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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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April 16, 2006

Don't Know. Don't Care?

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Posted by Derek

Thinking about the scientific literature, I got to wondering: which part of the chemistry literature is the most unreliable? (That is, fitting that "pessimist universe" model from my post the other day). There's been a recent bit of trouble in the organic chemistry world that I've been meaning to talk about, so I thought I'd lead up to it this way.

If you look at what organic chemistry papers have been retracted over the years, my strong impression is that most of them have been papers on new synthetic methods. That might make you think that this is the weak spot, but I'd disagree - I think that these stand out because people actually read them and try to reproduce them. An interesting new method is going to be tried out by others, and it'll be clear very quickly if there's a problem. I wrote about such a case on my old site, back in 2002:

". . .There's a paper out now (which for those of you in the field is Synthesis, 29, 2002), that belongs to the select group of articles whose sole purpose is to demolish another one. The now-discredited article was in the same journal over a year ago, presenting an interesting reaction that I thought we could make use of in my lab. (Keep in mind that the classic definition of "interesting" in the scientific literature is "interesting to me!") We actually tried the chemistry out. It flopped cleanly and completely, giving exactly the wrong product. I chalked it up to the weirdness of our current compounds, which is not to be underestimated. Some things work on them; some don't. We poured the reaction into the red waste can and did something else, which is one of the things I like most about medicinal chemistry.

The author of the latest article, though, had the same thing happen to him, and he didn't take it as quietly. Going back over the original examples, he shows that the published work won't, didn't, and can't go the way it was reported to. Some of this can be put in the "honest mistake" category, subheading "really sloppy honest mistakes," but I'm afraid, in the end, that some of it can't. . ."

Even things that don't look all that useful at the time will often get dragged out into the light by somebody eventually. No, my vote for unreliability is the papers on total synthesis of natural products. In almost all cases, no one will ever do those reactions again. The exceptions are the rare examples where the product is itself useful and the synthesis has industrial relevance (taxol!), or the times when more than one group is working on the molecule simultaneously and using similar approaches.

But how often do such things happen? Mostly, it's "Total Synthesis of Timewastotoxin", which either no one will ever see fit to make again, or if they do will have to use a completely different synthesis (because otherwise, what's the point?) The yield in step 48 could be inflated like a beach ball - who will ever know? Step 33 might be the only run that worked out of 64 tries. In fact, the pressures of such work make it rather likely that these very things have taken place.

I'm not saying that the majority of total syntheses in the literature are incorrect - since (in the end) the synthetic product can be compared against the natural one. Only outright fraud could explain papering over a problem that goes all the way to the last step. I don't think that that's very common at all, although I sure wouldn't bet on it never having happened. (When it has, it's most likely been due to a desperate grad student spiking a sample with the real product).

I supposed a better word than "unreliable" would be "indeterminate". Even though they're probably fine, no one knows if the advanced steps in a long synthesis are real or not. It's just not worth the trouble to find out. It's as if Schrodinger's cat stayed in a superposition of states because it was so hard to open the box, and because no one cared very much whether he was alive or dead anyway.

Comments (50) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: The Scientific Literature


1. Kay on April 17, 2006 6:49 AM writes...

Tox and ADME predictions from animals and in vitro should be a top contender for the most unreliable part of the med chem literature.

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2. rhodium on April 17, 2006 9:51 AM writes...

I have always been surprised that statistics play no role in reporting a yield. Perhaps there are papers that give a standard deviation for yields, but I cannot recall any. Except for OrgSyn preps, it is rare to see ranges given for synthesis yields. I guess thesis writers should be happy that yields are dependent on how good a vacuum pump you have.

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3. Harry on April 17, 2006 10:03 AM writes...

Well- sometimes even the simple things in an article are wrong. I once tried to replicate making what seemed to be a fairly straightforward protecting reagent following a paper from the lab of a VERY well-known Nobel laureate. The paper promised 90% distilled yield.

After several failed attempts using a variety of conditions that fell within the scope of the paper and never obtaining over 30% yield (with a large amount of a condensation byproduct), I phoned the Great Man directly.

Oddly enough, he knew exactly what paper I was referring to, and was able to give me the correct conditions right off the top of his head LOL.

Unfortunately, those conditions didn't work either. I came to find out later that at least two other organizations had been unable to duplicate this paper either. They had also gotten in touch with the Great Man and had been brushed off with the statement- "I don't know why it doesn't work! Don't bother me any more!"

I suspect that whatever researcher had to make the reagent (which was actually a very small part of a larger paper) made a HUGE amount at 30% yield and then simply reported a good yield to make his part look good before he decamped for other pastures.

Moral- famous names are no guarantee of total quality.

My $0.02

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4. cg on April 17, 2006 10:23 AM writes...


Amen !

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5. Canuck Chemist on April 17, 2006 10:30 AM writes...

I totally agree that many total synthesis yields and results should be taken with a grain of salt, or perhaps a lot of salt. There is a great deal of pressure in many of the labs to produce respectable results (sometimes intense pressure and competition, depending on the group), and many of the chemists are more interested in getting out of jail than producing reliable results. Not to mention, how precisely can you even measure the yield on reactions that are 5 mg (or even 20 mg) or less?

As an example of a publication to consider, check out the total synthesis of norzoanthamine by Miyashita et al. (Science 2004, v. 305, p. 495). I don't wish to tarnish the reputation of these authors, because it could be legitimate, but they claim an average yield of 92% per step for a 42 step synthesis! I would consider that solid work (or maybe lucky) for a 10 step synthesis, but for 42 steps? Without detailed experimental details, it is impossible to properly judge. It is time for the reproduciblity of work to take a greater importance in the literature, and I applaud the efforts of e.g. Organic Letters, who now require characterization evidence even for known compounds. There is WAY too much unaccounted time spent trying out methods that are not as reliable as they claim to be.

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6. Milo on April 17, 2006 11:21 AM writes...

I guess one has to consider what the point of the paper actually is. If it is the total synthesis of beat-a-gradstudent-down-otoxin, or some cool new super methodology that will be named for the PI not the actually student who did the work, then I think that the scientific community deserves that the work receive lots of scrutiny. We expect these kinds of articles to be very reliable.

If it is a BMCL paper showing a nice tight SAR, well then the synthetic methods are not really the point. It is assumed that the work will be followed up in a journal with tougher requirements, like J. Med. Chem. Of course, if every molecule in the series has a 0.1 nM IC50, with no variation, well then that is just plain boring.

There is so much pressure at all levels to publish (or patent) that one can only expect that corners will be cut sometimes.

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7. Novice Chemist on April 17, 2006 12:18 PM writes...

Wouldn't the synthetic community benefit from a Wikipedia-like effort to comment on a specific paper's reproducibility? It would have to be anonymous, but moderated somehow to avoid competitors making negative comments out of spite. Even an e-Bay-like rating system would be better than nothing.

Of course, 'cited reference' searches are a good way of getting at this problem. However, they are a bit tedious.

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8. Anonymous on April 17, 2006 12:31 PM writes...

"Moral- famous names are no guarantee of total quality."

Don't forget the 'Corey Factor' or Nicolaou's 'total synthesis' of taxol using degradation of the natural product to furnish late-stage intermediates.

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9. Harry on April 17, 2006 12:58 PM writes...

Hmmm funny you should mention (one of) those names....

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10. Derek Lowe on April 17, 2006 2:08 PM writes...

Canuck, I'd missed that paper when it came out, so I took a look. A quick survey around my department produced near-unanimity: raised eyebrows, snorts, and a number of synonyms for quadraped waste products. I think I had one kind-hearted person that was willing, sort of, to believe them.

And that's the problem: I think these guys made the molecule, and I think that they did a heck of a job. I sure wouldn't want to do it myself (I know what I'd have to be paid to reproduce it, and it's a lot more than I'm making right now). As usual for total synthesis papers, I question the utility of the whole enterprise, but if you stipulate that it was worth doing, they did it as well as it can be done. No doubt the co-authors still have the whip marks on their backs.

But what do they get for it? Ridicule. By spray-painting the synthesis with the gold paint of "92% average yield per step", they make the whole thing look weird and unbelievable. It's sad.

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11. synthetic-turned-Medchem on April 17, 2006 2:10 PM writes...

This is such a good topic to bring up. It's well know in our field that certain reactions only work in Boston; and only there can one obtain >90% yields in a row. Why do you think 3 graduate studetns have committed suicide over the years in that group? Where was the law enforcement people? When one is subjected to that kind of pressure to deliver with so much of one's future depending on it, what can we expect to happen? Grad school 99% of the time is nothing but a slave camp, except for the very few darlings who can do no wrong in the boss's eyes.

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12. Anonymous on April 17, 2006 2:22 PM writes...

There are some fantastic posts above. 92% over 42 steps simply has no basis in reality, I don't care how much they optimized the chemistry. And the papers that show flashed, isolated, triplicate yields of 99% on a variety of substrates are just as ludicrous (the MIT/Harvard factor again!). How many people had have a debenzylation (poster child for a semi-quantitative yield) go in 40-50% yield on a fairly simple substrate?

I have been dying to run an experiment for years: send a large pool of academics and industrial folks vials that consist of a mixture of compounds, with known amounts. Simply ask them to isolate via column the major product, and return. I am certain the error bars would be staggering...

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13. synthetic-turned-Medchem on April 17, 2006 2:43 PM writes...

To be fair, there're some professors that're honest. My advisor always asked us to include a range for our yields, and he didn't allow 100% yields. In those cases, it's described as >95%. Sorensen seems to be another example of old fashioned honest chemist, who incidentally worked for you-know-who at Scripps.

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14. Finnish Chemist on April 17, 2006 2:59 PM writes...

The yields reported by P. Baran & co seem pretty realistic also. Like those in this one:

No BS 98% but honest 50-70%, or even less.

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15. Novice Chemist on April 17, 2006 4:23 PM writes...

Would it be too much to ask submitters to add a 'n of #' or 'average yields' to their schemes or supporting information? For example: NaBH4, MeOH, 90% (av.y., n of >10). Not like it would add a lot to a characterization of the reaction.

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16. Propter Doc on April 17, 2006 4:39 PM writes...

I think the biggest errors come from poor record keeping by the person doing the work. Lately I've had a glut of papers with improbable/impossible work up procedures. No doubt this is because the person forgot to write down exactly what was done, came to write it up and just wrote something plausable and standard. Always just enough to render the procedure useless.

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17. Milo on April 17, 2006 4:50 PM writes...


While I always run a reaction more than 3+ times before I am ready to publish, I suspect a lot of folks only run a reaction once.

In a perfect world, each paper would be verified by an independant lab prior to acceptance. :-)

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18. Klug on April 17, 2006 5:00 PM writes...

Milo, I forgot to add that some of these reactions obviously cannot be repeated due to length of synthesis. If it's the last step of your 40-step synthesis of monstermycin, I feel your pain. I suppose I would just like to know.

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19. Greg Hlatky on April 17, 2006 5:32 PM writes...

My rule-of-thumb: take the literature yield and divide by three; that's about what you'll get. I wonder if fudging in NP synthesis (if it exists) may not be the result of the death-cage nature of such research for the poor grad student: make nihilomycin and you've succeeded; don't make it and you fail. Are suicide rates for NP grad students greater than for other disciplines? Ah well, I love my organometallics. Even the screw-ups can be interesting.

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20. Slappy on April 17, 2006 6:32 PM writes...

Rhodium: I couldn't agree more! So many factors contribute to yields that we should really use ranges. Yield inflation has become pretty much standard practice in organic chemistry.

I'm curious, do we by chance know each other?

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21. anon on April 17, 2006 6:59 PM writes...

I have a friend that did his PhD at Penn State under you know who right before he left for Scripps. And from the stories that I have heard from whithin the group, their actions almost constitute outright fraud. Everything from lying about yields to making up NMR shifts, using degredation to make advanced intermediates and possibly more.

During the synthesis of Taxol, there was one particular reaction leading to a late stage intermediate that I would rather not specify. And only one person in the group could do it, or was allowed to do it. I wonder why that could be... ?

And everyone should know that you are lucky enough to just get a corey raction to work, let alone get yields even close to the paper.

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22. secret milkshake on April 17, 2006 8:59 PM writes...

I was there in EJs group when the third student (Jason Altom) took cyanide. From what I know the pressure was self-imposed. Jason was very nice man and good chemists and he had enormous expectations of himself. He took enormously ambitious project that would be normaly sufficient for 3 excellent thesis. He wanted to do it all by himself and get a grat tenured-track job without going as postdoc. By working 7 days a week for six years, he just got very exhausted,he was stuck in the project, etc. People don't kill themselves because their advisor is unpleasant. Jason was offered opportunity to publish the half of the molecule (which on its own was another known, complicated alkaloid) or he could have continued as a postdoc in the same group. But he got somehow very angry at himself and at EJ. I don't know much more.

The second student that killed himself in EJ's group did so after few weeks in the group, he had profound personal problems and from what I heard this had nothing to do with the group.

People there can be fragile, I remember a guy on my dorm floor suddenly leaped from Wiedner Library, no explanation. I did not have happy time there either and I got very depressed - and it did not have much to do with EJ. In fact, he was very supportive and reasonable. He genuinely tried to be nice to his people, especialy after the Jason's tragedy.

Unrelated: Rhodium, do you have any relation to the infamous cook page

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23. secret milkshake on April 17, 2006 9:15 PM writes...

Some articles and careers should be demolished. I spend a half a year reproducing a published scheme that was a USDA-certifiable bullshit. Basicaly they published a scheme from grant research proposal with made-up yields. I got an inside help from that group (they laughed and said "Oh Savitri, we had to let her go because she was faking her results all the time). I thought the professor in question (Michael Kahn) was a victim of a bad student, much like Dali Sames nowadays, but I later found out there were other cases. The other part was that I was not in position to start the fight, everything would have to be perfectly documented and I had to move to other projects. (Michael Kahn eventually got into troubles, his company lost funding. Savitri went to some small place in Utah. But Kahn still teaches)

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24. Ryan K. on April 17, 2006 9:26 PM writes...

Milkshake: If you don't mind me asking, what was your project with Elias?

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25. Anonymous on April 17, 2006 10:19 PM writes...

He does not like people calling him Elias.

The cationic cascade tri/tetracyclisation for making terpenoids. (The methodology is not very easy and I was not good at improving it).

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26. ss on April 18, 2006 6:22 AM writes...

Harry was the reagent you were trying to make Di t-butyl silyl triflate ?

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27. Harry on April 18, 2006 7:01 AM writes...

Nope- it was MEM-chloride (Methoxyethoxymethyl Chloride).

The paper indicated it could be made from Methoxyethanol using a Chloromethylation reaction with 1,3,5-Trioxane and anhydrous HCl (neat). The paper indicates 90% yield, but under any conditions we tried (from -20C to 30 C) we got only about 30% of the product and large amounts of the formal of methoxyethanol, as you might expect.

We eventually worked out a 2-step process that did NOT involve chloromethylation (thankfully). We eventually made about 250 kg of the stuff for a major pharma company. I think it's now commercially available from Japan.

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28. UndergradChemist on April 18, 2006 8:45 AM writes...

From what I've heard around the lab, Corey is actually quite nice to everyone around, and if he was harsh in the past, he's certainly mellowed down now. Kishi, on the other hand...

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29. jose on April 18, 2006 9:50 AM writes...

Milkshake: regarding Jason Altom, I think you a doing him a great injustice to lay all the blame on him. Clearly, EJ didn't make up a 1 M solution of KCN and say, "Gee, son, drink up!!" but people don't exist in a vacuum. Altom wouldn't have written letters to EJ and the dept if all the pressure was self imposed; clearly, the intellectual environment had some serious bearing on the pressures he felt. I worked for a spawn of EJ, and I am sure sitting down to discuss personal problems would have lead to a blank, indifferent glare....

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30. secret milkshake on April 18, 2006 11:20 AM writes...

Look, I understand that there were people that felt being let down by EJ - but this was not my personal experience. I actualy like the Chief a lot. I could imagine that - because he is a very engaging person and natural authority - he is someone you admire or even worship and things are intese when you try to succeed in your high-profile project - that you can feel crushed if he makes decision/comment that is not sensitive to your feelings or your plans for the project. EJ does come across as a rather stubborn person, he rarely changes his mind, opinion or decision, one way or another. Simply you can go and argue with him any time and he will patiently listen to you - but after while, he tends to come back to his original mindset. He can be very considerate, if he wants to but it does not come allways naturaly. After all, he needs lots of bright young guys working very hard for long time on the projects - and if they want to be monomaniacs and spend 20 hours a day in the lab, he is not going to discourage them.

Again, it is not my personal experience but it is one possibility of what could have had happened. I just don't know.

I liked Jason also - he was very polite and smart and did not boss anybody around (as opposed some really arogant senior jerks in Evans group). He was the most senior student in the group, most knowledgeable, he just worked hard, alone, night and day and although we knew for few weeks that he got stuck (not being able to join 2 big complex pieces together, going back to model systems to study the coupling, etc) we just did not know he was depressed and it was a great shock. Speaking with Brian Stoltz who was his lab+roomate and found him at home, and with others, there were signs of things rather wrong with his state of mind but it was hard to guess because he was so introvert. I think if he got vacation or even a girlfriend, things could have been different.

I was in very unpleasant situation there also, unrelated to EJ (except that he was trying to help me) and being stuck in a project was just the easiest part of it. Basicaly you do not kill yourself and blame your advisor for it, it just bad thing to do. You should have seen what it did to the group and to EJ. You can't be angry at dead and nice guy like Jason but you can't take what he did as a reasonable decision that was inevitable from the action of his advisor.

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31. Novice Chemist on April 18, 2006 12:43 PM writes...


While we're on the subject, how fair is the NY Times Sunday magazine article on the subject? I read it a few years ago and it didn't seem really damning towards Corey, but I could be wrong.

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32. Anonymous on April 18, 2006 1:01 PM writes...

From reading the stuff in NY Times(it has been years) I remember having a strong impression that the people who wrote it started with a pre-conceived idea how things happened and then tried to make the facts fit. My impression at the time was that NY Times did a hack job on the story.

EJ has been in high profile for years and he did not make only friends over his career. I would believe that in his younger years, he worked his students pretty hard. Lots of professors do, but he was probably more visible than others. Much later, when Altom kill himself and blamed EJ for it, EJ was vulnerable to these assumptions (that he destroyed yet another bright young chemist). My impression is that it was nearly the other way around.

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33. Ryan K. on April 18, 2006 1:27 PM writes...

Secret Milkshake: I was just wondering, but does Milkshake = D.D.S.?

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34. jose on April 18, 2006 1:41 PM writes...

Here's a link to the NY Times Story-

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35. synthetic-turned-Medchem on April 18, 2006 2:16 PM writes...

Milkshake, I've heard stories about EJ that painted quite a different picture about the man. I was early in my grad school years when Jason Altom killed himself. I remember reading an article posted in our department about the icident. Altom made comments and suggestions on the need to reduce the control the research advisor has on the grad students's career. Clearly whatever Cory did to Altom was a factor in his death. Having been there myself (always stuck somewhere in a big natural product syn and not having the nicest boss), I was deeply depressed and I can't say the thought of suicide didn't cross my mind. I'd never actually do it, but I could finally understand why people would kill themselves. I'm glad Jason's death had some impact on Cory. It should, for the rest of his life. I have no respect for a man like that who builds his career on the destruction of countless others. And you can say that for just about every big shot in total synthesis.

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36. Intrigued on April 18, 2006 3:15 PM writes...

Unless Milkshake went to school in Jamaica, I don't think DDS is right. Milkshake, you seem to have been in a lot of interesting places. Keep the stories coming.

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37. secret milkshake on April 18, 2006 4:00 PM writes...

It must have been some other story that really annoyed me at the time - obviously I did not read this NY Times Mag story (this one is unusualy nuanced and informed). So I am sorry, this NY Times MAG story is not a hack job.

Here is why I was defensive: I did not like the sensational rumors at the time, the schadenfreude of EJ-haters (including ones at Harvard chemistry dept.). He might not be the easiest advisor but the man is basicaly straight - which is more than one can say about some other famous folks there.

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38. Anonymous on April 18, 2006 5:02 PM writes...

"sensational rumors at the time, the schadenfreude of EJ-haters"

There seems to be a bit of this happening right now with the Sames affair. I don't think anybody has an axe to grind with Prof. Sames, nonetheless there seems to be a crowd that are enjoying the show.

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39. secret milkshake on April 18, 2006 6:41 PM writes...

I know prof. Sames from Prague, when we were just highschool kids, and from Tucson when he was a student at U of Arizona in Polt's lab and then from Celera, when he was consulting there. (He does not strike me as someone whom I would like to work for). He made some bad judgements as a advisor - from what I gather about the situation there - but wouldn't wish this to happen to anybody.

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40. ss on April 18, 2006 7:54 PM writes...

Thanks Harry.

I was trying out the synthesis of di t-butyl silyl triflate and couldnt get the reported yields and almost lost my industry job over it. Luckily the boss then told the then current hotshot in my lab to do it and he also got the same yields as I got.

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41. Phil-Z on April 19, 2006 7:49 AM writes...

I never worked for EJ, but I've worked with enough of his students at a very large new england firm to believe I'd mix up the KCN *before* I would work for him.Perhaps he's mellowed, and I'm reluctant to characterize someone I've never met as "evil incarnate" but he turned out some finest examples of the cost of blind ambition I've ever seen, cautions to the rest of the chem world about what your "soul" is really worth, and it's function in your life.

Of course, YMMV.

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42. synthetic-turned-Medchem on April 19, 2006 10:04 AM writes...

Phil-Z, absolutely second your sentiment there.

"cautions to the rest of the chem world about what your "soul" is really worth, and it's function in your life."

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43. Milo on April 19, 2006 2:40 PM writes...


So... with respect to those people at the very large firm, did the apple fall far from the tree?

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44. Phil-Z on April 19, 2006 9:47 PM writes...

Straight down. You should have seen the infighting. wuf!

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45. sh on October 12, 2006 12:55 PM writes...

rhodium, i'm searching for U )) plz write me on email

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46. p-chemist on October 24, 2006 10:23 PM writes...

Milkshake, I both agree and disagree with you. Here's how:

1) It is a mistake (and even dangerous) to try to attribute a suicide to the actions of a 2nd party. Someone commits suicide because of mental illness; a healthy reaction to a horrible situation is not to kill oneself. So I agree that simplistically blaming EJ for Jason's suicide is unfair, to say the least.

2) Is EJ a bad guy or just maligned? Here I have to part ways with you. Not only is there the whole Woodward-Hoffmann paranoia (which I think really reveals EJ's mental disorder, not that I'm capable of diagnosing), but consider also his behavior around the issue of publishing Jason Altom's work. He wrote the paper posthumously with Jason as last author. When the paper was circulated to the group (as is practice in that group), Jason's former roommate (the one who found him who is not, by the way, Brian Stolz) noted that Jason should be the first non-EJ author. EJ responded by calling this student into his office and berating him. EJ then called in two other students; they offered the same opinion and were berated as well, and then EJ lied to others in the group and said they had supported him. The following people requested that EJ change the ordering of authors on this one paper out of his gazillions, not only out of respect to Jason but to reflect accurately the relative conributions of those involved: his department chair, one of the deans of the graduate school, Jason's parents (through the chair). EJ refused. He finally agreed, only after much pressure, to add a footnote dedicating the paper to Jason. How do you think Jason's parents felt about this? And why was it so important to EJ to deny them this one tiny piece of consolation?

3) I also like your statement about EJ needing "lots of bright young guys." Because that's what they always were (guys, that is), with VERY few exceptions (and the women there when I was--two of them--were completely second-class citizens). Wonder why organic chemistry is the outlier in terms of percentage of women? EJ's not the only problem here, but with so much of the field descended from him, it's hardly a shock. When he won the Priestley Medal I saw one estimate that 600 chemists have gone through his group (presumably including postdocs, visitors, etc). I can count 6 women. I may be missing a few, but not that many. I guess it's 7 if you count the poster of the woman in the bikini that only came down from the X-ray room in his lab in 1995 or so.

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47. Ghosh on June 11, 2008 3:35 PM writes...

You guys -- milkshake and the rest should be more open with the media with your views. EJ Corey is a great big name. I don't work in the field of chemistry but I do think Corey has a few answers to give. 3 suicides in his lab, in a short period of time -- seems incredible.

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48. ex-chemist on November 28, 2008 5:32 AM writes...

Folks, volatile organic compounds including solvents are neurotoxins. Chronic exposure to these chemicals, even at low levels, is very harmful. I almost committed suicide and thank God I found out what was the problem right before I was planning to end my life. Do some research and be careful with chemicals, especially volatile organic compounds (solvents etc). Chemicals pollute, harm, sick, and kill. Take care you all. And please don't blame Prof. Corey. I was blaming him a few years back when I heard the stories, but after what I went through myself, I knew for sure Altom was suffering from chemical induced depression -- google "chemical encephalopathy" to find out more. I guess the saying about us chemists being crazy has some truth in it -- and chemicals are the culprit.
And chemistry, especially organic chemistry, should go green, but the academia world is not very open to this important trend.....

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49. ex-chemist on November 28, 2008 5:39 AM writes...

It might be more helpful if you google " toxic encephalopathy" -- there is more information regarding how petrochemicals (pretty much what we organic chemists use everyday) harm our brians.

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50. Goslings on August 18, 2010 12:54 PM writes...


He tried to sue Lygo regarding his phase transfer catalyst.
claiming lygo had stolen it from him.

Ridiculous accusation. Seems he likes to throw his weight around.

and as for that jason guy killing himself. A good supervisor would see how hard a student was working and tell them to take some time off, telling them they had earnt it.

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