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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 7, 2013

I'll Just Take a Tour of Your Lab Drawers Here

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Posted by Derek

I enjoyed this from postdoc JesstheChemist on Twitter: "Busted. Just caught someone (who doesn't work in my lab) going through my lab drawers." Now that's a real-life lab comment if I ever saw one. It's a constant feature in academic labs, where there's usually limited equipment of one sort of another. There's less of it in industry, where we're relatively equipment-rich, but it certainly doesn't go away.

Glassware gets rummaged through, whether for that one tiny Dean-Stark trap, a funny-sized ground-glass stopper, or something as petty as a clean 25 mL round bottom. Run out of that fancy multicolor pH paper? The guy next to you keeps it in the second drawer. One-mL syringes ran out, and you need to dispense something right now? Third drawer.

I've seen people borrow things while they're in use. In grad school, I once had a short-path vacuum distillation going, with the receiving flasks cooled in a bath supported by a lab jack. I left for a few minutes while things were warming up, only to find my lab jack pilfered and replaced by a ragged stack of cork rings, which was not what I had in mind. Peeved, I hunted through the labs until I found the jack in the hood of a post-doc who was running something of his own. "I didn't think you were using it", was his response, which prompted me to ask what it looked like when I was actually using it.

Then you have reagent burgling, which is epidemic at all levels of bench chemistry. No one has everything to hand, and you always run out of things. The stockroom may be some distance away, or take too much time, or there may be only one bottle of 2-methyl bromowhatsicene in the lab (and you don't have it). This can be innocent, as in taking 500mg of some common reagent out of a large bottle that someone has handy. Or it can be more serious (but still well-intentioned), in the "I'm going to bring it right back" way. Further down the scale, you have plain nastiness, of the "I need this and screw the rest of you" kind. I told the story here of having had most of a fresh bottle of borane/THF jacked from me, and you know, that happened in 1986 and I'm still a little cheesed off about it. Many readers will have experienced similar sensations.

Once, during my grad school days, I went off on a rare vacation and left notes in the various drawers of my bench. "It's not here!" read one of them, and another advised people "Take this from (fellow student X). He has a lot more of them than I do". When I came back, people told me that they enjoyed my notes. There you have it.

Comments (56) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Life in the Drug Labs


1. Anonymous on March 7, 2013 10:43 AM writes...

Another reason to get out of grad school quick. My lab resorted to locking up drawers.

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2. Anonymous on March 7, 2013 10:56 AM writes...

Acceptability of this seems to vary with lab culture. I've been in environments where it was never a problem--people would borrow things if you weren't around to ask, but only if wasn't in use, and they'd usually leave a note. This was an environment where you could buy pretty much whatever you wanted, so maybe that helped because there was less need for fierce ideas of personal ownership.

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3. Andrew (@_byronmiller) on March 7, 2013 11:02 AM writes...

Yup... just the other day I put something on the "smelly" Buchi, came back 5 mins later to find it sitting on a cork ring, swimming in solvent. "I thought it was done!", quoth the culprit. I work with highly polar compounds. None of my compounds are liquid.

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4. MDA Student on March 7, 2013 11:06 AM writes...

There is a big difference between someone in your lab going through your drawers and someone from another lab. I had en entire set of pipettes get stolen...not cool

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5. Anon on March 7, 2013 11:07 AM writes...

This kind of selfishness is rife in chemistry. It's bred into people at grad school and a leopard never changes their spots.
The other key factor is the general lack of social skills in large numbers of lab based people, resulting in being too scared to ask.
I've lost count of the number of times I order a reagent and never actually see it. It arrives, but gets pilfered before I get the lab in tray to find it. I wish we could have gps locaters in our bottle labels. That would weed out the thieves.
Then there's the biggest cardinal sin....someone using your anydrous reagent you need for that key reaction before you get to use it. It then adds those extra variables to the reaction like "am I certain that the seal was intact", "was the reagent still intact and not hydrolysed".

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6. Bethany Halford on March 7, 2013 11:10 AM writes...

I had a chain and padlock that held two of by lab drawers together in grad school. It was given to me by a senior grad student when she left and I likewise passed it along to another grad student when I finished. I wonder if it's still there.

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7. Bethany Halford on March 7, 2013 11:12 AM writes...


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8. Curryworks on March 7, 2013 11:21 AM writes...

A group member cleaned 5 schlenk flasks and left them to dry in the oven an within 3 hours they were gone. Another classic is the borrowing of stir bars (the rare earth magnet ones)

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9. JessTheChemist on March 7, 2013 11:27 AM writes...

Great to see it isn't just me!

I don't mind sharing, I mainly mind the not asking me first. I am a friendly-ish postdoc and as long as people return stuff, clean and unbroken, I am happy to lend. My pet hate is when people use the last e.g. filter paper and leave the box in the drawer...empty! #rage

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10. SP on March 7, 2013 11:35 AM writes...

In biology pipettes are the worst- beyond not returning them, people will borrow them and do things like pipette the concentrated RNAse for their plasmid prep kit and suddenly your RNA preps aren't working any more.

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11. Greg Hlatky on March 7, 2013 11:39 AM writes...

I suppose the ultimate in gall would be for someone to steal something then leave a note complaining that it wasn't clean/dry.

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12. VB on March 7, 2013 11:49 AM writes...

I caught a postdoc stealing my files from the computer using a USB drive. That's not the worst part, when I said this is not cool he replied that I shouldn't leave stuff in the open (or public, as he put it) if I am so concerned about security.

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13. Andrew on March 7, 2013 12:28 PM writes...

I don't remember this happening to me in grad school as much as the people I lived with stealing my food (a hungry grad student is an angry grad student), but I do recall the misuse of air- and moisture-sensitive reagents happening regularly. It got to the point where we had to assign someone the group job of guarding the n-butyllithium, and training all the new grad students, undergrads, and postdocs on how to use it properly. And if you're wondering why we didn't each have our own bottle, well, it's a lot more cost-efficient to have one 800-mL bottle than eight 100-mL bottles.

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14. franco on March 7, 2013 1:10 PM writes...

My neighbor used to always take my equipment from my drawers, but after a while I didn't mind. Because, if anything was missing, I realized I always knew where it would be. I would find it in his drawer. Although, when i explained to him one time why i didn't mind, with a laugh, he was offended at the suggestion that I believed he was always raiding my drawers! Some people have no sense of humor.

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15. John Wayne on March 7, 2013 1:14 PM writes...

This topic brings me back:
- In graduate school I had decoy bottles of sensitive reagents at my bench. It both prevented burgling of reagents I was actively using and saved us money in the disposal of old chemicals.
- My postdoc advisor made us buy the 800 mL bottle of nBuLi and dispense it into dried 100 mL bottles and cap them. It both saved money and contained the damage done by the new and/or careless.
- A friend from another research group used to smear a bit of saturated aqueous bicarbonate solution on the outsides of their clean flasks so they would look dirty and not get stolen;, her advisor was the glassware bandit.

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16. will on March 7, 2013 1:54 PM writes...

the person in the hood next to mine had a habit of constantly using my bicarb/dilute hcl/brine solutions (usually kept in a 1 liter plastic jug) she would never replenish when she finished one off. finally i got cheesed off enough to fill the 0.1 M hcl bottle with plain water.

sure enough she used it, then complained to me that i hadn't made it right!

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17. Anonymous on March 7, 2013 2:21 PM writes...

A couple more examples: One of my former colleague labeled all of his aqueous solution bottles in his native language so that nobody else knew what's in there.

In my grad school clean NMR tubes were highly sought-after, I had lost many of them. I did not find a good way of preventing the theft due to the fact all ovens were shared.

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18. Pig Farmer on March 7, 2013 2:37 PM writes...

I had had three flash chromatography columns made up for me specially by the glassblower. The following year, an Australian post-doc trashed all of them. He was in the habit of loading his crude reaction mixtures onto dry silica in the column, then blasting solvent through it under pressure. Needless to say, the silica heated up and expanded on contact with the solvent, and the column invariably split. He was sent back home the following year, having alientated himself from the whole department by informing the professor that we were in the habit of taking "liquid lunches" and returning to the lab (this was Manchester, UK in the 80s, and safety standards were laxer than they are now).
For my part, I incurred the wrath of my housemates by using the last drop of shampoo during my morning ablutions one day, and scrounging the last bit of cheese from the refrigerator. Happy days!

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19. Ortep on March 7, 2013 3:12 PM writes...

I was in the late stages of writing my thesis and had booked an overnight slot on the NMR to run an NOE experiment. I set up the experiment around 9 pm, went back to the lab to finish for a bit before heading home around 10. I stopped in to check on the experiment and found my sample sitting out on the bench! As luck would have it, the dumbass who ejected my sample mid-run and ran his 5 minute 1H spectrum, had left the print out of the spectrum with his name on the printer. I was easily able to track him down, lay into him with a huge string of expletives and go back and set up my experiment. Never mess with anyone when they are in the middle of writing up.

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20. oldnuke on March 7, 2013 4:13 PM writes...

I did my undergrad at a school without niceties like a machinist or glassblower on staff. Since I had a decent hand with glass and metal, I found myself in the "business" of making GC columns for other folks in addition to my own.

Before long, folks began to "borrow" mine. So, always the little helper, I put an "extra" one on the shelf labeled alumina with Carbowax if I remember correctly. Only it was really powdered sugar from the donut shop.

Funny, they suddenly stopped disappearing...

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21. Anonymous on March 7, 2013 4:33 PM writes...

Lab work means dealing with the occasional sociopath or malignant narcissist who thinks the world revolves around them.

On a slightly different tack, how about some mandatory basic, formal training for newbies to obviate much of the lab negativity (something that didn't seem to occur to my advisor)--air-sensitive reagents, compressed gases, vacuum lines, rotavaps, even dishwashing.

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22. bank on March 7, 2013 4:40 PM writes...

My own trick was to label my stock reagents as containing X + 5 mM ATD.

ATD being "anti-theft device"

As nobody knew what ATD was, they were left alone.

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23. OneSleepyNerd on March 7, 2013 5:29 PM writes...

I think that overlooking or allowing this kind of bullying/ narcissistic behavior contributes to the poor mental health of graduate students. It only takes one person to destroy the collaborative purpose of a research group, and then you spend the rest of your graduate career not trusting anyone around you. You start to believe that everyone is out for themselves and start hoarding things, or you try to take the high road and carry on, only to get angry every time someone takes advantage of you. It's a huge waste of time, talent, and resources for us to carry on this way, but PIs usually dislike having to manage people.

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24. Walkies on March 7, 2013 5:30 PM writes...

I'm a current grad student and regularly get my aqueous reagents pilfered. I also keep my own stash of test-tubes hidden in a cupboard, as nobody else here seems to be able to clean them. On the other hand, I am also a bit of a hoarder. I appear to have to only B10 glass stopper in our department (I’ve never used it) and I ‘own’ a 0.5 mL volumetric flask (I have no idea when you would want to use it – it can’t be that accurate).

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25. bitter pill on March 7, 2013 5:38 PM writes...

My observation was that no ever stole dirty glassware.
My room mate (an inorganic student) had a post-doc steal his mercury bubbler from a reaction he had going. The post-doc had just come up, cut the tubing with scissors, and walked off with it.

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26. Bend on March 7, 2013 5:53 PM writes...

My adviser told how when she was a post-doc her lab shared glassware. One fellow post-doc claimed the best glassware in the lab for himself and engraved his initials on it. So the rest of the lab engraved his initials on all the glassware in the lab to render it all indistinguishable.
While in another microbio lab I asked a fellow student to borrow some ampicillin. She handed me a tube labeled penicillin. When I pointed this out she told me that she always labeled her stuff incorrectly so that if anyone borrowed it without permission, they would get screwed.

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27. dearieme on March 7, 2013 6:11 PM writes...

It's odd that we're told to take scientists on trust because, as you say, they're a bunch of thieves.

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28. MoMo on March 7, 2013 6:21 PM writes...

Dont get mad- Go Subversive!

Sprinkle either powdered AgNO3 or a liquid Staph, preferably MRSA on your handles and look for either black hands or severe facial acne!

Of course clean the handles before you use them.

Then laugh every time you see them!

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29. Anonymous on March 7, 2013 7:05 PM writes...

I find the whole deliberate mislabeling of reagents frightful, I don't want to know how badly health and safety would burn you if they found that one out given how shitty they can get over much more minor things.

I think the slightly psychopathic reactions people show are also just as bad as the original stealing or screwing up of reactions. To draw a long bow it's like setting up a car bomb to get back at anyone who tries stealing your car (or anyone who tries to legitimately move it)

Personally I find any communal items bought by lab funds is lab property, I find people going through and "dibsing" equipment, columns, stock reagents, glasswear etc and hiding it for personal use later or putting name tags over everything to be unusual in the extreme. I can understand it why people might want to, I've had no number of things stuffed up by other people but frankly who works anywhere rich enough that everybody can have their own personal lab worth of stuff, share and share alike and deal with the bad stuff as it comes up.

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30. anon on March 7, 2013 7:23 PM writes...

@30 -You would deserve criminal prosecution for that.

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31. anon on March 7, 2013 7:31 PM writes...

Edit - @28, obviously

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32. Liberal Arts Chemist on March 7, 2013 7:37 PM writes...

I shared a lab in Durham University with a Czech chemist who escaped with his family during the Prague spring. We got along very well and one day he approached me quite concerned that some things had been moved in the cupboards on "his" side of the lab even though the cupboards had been locked. I remember the naked horror on his face as I suggested to him that every cupboard in the department was tumbled to the same key. He said "what is the point of the lock?". I suggested that the intent was to keep the contents from the curious or larcenous public but he got very thoughtful. To my astonishment the next day he brought his tools and a rotary grinder into the lab, disassembled the locks, re-tumbled them and cut new keys. It turns out it was the department head that was foraging for equipment for his research group and he was not pleased when he discovered the changed locks.

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33. oldnuke on March 7, 2013 8:27 PM writes...

Ref @20, I DID find the culprit. Since I had (as a freshman) kind of inherited all manner of instrument problems, one of the organic grads came to me with the complaint that the HP gas chromatograph wasn't working correctly.

He, he, he... I fixed it for him a few days later. Amazing how much better it worked with a proper column.

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34. Anonymous on March 7, 2013 10:49 PM writes...

After taking the high road for a long time, I have finally resorted to hiding some things. After about two good years, my pipettes started to constantly go missing, and when I found them they would usually be gunked up with some over-aspirated crap. I semi-regularly clean and calibrate my pipettes, which seems to be unheard of here, and it's not my favorite thing to do on the weekend, so I'm somewhat attached to my set. The last straw was when I found the 1000ul disassembled on a communal bench, missing one of the springs. WTF? Of course nobody owned up or apologized. Now pipettes get hidden. In my drawer there is a box "full" of nitrile gloves with a fake is totally ridiculous. Things like timer theft/"borrowing" are annoying, but it's the pilfering or using up of reagents or equipment that I have taken extra care preparing that annoys me most.

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35. lynn on March 8, 2013 1:23 AM writes...

In grad school [Micro and Molecular Biology], someone [ a postdoc] appropriated the power source from my polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis set up WHILE the gel was running!

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36. Jan on March 8, 2013 1:54 AM writes...

In my old lab there was a graduate student who went ballistic whenever anybody came near her drawers. Everybody else had a relatively relaxed attitude towards sharing. After she left the lab, we discovered 70 (!) NMR tubes in her drawers. Since NMR tubes were quite rare in our lab and the PI flatly refused to buy any, she must have been stealing them from others for years, just to hoard them.

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37. eugene on March 8, 2013 6:59 AM writes...

Stealing didn't happen much in my PhD or postdoc lab from each other. In the PhD lab, we could buy stuff we wanted, after discussing it with the PI if it was really expensive. But pretty much anything was accessible and the glass company rep came around to take and fix broken stuff for cheap.

The postdoc lab was a lot worse, but still people didn't steal from each other all that much, not like all the horror stories above. However, all the expensive reagents (NMR solvents; metals, and even electric tape (wtf!?)) were locked up in drawers by the technician and you had to beg and plead for them. It was humiliating for a postdoc to do after coming from a completely different environment where I could order any NMR solvent. The technician also went home early and in the evening when I was doing a reaction and needed some electric tape, I was really screwed. I also really needed deuterated THF once, and he told me no, it's too expensive and that I should use regular THF and manually shim. He didn't believe me when I said deuterated THF is 120 bucks for 10mls from CIL with the academic discount and that I'm an expert and know what I need and don't need.

Finally, I couldn't take it anymore. I picked up a hobby before I started grad school, and though I vowed never to use it for evil, I decided getting publications from my postdoc was more important than being thwarted by the technician and my boss. I came one evening with my tools after the technician went home. As expected after years of practice, his cheap padlocks took me anywhere from 10 to 30 seconds to pick. I wasn't too surprised when I found three giant boxes of electric tape. I was however, a bit surprised to find in the deuterated solvent drawer, about 200 ml of deuterated THF, about 50 ml of deuterated dioxane and hundreds of mils of all other solvents, including about a liter of deuterated pyridine. It was all covered by a thick layer of dust. Surprised, but not really shocked. As expected, since the technician was close to retirement and didn't pay attention to small details, he never did notice the 10 ml of deuterated THF that went missing (5% of the stash) as I needed that much in order to distill it and get the trace water out. It greatly accelerated my project and led to a publication. It turned out I didn't even need to replace the dust layer. I later found out that he though he only had two boxes (and not 10 like in reality) of THF-d8 since it lay in the 'deep storage' part of the locked drawers where he never looked and he just forgot about it.

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38. MoMo on March 8, 2013 11:16 AM writes...

Yeah, your probably right Anon. You'd open up a storm of hell as even thieves and criminals have rights and we Americans at their mercy so use something else.

Cherry Kool-Aid will work just as well!

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39. Bart on March 8, 2013 12:04 PM writes...

To keep my set of Pipetmen from diappearing I used to label them with "BROKEN".

Keeping others out of you RNAse-free 70% EtOH would require labeling it as RNAse-Free 70% H2O. Works every time especially with non-native English speaking co-workers.

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40. Gregg on March 8, 2013 12:26 PM writes...

But Derek, don't forget the other side of the coin. I have ran into a far too many stingy people who hoard bottles of reagents barely used and seldom touched lab equipment who do something like 1 reaction a week. Then you touch their stuff without asking and they get so ruffled up about as if that is really the problem. Especially in grad school, life is so frantic and resources are so scarce that there is no need to be like that. And in the end most of the stuff really belongs to the PI. And then there is the voodoo magic of "he used it but now its contaminated with x, y or z" which can be a real problem. But lab life is ripe with "contamiphobes" whose own technique is all that can be trusted. So I guess I'm bitter, but the other way.

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41. Anonymous on March 9, 2013 12:25 AM writes...

I didn't see much stealing, but my postdoctoral advisor was famously frugal and doled out some gear when you joined the group. Everyone got 1 flea bar, 1/2 of a salt plate for IR (he cut them in half himself); post docs got 5 NMR tubes, grad students got 2. I solved the stir bar shortage in my lab the first week by fishing in drains with a magnetic retriever. A couple weeks later, I realized that the stock room carried all that stuff, and he really didn't check orders. I don't think he ever told us not to buy anything, either, just the way he handed the stuff out seemed to strongly imply that you shouldn't, and everyone thought it was the rule. I don't think most of the group ever figured that out.

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42. Secondaire on March 9, 2013 1:29 AM writes...

Current group has a sort of honor system where people borrow things and then order/make more if they use the last of something. Fortunately we're gazillionaires anyway so it's not a big issue. They're also pretty good about asking to use/informing of use post-facto. Glassware/equipment theft isn't too common. "I borrowed your X and accidentally busted it" is more common.

My grad school group was another story - we had one guy who loved to show up at noon and work late. He'd sneak around at 2AM and make off with peoples' chemicals. The guy who worked next to me got his expensive palladium catalysts jacked one night and there was a LOT of bad blood as a result.

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43. Secondaire on March 9, 2013 1:44 AM writes...

Oh, and reading the stories about NMR tubes made me remember bad NMR queue behavior. 3x/day our NMR queue gets cleared and the samples from the queue put into racks on the bench. I set up some overnight experiments and went down the next morning to retrieve the samples and someone had stolen them from the rack! It happened three times that week! $@%#!

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44. newnickname on March 11, 2013 1:06 AM writes...

As an innocent first year, I noticed a senior grad student had a Christmas tree of solvent bombs labeled with girls' names (Mary, Susan, etc.). When I asked what's up he explained that he was tired of having others take and contaminate his dry solvents so he used a secret code (Mary = THF, etc.). I thought he was nuts. Over the years, I learned that it was an almost necessary form of self defense in some labs. I have been fortunate to have worked in rich labs (buy anything you need, no matter what), and those were, by far, the MOST productive labs, but also more desperate labs (hope you can find what you need or sometimes even buy it yourself).

When I moved on from one position to another local position, I was working in one lab during the day but return to the 'old' lab to work on other projects at night. I couldn't believe the damage that unsupervised 1st, 2nd and 3rd years could wreak. Instead of taking or just using one complete apparatus, they would pilfer parts leaving behind damaged useless bits and pieces. They KNEW that they could ask me and I'd show them how stuff works but about all they knew on their own was "flask", "stir", "extract". And work into the evening so I could help them when I was there? Pffft. They might miss Wheel of Fortune or Survivor or whatever was popular back then.

The NMR tube stories remind me of the QUARTZ NMR tubes I kept separate in labled boxes: "QUARTZ. NOT FOR ROUTINE USE." We had plenty of regular tubes (mostly 528PPs) but someone (forever unknown), too lazy to clean or buy more 528s from the stockroom, took the quartz tubes. Since the quartz tubes were unmarked / unetched, they soon got totally lost in the jumble of tubes in the lab and were never found again.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg ...

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45. Anonymous on March 11, 2013 6:02 AM writes...

When I started my PhD, I worked next to someone who continuously borrowed my glassware and chemicals (we worked on similar chemistry) and I never minded because I always knew if I couldn't find it, that person would have it. Once I came back from lunch to find two of their reactions in my fumehood, as they had run out of space in theirs, and we had a laugh about it and discussed the chemistry.

During that person's write up they unexpectedly came in the lab, put on a few reactions, and as someone had taken over their bench they borrowed my glassware and used up chemicals I had bought in especially for scale up. I was quite annoyed when I suddenly couldn't put my next reaction on and work up my current one!

Reflecting on this, I think that most people don't mind sharing so long as they know where a thing has gone and get it back after, and always check before using all of a chemical someone else has bought. I dealt with the situation by doing a different reaction that day- figuring the stress of writing up was probably greater than my chemicals being pinched.

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46. Derek Lowe on March 11, 2013 6:52 AM writes...

#44, I've faced a similar (though less nasty) problem to your quartz NMR tube one. And I used a quick-and-dirty technique to track down the quartz: take the suspect pieces of glassware and lay them on top of a prep TLC plate, one that has the fluorescent silica additive. All the normal glass ones will cast purple shadows in UV light, but under the quartz, the plate will still fluoresce.

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47. Lyle Langley on March 11, 2013 7:34 AM writes...

To take a slightly different tone, there are also those individuals that use communal property (such as glass columns - back in the day when we used glass columns) and purposely never emptied their silica gel so that they would always have several columns at their personal disposal. As an individual that would arrive early - nothing more frustrating than going to find a column and they were all in hoods with nobody around just sitting there.

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48. Kent G. Budge on March 11, 2013 8:59 AM writes...

You'd think pilferage would be next to impossible, let alone desirable, where I work -- a computational physics group where everyone has their own high-end workstation computer. Whatcha gonna pilfer, white-out?

You would be wrong.

It hasn't happened recently, but there were days when I came in to work and found my computer surprisingly sluggish. Sure enough, someone was running a parallel job and they had put my workstation on their processor list. Meaning, basically, that they had come in over the network and seized my processor to help run some big multiprocessor calculation.

Oh, sure, I wasn't around and using my computer when they started their job, so no harm done, right? But try to get someone to shut down a big calculation that's already been going all weekend and needs "just a few more hours" to complete.

The pilferage, it's everywhere.

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49. anon on March 11, 2013 10:27 AM writes...

The pilferage, that made me insane during graduate school/postdoc, happened when I was scaling up reactions. One case that stands out in my memory was a large scale borane reduction for which I purchase a new 250mL bottle (with the intention of using all of it). I came in to set up my reaction and the bottle was missing...turned out a post-doc wanted "good/fresh" borane for his reaction so he used 50mL of my bottle instead of the group supply (or ordering his own).

I always figured that these people that steal reagents are both lazy and unable to plan their needs ahead of time (in big groups with plenty of funding). Of course, one cannot discount maliciousness.... but one must consider Hanlon's razor:

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

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50. anon on March 11, 2013 10:34 AM writes...

ack... posting "Timed out" and i tried to repost. I apologize for the spam posting.

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51. Canageek on March 11, 2013 10:57 PM writes...

A few years ago I worked as an undergraduate at a summer job at a certain university. While I was there the professor who ran the lab next door died very unexpectedly and tragically, right before I left. I'm now going to grad school at the same university, and they reactivated my old email. I found this sent to the entire department right after I left:

"Dear All,

While we are mourning the tragic loss of [Name removed] and preparing for her Celebration of Life, please be aware that [Name]'s equipment is off limits and nobody else, other than her students, should be allowed in her Lab.

Thank you for your understanding and cooperation."

Yeah, stealing her equipment while her grad students are still grieving, trying to figure out what will happen to them without a supervising prof, etc. What. The. Frack.

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52. ChristianPFC on March 15, 2013 4:25 AM writes...

When I did undergrad lab work in Germany, there were let's say 20 students in the lab, each had one dropping funnel (we had to sign for the glassware and were - in theory - charged for missing or broken stuff). One student breaks his dropping funnel. Now there are 20 students and 19 dropping funnels laying around in fume hoods, on benches, on the drying rack. This becomes "musical chairs". He who finishes last has no dropping funnel!

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53. fajensen on March 22, 2013 9:42 AM writes...

Ohh - Yes this happens in Industry!

Where I work, I can write some technical report and then by magick whole sections and conclusions from the drafts emerge in "feasibility" studies written by consluttants^3* paid SEK 1900/h!

*) First consultant cannot do job, It hires another boob, who then hires a third, e.t.c. recursively. At the end of the chain is probably a single guy in China or India is copy-pasting from stuff the PLA ripped off our "secure" server for USD 19,99 hour.

I stopped caring a while ago. Sometimes I even make mistakes.

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54. 0rganiker on April 18, 2013 11:07 PM writes...

When first starting at my current institution I brought with me some Quark glassware, which I knew no one else in the department had. Since then I've watched it drift here and there. Every couple months I'll collect it back into my drawer.

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55. Jaymie Joma on June 20, 2013 9:00 AM writes...

not when they seriously dont treatment about our survival which they dont it could be bullshit but when it does come about it could possibly be somthing like this . NO warning in any respect, thats why many of the big governments of your world have already been making underground bunkers which probably want do the job in any case

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56. Frank on April 28, 2015 8:17 AM writes...

I didn't escape by only doing chemistry to high school. Still sore over the sabotage of the most tedious reactions in my A-level coursework.

It was a timed 'clock' reaction, and with the bottom concentrations that would take over half an hour, guaranteed, I set three reactions running and b*ggered off for a bite of lunch.

Hanlon's razor won't cut it. I had a table to myself and had made sure it was immaculately neat - three beakers on white tiles, a running stopwatch placed carefully next to each such that no monkey could doubt the association of stopwatches to reactions, my notepad and pen, and nothing else for my setup to get confused with. More than half the class were doing the exact same reaction and the rest would at least recognise the setup and didn't need stopwatches anyway. The endpoint is a colour change and there was still obvious colour left in the beakers when I got back: I hadn't cut it fine enough that the reactions could have been mistaken for finished.

My stopwatches: nowhere to be seen. Never found the culprit or worked out if it was a practical joke, cold-hearted pilferage, or even our teacher disapproving of my reactions being left unsupervised.

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