Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Personal Log, Stardate: Mole Day

Well, I certainly 'fished my wish' for this carnival! Only two days in, and I've already compiled the requisite 10 entries for my own post. So, here goes...

Your current job: I'm a medicinal chemist at a (very) small startup company. How small? Let's just say that everyone at the company still fits around one table for lunch.

What you do in a standard work day: Like many folks at small companies, there's hardly a 'standard' day; I rapidly shift between lab and non-lab responsibilities. For instance, in the past month, I've written grants, met with vendors, fixed small equipment, scaled-up our final product, drafted provisional patents, tested new routes, and (nearly) finished our safety handbook. 

Never relaxing, but never boring.

What kind of schooling / training / experience helped you get there? Since I use the #phdlife hashtag from time-to-time, it shouldn't surprise you that I have my doctorate. But let me tell you why I went back to school. I had been working as an RA at a medium-sized biotech back in the "boom years." Every Friday, the Ph.D. chemists would meet in a conference room, and emerge with fresh data and synthetic ideas. 
Patriots coach Bill Belichick
attended Wesleyan around the time
Max Tishler became a chem professor

I wanted to be like them. 

[Soapbox Moment] - I can't recommend enough actual lab work as an intern or undergraduate assistant. Without that experience, I'd never have become a chemist.

How does chemistry inform your work? My nose often points into the pages of Aldrich, Alfa, Fisher, Green & Wuts, and Silverstein & Webster. Reaxys and the primary literature feel like best friends. Thick binders of NMR and HPLC data festoon my top shelves. I'm known to doodle structures on nearby scrap paper, so don't throw away anything on my desk, please!

Finally, a unique, interesting, or funny anecdote about your career: Gosh, lots of 'em. Moving shaky mercury-filled Schlenk lines on rusty old elevators (not recommended). Nearly catching myself and a balance on fire during my first week as an intern. Grading huge stacks of tests while blaring terrible pop music and noshing on pizza.

Here's one I suppose informed the theme of this carnival: my High School chem teacher was also one of our football coaches! So, periodic trends in class, linebacker drills on the field.

One more - Didja see the post title? I still recall one of my early "Aha!" moments as the ST:TNG episode "Night Terrors," where the alien race describes hydrogen as "eyes in the dark, one moon circles" (one proton and one electron). Must have really stuck with me!

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  1. I totally always remembered that Star Trek quote too, just the one moon circles part! Didn't they use that weird part of the Enterprise where the engines attach to shoot out a random stream of hydrogen? I always wondered what that part of the ship did.

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