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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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« Buying What You Can't Make? Or What? | Main | Pilferage »

August 12, 2007

These You Shall Have Always With You

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Posted by Derek

1. A testy e-mail from the one of the analytical chemists, saying that the open-access walk-up LC/MS machine was clogged - again - and reminding everyone, in a tone both exasperated and resigned, that the machine is not there for everyone just to come and inject their dark orange cloudy stuff into.

2. Lab bench drawers that have accumulated a low-energy high-entropy slough of weird-sized adapters, unusable syringes, metal fittings to machines that aren't even being used any more, and strangely shaped plastic pieces that look as if they must be the vital inner workings of something - but what?

3. A testy note on the common fridge, stating that anything that's left in there by Friday at 3 PM is going to be thrown out, and reminding the reader that this means you. The note is written in faded black Sharpie marker, and the edges of the paper are frayed.

4. A radio, off in the distance in some other lab, playing AC/DC's "Back in Black". What lab radios played before this was recorded, I'm not sure.

Comments (20) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Life in the Drug Labs


1. Betsy on August 13, 2007 11:55 AM writes...

A couple of years ago, I interviewed at a company in San Diego. They were showing me around the lab, and I cracked up when we got to the refrigerated centrifuge. I immediately recognized the familiar strip of tape across the front of the lid with an exasperated plea to close the *&%#ing lid when you were done. It felt like home. :)

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2. fng on August 13, 2007 12:22 PM writes...

i am one of 'those' who loves back in black from time to time. if you happened to be wondering the halls this past saturday you would have heard it especially loud...

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3. philip on August 13, 2007 1:21 PM writes...

My lab mate in graduate school was very fond of "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap". Maybe it was the way he said "cyanide".

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4. Jose on August 13, 2007 1:35 PM writes...

An old lab mate, (a bitter sixth yr who was getting beaten down on final deprotection steps of his nat product), was *very* fond of Black Sabbath, *very* loud, early in the morning. It was staggering.

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5. Hoodie on August 13, 2007 2:06 PM writes...

I have this hood sash side clip part that went to a hood at the old company, had it disabled to lift the sash up easily (I salvaged it from the waste can meltdown fiasco)

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6. Milton on August 13, 2007 2:15 PM writes...

Uh, they said I could listen to the radio at a reasonable volume from
nine to eleven while I'm collating….

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7. milkshake on August 13, 2007 2:19 PM writes...

Mean-spirited notices in the lab are a bad sign. Sure, it can be just one cranky person doing it but one mean crank in the lab is one too many.

When writing posted signs one has to be reasonably polite. Something along the lines of "Please, do not use my tweezers - and if you borrow them please kindly return them right away (or I WILL CRUSH YOU). Thank you for your understanding and consideration."

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8. Hap on August 13, 2007 2:24 PM writes...

One of the people in the lab down the hall played "Low Self-Esteem" and "Liar" (Rollins Band) at high volume at night. Welcome to graduate school....

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9. tom bartlett on August 13, 2007 2:35 PM writes...

"playing AC/DC's "Back in Black"."

It ain't Clapton or Allman Bros., but it beats to a pulp wimpish drek like anything by Justin Timberlake.

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10. Neema on August 13, 2007 3:09 PM writes...

The fridge notices, yeah, it's amazing how much stuff can pile up and rot in there.

And the AC/DC is pretty much only for late nights in my lab. The folks here are allergic to bands who have had commercial success.

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11. JSinger on August 13, 2007 3:28 PM writes...

One of the people in the lab down the hall played "Low Self-Esteem" and "Liar" (Rollins Band) at high volume at night. Welcome to graduate school....

Are you talking about Self-Esteem, by the Offspring? That was definitely in my grad school rotation, along with Out Ta Get Me, Everything About You and other bitter, paranoid 90's rock. (You know the Offspring lead singer was a USC molecular biology grad student, right?)

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12. JSinger on August 13, 2007 3:33 PM writes...

Meanwhile, as I hit "Post" on that last comment, Pandora launched into Come Out And Play. For a couple of seconds, I thought I was having a flashback to 1995. Hopefully I can get home from lab early enough to grab a Zima and watch Melrose Place!

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13. Hap on August 13, 2007 4:32 PM writes...

Yes, but I couldn't remember who did it. There are two sort of further bummers - 1) the person who usually played these songs is a professor, and 2) we weren't even close to the unhappiest people in our department.

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14. qetzal on August 13, 2007 6:50 PM writes...

5. Yet another testy note, reminding everyone to "Please make more [name of common use reagent] if you use the last of it!"

The container this note is taped to will be empty.

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15. august on August 13, 2007 9:42 PM writes...

How about those solvent drums/bottles you find with ~20 mL left in them? Of course, if you aren't the one finishing it off, you're not the one responsible for requisitioning its replacement, right?

In grad school, I had a colleague who would come in at 5:30 or 6:00 a.m. for no other reason than to play Tool or Korn at "ear-bleed" volume. The next person in would simply walk in and turn it down. Wasn't all that bad, but give me the Allmans any day...

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16. Ψ*Ψ on August 13, 2007 9:56 PM writes...

Hmm. Usually that person is me, but it's Chthonic or something else blasting.
Tool is perfectly acceptable in my group at any time of day or night. I think it's a requirement for joining...

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17. Liquidcarbon on August 14, 2007 2:47 AM writes...

97. A relic chemical bottle with a label "distilled 13.02.1993"

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18. Anonymous BMS Researcher on August 15, 2007 6:30 AM writes...

Communal fridges, yes, that happens EVERYWHERE that I have been, industry and academia alike. My favorite variation on this theme was a British colleague where I did my postdoc who would from time to time say at lab meetings, "I shall be mucking out the breakroom fridge on Friday, so please label anything you do not wish thrown away."

Usually "mucking out" was a most apt description of the condition of the fridge.

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19. sciwriter on August 15, 2007 2:04 PM writes...

i spent a summer as an undergraduate doing research under a sixth-year (and counting) grad student who was the world's biggest KISS fan. who knew KISS had so many cds? every week or so there would be an hour-long reprieve: his one metallica cd.

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20. Hap on August 17, 2007 10:48 AM writes...

It wasn't the low point of grad school, but in my dorms, there were communal fridges that accrued lots of food. (Graduate school dorms dispel the concept that chemistry/science graduate students are the most socially incompetent of graduate students). At some point, the fridge on my floor were bad enough that the RA and one of the residents began to clean it out, and another resident (a chemistry grad student, alas) called them Nazis. Laughter seems like a timeless response, though a request for psychiatric evaluation might also have been appropriate.

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