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DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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August 11, 2002

Life of the Party

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Posted by Derek

My earlier gloss of the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry as "Jay Med Chem" prompts me to provide a complete guide to faking your way into sounding like a professional organic chemist. Not that that's the road to fame and fortune, but you never know when it'll come in handy.

The first lesson is the lingo of the literature. Journals are often referred to in shorthand: The Journal of the American Chemical Society is known as "Jay-Ay-Cee-Ess," or, more commonly "Jacks." Listening to chemists talking, you'd think some guy named Jack ran a prestigious journal. The Journal of Organic Chemistry is, similarly, "Jay Oh Cee," but never "Jock" and certainly not "Joke." There are journals that deserve that last nickname, but not JOC.

Other "Journal" contractions are made the same way: "Jay Het Chem," "Jay Fizz Chem," and the like. That latter one doesn't come up in organic chemistry conversations much, so be advised. The Royal Society journals would be a mouthful if they weren't known by their nicknames - imagine having to say "Journal of the Chemical Society Perkin Transactions I" instead of "Perkin One."

Another common name for journals is "Bulletin. . .etc.," but that doesn't lend itself to much shortening. I have to confess, though, that every time I look up a paper in the BCSJ that I think "More bull from the Chemical Society of Japan. . . " Another Japanese journal, Chemical and Pharmaceutical Bulletin(their version, roughly, of J. Med. Chem.) comes in for similar mental abuse, not fully deserved.

Tetrahedron Lettersis "Tet Lett" (but its longer stablemate Tetrahedronis never "Tet.") Organic Lettersis pretty new, but I've already heard as "Org Letters" (but not "Org Lett," for some reason.) Synthetic Communications,in those rare times it comes up in conversation, is "Syn Com." and Chemical Communications is "Chem Com." Noting all this, the folks over at Synthesiscut to the chase a few years ago when they named their new short-communications journal

Some of the titles are hard to deal with. I've never heard Tetrahedron Asymmetryreferred to as "Tet Asym," but that's because I've hardly ever heard the journal referred to at all. gets shorted to "med chem" in the middle, but that's still a mouthful. Sometimes you hear it referred to as "Bioorganic" only, but that invites confusion with its longer partner journal, which is just plain At least it would, if anyone ever read the long one.

If you're going to fake your way through a medicinal chemistry conversation, be sure to drop some more biology-oriented journals into your mix. Many of the better ones have one-word names that don't have to be contracted. Science, Nature,and Cell speak for themselves, for example. But a quick nod to "Pee Enn Ay Ess" for the Proceedings of the National Acadamy of Sciences or "Jay Bee Cee" for the Journal of Biological Chemistrywill establish your credentials. Note that that last one, despite the name, is a torrent of densely packed biology from start to finish, with not much chemistry in sight.

That should do the trick. At some later date, I'll get everyone outside the profession up to speed on the acronymic jargon of the lab itself, which led to the following conversation one day at my lunch table:
"I used DDQ in THF to try to take off my PMB, but the THP keeps coming off, too."
(From the far end of the table) "BFD."

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