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Inspirational Reads

A Petulant Snit

April 22, 2008

I'm a selfish bastard.

No, that's not the big announcement mentioned yesterday. We all already knew this.

No, this is more personal. See, I'd like just once--just one single effing time!--for someone else's NMR tube to break, spilling their carefully crafted molecule all over the inside of the transportation bucket. I'd like, for a change, to go over and not find half an NMR tube awaiting me where its jagged, sharpened edges glint with the sad remains of a once proud synthetic intermediate.
I guess you can figure out how my afternoon went.

This isn't the first time such a tragedy has befallen yours truly. In those final days of grad school, when any student worth his snuff is working desperately to get those final few molecules characterized and the experimentals written, such a doom fell upon my shoulders. I had synthesized a particularly devious aldehyde (for those unenlightened in the art of organic functional groups, aldehydes tend to be very reactive and, therefore, very unstable) and carefully had purified it. I took a rather crude 8-scan proton NMR and saw that the product was beautiful, pristine, immaculate with an easily-discernible E to Z ratio (it was a cross-metathesis product).

"Beautiful!" thought I, as I laid my eyes upon the FT readout. "No one has reserved the machine for carbon-13 tonight! I'll come back and retake this tonight and get a carbon at the same time." A well-laid plan, if ever I saw one. Yet, I've heard, these often go awry. I ended the scan, stopped the spinner, and ejected the tube out through the top of the machine. I am always very careful with my samples, but, just this one time, my concentration lapsed for a mere moment and I bumped the bottom of the tube against the lip of the sample injector, jarring it from my hands, causing it to spin slowly away from the top of the 300 MHz Varian machine I had lovingly praised moments before, and saw it shatter into a million tiny shards laced with a thousand droplets of deuterated solvent and perfect product.

It was, of course, all of my material. This set me back two weeks, thanks to the need to synthesize the aldehyde under very careful, dry conditions (actually, it was a PCC oxidation, but the material often fell apart upon work-up and chromatography). My friend Clara was standing right there as I looked down upon my shattered hopes and, tears barely staunched in my eyes, I announced: "God hates me." The look of compassion and empathy in her eyes was palpable. Dejected, I swept up my mess, discarded it in the broken glass container, and marched the very lonely three flights of stairs up to my lab wherein I sat at my desk and sulked and pouted.
Then I went and ate a large dipped cone from Dairy Queen.

4 comments:

Lisa-tastrophies said...

Dairy Queen Dipped Cones are molecules are definitely more stable and able to withstand any amount of bumping.
Sorry about the bad NMR-thingy day. Sorry, chemistry and I did not do so well together in college. If however, you ever want to know about the infectivity rates zoonotic disease in South Africa... :-)

and than you for the "props" on the previous post. Good to know LeeLee as Lea could inspire you.

The Ex said...

God I wish we had Dairy Queen. Blizzards. Gooooddddd.

Anyway, Leelee Sobieski is so hot.

AND MAKE THE DAMN ANNOUNCEMENT ALREADY.

the iNDefatigable mjenks said...

I was going to make it tonight, but I had to rant about my broken NMR tube. And, with two posts already gone today, I figured it could wait until tomorrow.

Chemgeek said...

I've had similar NMR-tube breaking moments, but thankfully, they have always been with stable compounds or "less valuable" compounds.

I have always respected those who make <10 mg of a natural product after 24821 steps and still get characterization data.

How sh*tty would that be if you had 5 mg of Compound Never-Been-Made-Before and you broke the NMR tube while putting it in the machine. I'd head straight to the bar. (that reminds me of a story I should put on my blog sometime).

Now, let's hear your big announcement.....