Help your labmates.
Pro: Having asthma in a chemistry lab. 



Weird science:
It doesn’t matter how crazy it may sound, but you can synthesize it. The pure power of the bottom-up approach.
Pro: Using underwear on your head as protection.



The road for your PhD may looks long and overcomplicated, a lot of different possibilities, non-working projects and trolls. You will survive.
Pro: Listening David Bowie in the lab.



Risky business:
When the boss is out for holidays or conferences it’s the prefect time for doing that crazy experiment you had in mind since long time. 
Pro: Sliding in the lab while playing “old time rock ann roll”.



Adventures in babysitting:
Sooner or later during the lab supervision of undergraduates everything will go wrong. And I mean everything, non-working pumps, clogged syringes, shatter glass flying everywhere. 
Pro: getting a flat tire on your bike while going to the lab.



Karate Kid:
The glass wound on your hand, the KOH burn on your finger or your tired legs will not stop you to finish the purification of your compound. No one can push you down.
Pro: Catching the stirring rod in your flask with chopsticks.



Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome:
Because everyone of us worked, at least once, during the weekend in an (almost) empty university. You know what I’m talking about.



The NeverEnding story:
Even during the longest group meeting that you have ever attended your mind is still free to wander around on a white dog/dragon. 
Pro: Screaming “Atreyuuuuuuuuuu” at the end of the group meeting


I wish I were tenure track. 

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 :)

it was one of those days

Sometimes you have one of those days… Today, it was definitely one!

Everything started this morning when I spill my tea in the microwave. At that point I was still optimistic. Although the microwave was full of hot water, it was first morning.

Then I went to the university, and we had to move the stuff out of our office because they are going to refurnish it. It was anticipated, so we were almost organized for doing it. Naturally, when there is something to do in the lab, some people magically disappear in a cloud of silica, no way to find them anywhere. After many years in the lab I’m not ranting anymore for this attitude. I still think it’s not fair, but I don’t care anymore. However, we discover quite a lot of crates of beers in the office (Figure 1, farewell parties, feierabend and so on)

IMG 0687


Finally, before lunch I managed to set up my column chromatography. Start eluting and noticed that probably I used too much cotton and sands. It was definitely too slow. So I decided to not go for lunch downstairs, but to load the column and eat in the office.

Few minutes later, a labmate show me an inflatable house build in the middle of the university garden…. (Figure 2)
An. Inflatable. House.
I was going to run outside and check if it was done with marzipan, but, no, I had to finish the column. There were also some people trying segways in the garden.
Segways in the university.
No, I had to finish the column. Focus. Damn. Focus. Column. Product before tonight. Focus!

IMG 0669


I was strong enough to resist the temptation of going outside when one guy come almost screaming in the lab: “who is the lab-assistant in this lab?” ” you need to empty the second office before 16.00 today”…. Are you kidding me? Two hours advice? OK, I close the column and start moving stuff outside our second and shared office.
Another “set” of labmates disappeared again. Calm down. Calm down.
One labmate come back from his way home for helping us in the moving. Respect!

Now, you may think that things in north Europe are perfectly programmed and functional. I don’t want to disappoint you but it’s not like this. It’s definitely not like this.
We discover that the “empty-you-office” order was given to all our floor. This resulted in a crap-overcrowded corridor (Figure 3, and yes we do have bike wheels in our offices, we are in the Netherlands…).

IMG 0672


One hour later, someone from the high floors realized how much crap there was in the corridor, and come back with another brilliant order: “you should bring the important stuff somewhere else, otherwise it will be trashed”.
To the legit question “where the hell are we supposed to put this stuff?” the answer was “here and there, maybe in the glovebox room”. I was too tired to complain and we just move stuff again. And again, and again. Now also the second office was empty.
What do you do with an empty office? Playing squash of course (Movie 1, the guy who enter in the room is actually the one who told us to move all the crap in and out, right and left).

Still something in the corridor, no more space anywhere. We just put a poster on the crap, hoping that we will find it again tomorrow (Figure 4).

IMG 0696


God Lord, the day was almost over, I was watching the column. I really didn’t have any strength for finishing that stuff today (children: don’t’ try this at home, if you start a column, finish it during the day!!!). The best thing for finishing one of those day is with a beer. (Do not drink and then come back working in the lab. Never ever and ever. Not even a beer if you have to do active work in the lab. The lab is a dangerous place. It’s fine if it’s just a beer with labmates before going home. Do not come back to work after drinking!!!)

So I open one and relax with some labmates watching some Monty Python sketches  (Figure 5-6)

IMG 0690

IMG 0698


After that I was going home when I realized that my “new” bike had the infamous “dynamo” (someone two days ago stole my bike and I had to buy a new second-hand one). I was unlocking the bike and at the same time cursing most of the known Gods.
The dynamo needs something like 356.2% more effort for going at normal speed. And I had to bike for 6km to go home….
Anyway, after the first couple of meters I realized that the front light was point somewhere in the middle of the sky. Something in between looking for aliens on other planets and the Batman signal.
Coming back home I blinded I don’t know how many Dutch bikers with my pointing-to-the-sky-light. Unfortunately no signs of Batman.

And now finally this weird day it’s over (Figure 7).
Many many thanks to all the selfish and smartass labmates that didn’t move a finger for helping in the moving.

IMG 0721


And just for the sake of fun (as always): during the moving we discover:
Three beers with expiration date 2009,2011 and 2012. We merciless drank them.
An onion, unknown origin. Wating for carbon dating.
A vaseline can.
German books from 1902.
1960-70 safety goggles (Figure 8-9)

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In a perfect lab….


In a dream lab:

  • the magnetic stirring bar will stir inside the flask and not bumping around till the top of the condenser.
  • the chemicals you ordered will arrive in the next 30 minutes.
  • the one hour group meeting will effectively take one hour, sometimes less.
  • the glassware will self replicate in your drawer.
  • the technician you call for fixing the water pipe is Mario (possibly coming with Luigi as well).
  • the stoppers will just fit perfectly on the flask, easy to put, easy to remove.
  • the NMR tubes are self cleaning.
  • the fumehood is so clean that if you spill something, it will automatically crystalize.
  • the UV lamp is never ending.
  • the music is automatically changed according to your mood.
  • the office fridge is always packed with beers.
  • pizza delivery every lunch. For free.
  • scissors, staplers and tape are not disappearing in a black hole. Never.
  • the separatory funnel is self closing.
  • when somebody book the instrument, they will actually use it.

Dear Santa – a letter from a chemist


Dear Santa, 

it’s me. Again, and again from the same lab of last year. You should remember me from last year, I don’t think that many people asked for UPLC as Xmas present. Also this year was not the best one, I didn’t publish that much, but it was not only my fault. Many many things are going wrong in science (and the fact that I’m writing you it’s a perfect example). That’s my second year in the limbo that many people call postdoc.
Anyway I did my best to be as good as possible during this year. I didn’t yell too much at the other people in the lab, and I tried to curse as less as possible (but you know, working in a chemistry lab is not the perfect environment for a “Sir behavior”). Unfortunately there are still a lot of people that cannot understand sarcasm, and that’s not my fault. I cannot really do much on this point. I’m not mean for being mean, it’s just for the sake of fun.


Hopefully I have been good enough for asking you some presents:

– A new HPLC (possibly a working one) will be a great gift and in the same time it will drastically decrease  the amount of instrument-booking related swears.

– I would like to have an NMR-tubes-tree. New NMR tubes growing every night. And maybe a bush of magnetic stirrers. 

– You have thousand of Elves, do you mind if I take one for doing my syntheses?

– Can you please tell authors and referee to be more precise when they write the experimental section? If something is already published I should just repeat it and not losing ages for improving the synthesis.

– If you can magically synthesize a couple of grams of my VS092 reaction it will be great. Please carry out also the elemental analysis that it’s still missing. 

– Please stop student asking stupid questions. It’s ok asking questions, but they should be at least related with the discussion.

– Can you to keep our group meeting below the 120 min, sometimes it’s hard, really really hard.

– Can you also reduce the number of paper published each day? I understand that “publish or perish” stuff, but we are exaggerating. I cannot really screen every day for hundreds of papers. I know that you have quite a lot of Elves working for you, but I’m alone here with my RSS feeder. 

– Reducing the amount of comic sans in the presentation would be also useful. Moreover can you explain the speaker that they don’t have to do anything else than explain: Why/What/How they are carrying their research, nothing else. Please explain them that I don’t need to see all their NMR spectra from long long ago.

– Sort out all this Impact Factor, Hirsch Index, Open Access stuff. It’s getting crazy down here. 

– It would be nice if you can exchange a couple of words with the grant holders. Can you show them that it’s meaningless setting up timeframes and milestones in a time frame of 5 years. I even don’t know if my reaction of tomorrow is going to work or not…. 

– If you can talk with referees as well… Just ask them to be fair. Nothing else, just fair.


I know maybe these are too many request for a grown up (or at least I should be a grown up). No hard feeling if you don’t’ feel like bringing all these present, but If you are passing by the chemistry lab:
can you please please please please……..

…..CLEAN MY FUMEHOOD (and maybe my bench/desk as well).


Best wishes