Tagged: NMR

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.

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.

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 

Selective Inversion Recovery a.k.a. “SIR NMR”

Selective Inversion Recovery “SIR NMR”… this would be an amazing TOC…

Lit upd 011

You can read more serious stuff about SIR NMR (that is actually really nice) in this paper: “Encapsulated Guest−Host Dynamics: Guest Rotational Barriers and Tumbling as a Probe of Host Interior Cavity Space”, Jeffrey S. Mugridge ,Géza Szigethy ,Robert G. Bergman, and Kenneth N. Raymond. J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2010, 132 (45), pp 16256–16264 DOI: 10.1021/ja107656g