Alchemy and the Argonauts


In order to attain the Golden Fleece, Jason was tasked with three … um … tasks. He had to yoke up a couple of fire-breathing oxen and have them plow a field. Then he had to plant the field with dragon’s teeth, which quickly grew into an army that attacked him. Finally, he had to get past the dragon that guarded the fleece. Jason couldn’t do any of this on his own. His lady-companion-friend Medea had to help him along the way. She gave him an oil that kept the oxen’s fire from harming him. Medea showed him how to use a rock to defeat the crop of soldiers. Finally, she helped him with a potion that sedated the savage dragon. “Jason and the Argonauts” movie poster. Source I can imagine an overzealous chemist describing their latest molecular conquest in such a manner. The viscious battle is waged to secure … Continue reading

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Lab Safety Post-Sheri Sangji


How should we be training our undergraduates? As many of you are aware, the Sheri Sangji tragedy has touched off another round of navel-gazing since the filing of criminal charges against her former advisor, Patrick Harran, of UCLA. For those of you who aren’t up to date on this story, I’ll give a brief recap: Sheri Sangji was killed in a laboratory accident in Harran’s UCLA lab. She died from complications due to the burns that she sustained over her entire body when she mis-handled a pyrophoric (spontaneously combusts in air) chemical. It is an absolutely heart-wrenching story, and you can’t help but feel sympathy for everyone involved: her lab-mates and friends at UCLA and, mostly, for her family. The specifics of these events have been discussed in greater detail elsewhere. Jyllian Kemsley’s blog is THE place to go for the most in depth coverage on all aspects of this … Continue reading

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Donor’s Choose


Helping Science Classrooms and Supporting Educators Throughout the U.S. Donor’s Choose is a truly remarkable website that IS making a difference in the education of K-12 students all over the US. The site’s basic premise is that they provide a framework for teachers to request and receive funding for projects that their school districts don’t have the budgets to cover. If you are like me, your teachers have had an unmeasurable impact on the person you’ve grown to be. You also know that many school districts have a hard time just making ends meet, let alone providing the kind of education that their students truly deserve. This is where Donor’s Choose … and you … and I come in. Their site is loaded with wonderful projects. Its a one-stop-shopping site for all your charitable donations! Find a project that speaks to you (based on location, theme, or need), and help … Continue reading

Posted in Kitchen Chemistry | 1 Comment

My favorite reactions!

Hi all, For those of you who didn’t know (and I did a horrible job of broadcasting this at the time), my post last week (The Maillard Reaction was written for a blogging carnival set up by C&E News. My friend Rachel, the C&E News community online overlord, had the brilliant idea to get all of the chemistry bloggers writing about their favorite reactions as a way to celebrate the International Year of Chemistry. And now, all of those carnival posts have been aggregated in a really terrific, stand-alone post by another friend, pharmacology professor and blogger for C&E News, David Kroll. I encourage you all to go and check out all of the posts in the carnival feed. There are many enjoyable entries. -mrh

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The Maillard Reaction


My favorite reaction I suppose my favorite reaction isn’t necessarily the same as most other chemists. In the lab, the best reactions are ones that are well behaved and predictable. These reactions give high yields and can often bring about transformations from simple molecules to molecules of incredible complexity. And, to add icing to the cake, these reactions normally occur in one step. You would think that my favorite reaction would involve these qualities. But, no, my favorite reaction is different from what you might expect. My favorite reaction takes large, complex molecules and breaks them down into much smaller pieces. My favorite reaction has frighteningly low percent yield. And, in fact, the major products of this reaction can be detrimental. But, the side products make the search worth-while. Like any other reaction, though, finding the right products from my favorite reaction takes patience and a watchful eye. And, I … Continue reading

Posted in Kitchen Chemistry, Uncategorized | 22 Comments

Getting an Academic Job

This could be you! Image Source

The advice you won’t be getting at that panel discussion … and the article you should have read three (or more) years ago September 18, 2011 It’s time for the yearly the academic job frenzy once again. The ads are out and the props are being feverishly written. Thousands of chemists are applying for about a hundred jobs. (If we focus on only the big research institutions, the number of jobs absolutely dwindles to around 30 – in good years – while the number of applicants stays the same.) All you can reasonably hope for in this case is a shot at an interview. And, with an average of three interviewees per opening, the odds aren’t very enticing. Just imagine … this could be YOU some day! (Image Source) So, how the hell does a person go about increasing their odds of getting one of these coveted on-campus-interviews? What are … Continue reading

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Nature Chemistry Commentary


In the current issue of Nature Chemistry there is an entire section of “Insight” articles touching on aspects of our life/work as chemists away from the bench. There are some really great reads in there, and, for the moment, these articles are open access. I highly recommend giving them a go through. Continue reading

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Chemistry Day on the Scientific American Blog Network

Basic RGB

Um … I hope this isn’t my fault August 2, 2011 Today is Chemistry Day over at the Scientific American Blog Network! There are so many fantastic posts by so many fantastic writers!! You should really go check them out. Here’s the full listing. They even let me have a shot on a Guest Blog post! So, go have a read. There is some really stellar stuff there. Bora (who runs the Scientific American network, for those of you who don’t know) set up this chemistry marathon to run at the same time as the World Chemistry Congress. So, its really a great effort to promote the chemistry blogosphere. Also, as I mentioned before, there is a heap-ton of great chemistry writing there!! Enjoy! I’m going to go read! And … when I’m through with that, I may have a post to retract mrh FYI – Gretchen and I are … Continue reading

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CHEMisperceptions: Roundup


I’ve written a roundup for our CHEMisperceptions round table. Because our site isn’t functioning the way it should, the post is over at CJ’s. Have a great weekend! mrh

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Hey all, Sorry for the “new” screen. The theme for our wordpress site just went a little wonky on us. This one seems to be stable and will be our placekeeper until we can get a new one up and running. Cheers, Matt

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