Friday, October 1, 2010

Ten things you love to hear at group meeting

You've been there before: standing in front of your peers and your boss, speaking about your results. And someone says:

1. Hey, is this a crude NMR? It sure looks like a crude.
2. Did you run that reaction I asked you about last time? No? Dude, I'm telling you, it's the way to go.
3. Didn't Kinakutamari already publish on this?
4. Could you write a little clearer on the board? I'm confused.
5. Have you ever thought about putting a methyl there?
6. What's your rationale for the stereoselectivity of that reduction there? Have you thought about the Cram chelate model?
7. Pass me another slice of pizza.
8. Is that the material that you stole from me? No? Well, I can't find it, so someone stole it.
9. Didn't you tell us about this last month?
10. Hey, is this a crude NMR?


  1. @Chemjobber: Yes! First comment on the thread!

    What about these classics:

    11. That batch of catalyst is bad. I put it back on the shelf & forgot to tell anyone.

    12. Why are your structures so ugly?

    13. Did you distill your solvents/check your reagents?

    14. Dude, can you pass me the Twizzlers?

    15. That mechanism is utterly wrong! (Said with foaming mouth.)

    16. Wait, we HAVE that reagent?!

    17. Is this synthesis going to better than (insert professor's name here)'s?

    18. Pass me another beer, thanks.

    19. Are you done with the HPLC yet?

    20. Dude, take a C13/get a crystal structure. It will tell you everything.

  2. 21. Why are you using my money on this? Stop spending!

    22. What's your name again? [thinks you're an undergrad]

    I've noticed that my PI likes to ask questions that I've already answered or are answered on my slides... One time I rashly asked, "I already said that. Were you listening to me?" - but he didn't seem to pay attention to that, either. :P

  3. Mine isn't a good one-liner, but there was a guy in our group who had a horribly annoying habit of parroting whatever our PI said as if he knew the answer too. Except he would always say it one second after our PI because he didn't actually know anything.

    PI: Does anybody know the name of this reaction?
    PI + GS: Sonoga-Sonogpohqwepapaing-oupling

  4. @anon 7:18A: That's almost as bad as this postdoc I heard of who's notorious for using his own laser pointer on other people's slides while they're presenting!

  5. we have a boss who always dozes off at the seminars and wakes up only for the discussion - and makes you to repeat your explanations for him again, right after you did it already in an excruciating detail.

    Another good comment is "It is nice that you scaled up that intermediate but we should still have a 15g bottle of that stuff somewhere, it was made by that German postdoc that finished last year and no-one needed the stuff any longer"

    or from a biologist: "It is good you wanted us to test that old compound (made a year ago and sitting in the fridge for the lack of interest). We finally got around to test it and it appears much better than anything you have been making for us ever since"

  6. @Milkshake: You may want to be cautious in how you describe your current work at JHU. We're all glad to hear that you recovered from your purge by TSRI-FL, so it may be prudent to stay under the JHU HR radar. Anyway, I'm surprised to hear that the JHU chem dept can be nasty-cutthroat. I thought only the undergrad premeds behaved that way!

  7. I am not employed at the chemistry department of JHU - and I certainly do not know anything about it being cutthroat one way or another. I have had some unpleasant experience with the central HR here acting in rude and unprofessional way, and the bureaucracy is quite ridiculous - my point was that those can be factors that convince someone not to feel eager to come to work on Sunday morning. (As you can see I am writing this on Saturday afternoon in the lab).

  8. Hey Milkshake, what did you ever do with your house in Florida? Some soon-to-be-unemployed but open-to-relocation friends of mine are faced with trying to sell their homes in this abyssmal real estate market.

    My contribution to this topic: "Wait, I thought you were working on something else!"

  9. Anon, in the past, have got similar inquisitive messages on my web site: by the IP address they were written by someone at NY headquarters of a major pharma company - he was cutely inviting me to provide them with the name of my current employer. It happened right after I wrote about my experience with being laid off from the said company - and about the ex-employee class action lawsuit they had to settle.

    Chemjobber - please can you ARIN WHOIS this dude's IP address? I bet his curiosity is not entirely innocuous.

  10. Hi, Milkshake. Although you may have reason to be paranoid, I can assure you that my questions are innocuous. You seem to be a respected chemist and industry veteran, so I presumed that one could ask you for other advice. A bunch of us new industrial chemists are facing difficult situations, so any helpful lab and life advice is welcomed. I've never met you and I don't believe that I work for any of your former employers. Chemjobber can verify this if he wants. I'm not trying to infringe on your privacy, and I would like Chemjobber to respect mine while allaying your fears. If you don't feel comfortable answering some questions, then say so or otherwise ignore me. Yet, for someone who is so concerned about his privacy, you are quite flagrant in describing your employment history on various blogs. Anyway, I have to head back to a nanoscience seminar; Mark Davis from Caltech is speaking. With regards, Anonymous Young Chemist

  11. AYC: Inquiries into your identity have not been done and will not be done -- please rest assured. CJ

  12. AYC - your previous comments (which were somewhat off-topic, and also exaggerating and mis-interpreting my previous comment) were exactly of the kind to elicit a response useful for a snitch to the current employer.

    I am not exactly hiding my identity but I do not want to make it too easy for someone outside the community to have it unambiguously confirmed so as to give me hard time. For example, the good people in the central administration here do not read chemistry blog comments. They would not piece stuff together from disparate posts going back sometimes months to identify and go after one of their (many) employees - but an unfriendly ex-colleague could do such task for them and forward comments to their attention, especially if the unflattering stuff was conveniently summed up within few comments on the same page. And I felt you were trying hard to get the specifics on who exactly my employer is, and to have me confirming certain things on one page so as to identify me for the HR of my current employer.

  13. Much appreciated, Chemjobber. I guess I should stick to the topic of the thread next time; organic chemists can be so volatile (no pun intended)! As I've tried to explain, professional scientists face many challenges nowadays. Aside from having to uproot for the sake of employment, some of my PhD friends and I have ventured into research fields that are drastically different from what we did in grad school. While learning new science is fun, dealing with career uncertainties can be unnerving. Anyway, thanks for running a great blog! AYC (not an HR goon or Stasi agent)

    P.S.-If waging vendettas against former employees is common corporate practice in Big Pharma, then I'm glad that I don't have the "privilege" of working in that sector.

  14. @Milkshake: No hard feelings bro. I really like your synthesis blog. Incidentally, my coworker was trying to form a Schiff base with an electron-rich aniline. He isolated a reductive amination product, which mirrored the thioanisidine-mediated reductive debromination that you described a few months ago. During your unemployment, you said that selling your house would result in a huge financial loss. My friends really will face the same problem; that's why I went off-topic and asked that question. Again, I've never met you, so why would I have beef with you? Anyway, it is pathetic and disturbing that a former colleague would go Javert or Uma-Thurman-in-Kill-Bill on you! AYC

  15. Back to the topic...

    "That transition state looks offensive."