Org Prep Daily

May 7, 2007

On making waves

Filed under: Uncategorized — milkshake @ 6:58 pm

I had a chemist friend who was much older and he would sometimes take a view with which I did not agree very well. He would hold up a flask with crystals and say: “Look how beautiful it is.” (And I would agree.) Then he would say “Drawing fast on the flask changes what’s in the flask.” I though he was kind of nutty.

Looking back, I realize that the man was right: The outcome of the experiment is pre-determined by the hubris of the experimenter. Running around and telling everybody about the wonderful latest results ensures that the results won’t be reproduced. 

Nature is mischievous, subtle she is not. You obtained white crystalline solid with a sharp melting point 32-34C. It took couple of weeks to bring the material through but finally you are done with the last step and you have isolated a lot of product. You take the spectra – gorgeous two signals. It’s a product of THF ring-opening polymerization and it’s very pure. 

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High-profile chemists are known to make frequent rounds in their labs and quiz the underlings about the research progress, sometimes twice a day. (You made something during the day to talk about in the evening. The mornings are harder). Demanding inpatient boss is typically determined about what kind of results he likes to hear. To resist the pressure and the temptation to please you have to remind yourself over again that you don’t wish to report a half-baked-stuff and become a guy whose work gets disputed or retracted. 

[With a pushy boss, the best long-term solution is to find a new one. To survive in the meantime, one has to ration the good news. Serving out the good results to your boss in regular-sized portions over a period of weeks can make both of you happier.]

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