8/03/2007

Ah, PostSecret...

Found this in this week's PostSecret.


I'm no total synthetic chemist, and I recognize Taxol, but not the others offhand. Gotta wonder who this guy/gal works for... and who "they" are. Mysterious!

I do wonder where the breaking point of total synthesis grad students is. It's far from the easiest branch of chemistry, and almost certainly the most time-consuming. (The practical value of total synthesis nowadays is debatable, but it's hard to argue that they put in a whole hell of a lot of time in lab. Take a look at most chemistry buildings on the outside, like tenderbutton did, and guess whose lights are always on.) But people need more than just synthesis! They need food, water, sunlight, friends, beer, love, more beer, and love for beer as well!

Certainly working 80+ hours a week on one molecule for months or years at a time must be damaging to the human psyche. Don't get me wrong, I am friends with a number of tot. syn. chemists, and they are well-rounded, interesting, decent folks. However, it's the ones who do work 80+ hours a week, have no outside life whatever, are typically greasy, and want to make you feel like a lazy good-for-nothing fuck for not being like them that make all the decent ones look bad. There is more to life than your work. This postcard says that better than I ever could.

Discuss. If you hate the topic, please discuss the following:

Nobody expects the spanish inquisition!

16 comments:

Ψ*Ψ said...

Awesome find! I definitely agree about the synners. I was in the lab late one night and walked down to the second floor, where I found a corridor with lights on in all the labs. There were structures drawn all over the hoods and on the whiteboards in the hallways. Music was playing and the area smelled faintly of ether. As much as I would never want to do total synthesis, it made me terribly labsick...

Uncle Al said...

Synthesis is life; all else is waiting. Everything remains to be discovered! Quench a carbon arc, get fullerenes and nanotubes.

Powdered racemic benzil (chirality from crystal lattice conformation not molecular configuration) melting is /_\H(fusion) = 112.0 J/g at 94.82°C. Do benzil spherical single crystals in enantiomorphic space groups P3(1,2)21 have identical /_\H(fusion) to the achiral melt? Of course they do! Unless they reproducibly measurably do not. Nobody has looked.

A two-day scut experiment could subtly falsify all physics without prior contradiction. That is worth lunch money and an all-nighter. Synthetic chemists do not fear the waste crock. Answer expected January 2008.

AA said...

that is sad and hilarious at the same time...

molecules from clockwise from top left: viridin, acutumine, taxol, FR182877

Paul said...

I agree that the total synners, in general, are the most hardcore. Maybe they're self-selected, since they go into projects knowing full well that they could unexpectedly dead end somewhere and have to go back to the beginning...yet they don't care. In fact, the danger probably excites them.

Anonymous said...

The Cowboys of the chemical world!!! :-)

Ashutosh said...

When I die and go to heaven, I will ask God, "Why Maitotoxin, and why turbulence?". I think he will have an answer for the latter- adapted from Werner Heisenberg.

The Lil'est Naturist said...

Cute! I blocked out that whole entry once I got to the inquizatory kitty-cat.

Anonymous said...

that's a hairy little pussy there!

Marmoset said...

I saw this on Postsecret and wanted to leave a message but I couldn't work out how to. My PhD was org synth but not total synth. My viva is next week and I've written my thesis over 9 months while working for a big pharma.

I totally sympathise with the sender of the card and I hope loads of academics see it. I don't think anyone realises how many of us there are that spend 4 years of misery doing PhD's just so that our faculties/families don't think we've failed. Don't get me wrong I was dedicated to the project (and passionate at the start) and worked insane hours but the competitive atmosphere and being continually picked on for being female finally broke me about 2 months ago and I now want to get as far away from chemistry as possible.

Still happier times are coming!!!
:-)

Flash Column Jockey said...

When I took up my PhD project 4 years ago, I didn't fully realize the implicit vows of poverty, chastity and obedience the Faculty demanded to worship at the Alter of Total Synthesis. I've gotten married during grad school, and found myself in an ironic situation: I long to dedicate more time to my family, but need to dedicate more time to the lab to avoid disappointing them.

Soft Acid said...

I really envy the total synthesis people their liberal use of chromatography, usual indifference to the presence of oxygen, and innocence regarding the difficulty that goes into understanding how reactions actually happen.

On top of that, the ones I know (here, at Berkeley) appear to lead fairly meaningful lives.

It seems that every time I think I have engineered a system so that it will yield some hard data - - - well, no one expects the Spanish Inquisition.

To borrow a phrase from, I think Beckett: "I can't go on, I'll go on"

Anonymous said...

Erik Sorensen has worked on all of those molecules......

Hap said...

How does someone manage to keep the hat on the cat's head? I don't think I could get either of mine to hold still long enough with it on their heads unless it were glued on (and that would suck).

Excimer said...

hap, I vote glue. Then again, I think my cat could handle a hat for like a second, before he realized what the hell was going on.

Ψ*Ψ said...

Depends on the cat, maybe. I have a blind kitty who doesn't mind baths. I think he'd probably tolerate a hat.

GYA said...

The last structure is abyssomycin not FR182877.