|My hackathon drink of choice, coffee!|
(And hey, ACS, why no more mugs?)
Let's go all the way back to the beginning of chemical research - who were we? Alchemists, who worked after hours, scribbling in secret languages; some hoped for profit, and some just loved the thrill (Sound familiar?). They didn't follow the implicit hegemony we do today: school student -> university trainee -> graduate study -> postdoc -> junior professor -> original ideas? By the time you're done jumping through hoops, you might have left your sense of curiosity and wonder behind.
|Early Chemical "Hacker"|
Alchemist with Scale, Johannes Weiland
Credit: Chemical Heritage Foundation
Ever beat your head against a research problem, only to find the answer at a neighboring department's seminar? Borrowed something the next lab down the hall had on the shelf? Not to wax all Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance on you, but I subscribe to human quality precognition, a subtle mental undercurrent that guides you toward the right reaction or correct conditions. Others might call this gut instinct, and I've heard process chemists chat about initial optimization ("lucky on the first try!").
So why not speed this process along? Could we take a page from the video game designers, the hackers, and the dorm-room dot-com stars?
Here's my proposal (which, incidentally, might work pretty well at a large, national chemistry conference, just sayin'): What if visiting chemists had access to an open lab space, replete with all the latest catalysts, equipment, and reagents? One could imagine equipment dealers sponsoring this space, much like Cuisinart and KitchenAid sponsor cooking shows.
|Picture this, but with more fume hoods and Buchwald ligands|
Who knows? Maybe, in time, the phrase "chemistry hack" might mean something good!