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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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March 20, 2006

Grad School, Blogged

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Posted by Derek

I spent the day giving the Wonder Drug Company good value for their money - cranking out a load of intermediate for other folks on the project and getting analytical data on some other samples. And talking about that sort of thing reminds me to link to a chemistry blog that I wasn't aware of until recently: a grad student named Dylan Stiles, who's working for Barry Trost out at Stanford.

Stiles is running just the kind of blog that I would have if. . .well, if the Web had existed back in 1985 when I was a grad student. Actually, it was probably a good thing for my graduate career that it didn't, come to think of it. That's the era of the "old timey" NMR machine in this post of his, which makes me wish I could find a photo of what we considered an old-timey machine. Ah, here we go: scroll down to the middle of the page, to the picture under "1976-1977". I used one of those things, and no, you didn't have to load coal in the back of it and wait for the boiler to fire up. It just looks that way.

At any rate, Stiles talks about the reactions he's running, with drawings and schemes, and takes photos of the crystals he gets and other oddities around the lab. I really wish I could do something similar once in a while. I obviously can't talk much, though, about (for example) the heterocycle I finished up today, except to note that the reaction used an unseemly amount of straight hydrazine, like nearly half a liter, and I was very glad to see the back of it. And I'd like to show some photos, too, but the Wonder Drug Factory has a "no camera" policy, and I can see why, what with chemical structures drawn all over the place.

But there would be some things to show off: I dropped a big stirbar right through the side of a one-liter pear-shaped flask the other day, for example, producing a perfect Pyrex analog of a gourd birdhouse. All I need to do is flame-polish the hole and find a way to stick a stopper permanently into the ground glass joint, which is a task that I've always seemed to be pretty skilled at, and I'm in business. See what you're missing?

Anyway, give Stiles a look if you're a hard-core organic chemistry geek like me, and if anyone knows of some other chemistry grad student or post-doc blogs, please send them along. I need to differentiate my blogroll a bit more, and that would be a fine category to have.

Comments (5) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Graduate School | Life in the Drug Labs


1. Older chemist on March 21, 2006 6:59 AM writes...

Hah! Your instrument was a signficant advance when I was a graduate student. I've had to use Varian A60's before. When I visited the NIH recently, they had one of these things in a glass case (as an artifact from the stone age, I guess). These machines were analog electromagnet machines. When the lab lost power, as it did frequently, the magnet would begin to cool (it was water cooled!). It would take hours for the damn thing to reequilibrate. On the bright side, the chart was about a meter along and drawn with rapidographs the size of whiteboard markers. Nice, big J values, you could measure with a ruler.

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2. Derek Lowe on March 21, 2006 7:46 AM writes...

That does go back there. The first NMR I ever used for research (summer undergrad) was a Varian EM-360. There was a Varian 30 MHz tabletop instrument down the hall that the sophomores used in the Instrumental Analysis course; I've never seen one of those since.

And in the time when that JEOL light-pen machine was our old clunker in grad school, the mainline workhorse machine was still an IBM (!) 80 MHz water-cooled electromagnet model. With a yellow oscilloscope screen, y'know, and little fine and coarse toggle switches to find the lock signal.

An XL-300 machine came in midway through my graduate studies. Before that, we had to drive out to a shared facility for anything better than 80 MHz - uphill, in the blinding snow. . .yep, that's how it was, alright. . .

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3. Milo on March 21, 2006 12:04 PM writes...

When I was in grad school at Penn State (starting in 1997), there was this great old Bruker 200 MHz, the kind with an 8" floppy drive for storing spectra. It had a wonderful oscilloscope for locking and shimming. Anyway, it was not as sexy as our 400 or 500, so it basically went unused, which meant it was always available. My thesis is filled with spectra from that blessed machine.

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4. Elia Diodati on March 22, 2006 12:22 AM writes...

I can't beat you guys for history, but I have my own amusing NMR experience. In the undergraduate teaching lab for physical chemistry in my school, we have a 30 MHz tabletop NMR spectrometer. The control software loads in QBasic and often crashes in the middle of recording spectra. It often mistakes dirt for NMR tubes loaded with sample, which probably reflects the large quantity of sample that has been lugubriously spilled into the sample holder over the years. (The machine is not used for anything else other than the physical chemistry lab course.)

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5. Jean-Claude Bradley on April 30, 2006 3:21 AM writes...

It is nice to see some hard core organic blogs being put up. I have recently started to use a collection of blogs and wikis to publish what we are doing and thinking in my lab. I currently have 3 grad students and 3 undergrads contributing. They are all new to the lab so they are still learning some of the basics, as you'll see from the posts. One of my objectives in this UsefulChem project is to invite the larger chemical community to share their wisdom as they go through this learning process. A huge benefit of doing research in academia is the freedom to really do open source science. The main project currently deals with the synthesis of new anti-malarial agents.

Summary info here:

General thoughts and plans here:

Laboratory notebook here:

Molecules of interest here:

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