20 November, 2012

Friend. Slave. Industrious.

Richard Friend
Sir Richard Friend
Professor Sir Richard Friend
(building a name for yourself)

As this 'blog is also a diary of my exciting life, I would like to tell you about a lecture I attended this evening. Professor Sir Richard Friend was speaking in the Department of Pharmacology on Tennis Court Road, Cambridge. The title of his lecture was, "Plastic Electronics", and was organised by the CUSS (Cambridge University Science Society) He has set up several companies over the years, and gave a general overview of the topics of Oled's, transistors and solar cells.

At one point he gave the opinion that some working in academia or looking to do a PhD would not choose to work with companies in this area (including companies he founded) because it was "slave labour"! Also, it was "cheap industrial research" and not "fundamental research". I think his point was these companies are just building on his original research, improving lifetime, efficiency, colours, process-ability and the like, rather than exploring totally new areas of SCIENCE.

There was both chemistry and physics terms in his talk and sometimes it got a bit confusing.

 Just realised he looks a bit like the former French president, Nicholas Sarkozy. Lol.

09 November, 2012

Fire safety. Labcoats. Link to ChemBark.

I attended a fire safety training course today with some of my colleagues and some Department of Chemistry PhD people. We got to play around with all the different types of fire extinguishers and put out Pet. ether fires and acetone fires. We also used fire blanket to put out a fire in a barrel. The grand finalé was a demonstration of a fire that could happen in the lab. Beakers of solvents were set on fire and then knocked over (with the handle of a broom), leaving a bench in flames and a pool of fire on the floor. Volunteers from the audience (not me, my scales are far too delicate) then attacked the inferno with various extinguishers (a large foam extinguisher worked best, moving from the floor fire, to the bench).

That's a lot of fire extinguishers...

One thing that caught my attention though, was the lab coats that were there. One was hanging up and one was lying flat on the bench (to demonstrate that one should drop and roll when one is on fire in a lab coat). But also, one was made from polyester, whereas one was 100% cotton (to be a proper scientific experiment they should have had a) one cotton lying down, b) one cotton hanging up, c) one polyester lying down, d)one polyester hanging up) I digress. Obviously the synthetic material burned faster and became brittle and charred, whereas the cotton turned black, but was still pliant and identifiable as a fabric. When I got back to my lab afterwards I checked my labcoat. 65%polyester blend. Oh F* I'm Going To Die In A Horrible Fire. Even worse, I'll be wearing polyester blend when I do it.

This evening at home I used a popular search engine to find out more, and ChemBark wrote an excellent post on this subject two years ago (soon after the Sheri Sangji case). I strongly encourage you to read it (go! now. Use the link there in the first sentence. I'll wait here. If you've reached this far, you clearly have an interest in lab safety. Go on.) He was discussing what to look for when buying a labcoat. Where I work, I am provided with a labcoat the same as everybody else's. After reading ChemBark's post I'm nervous about not having a better lab coat. Where I work we can pick out our own safety shoes and lab goggles and there's different types of gloves for everyone, but everyone gets the same labcoat (in various sizes). Anybody have any further thoughts on this (a lot of good ideas in the Comments in that ChemBark post)? Has anybody pushed this issue at their place of work and how did you go about it?


08 November, 2012

Real chemistry. Time.

"Quantity not quality. (We'll see how long this lasts, but everyone knows the most annoying type of blog is one not regularly updated)"
Post 1 MarvinTheFish blog
Yeah so that didn't happen! Let's move on and not learn from it and be embarrassed about it again in a few months' time.

Here we are in November and yesterday was #RealTimeChem day. I had a lot of fun following this hashtag on twitter, as well as showing people some of what I do during the week (don't do labwork on weekends these days). You can see what I was up to on my twitter. I made quite a few new "twitter friends" like @AzaPrins @Doctor_Galactic, @JessTheChemist and of course @RealTimeChem, among others. @ChemistryWorld quoted one of my tweets on their blog. It was the first time I felt the full power of this twitter-malarky, getting retweets, and people favouring my pictures. Also, some of my original followers and real-life friends got involved, responding enthusiastically to the #realtimechem event! I'll allow @Doctor_Galactic to explain the origins of the event. I recommend you go read his blog if you're interested :http://doctorgalacticandthelabcoatcowboy.wordpress.com/

Who invented #RealTimeChem?
Certainly not me. However, I have been participating for a while on an off in doing some #RealTimeChem tweets. I believe that the inventor was @azmanam who was trying to determine what was in Lemishine and happened to tweet his results using, and @JessTheChemist produced a storify page to follow all the RealTimeChem that happened. Since then it has caught on a many others have joined in to tweet their chemical reactions in real time using the same hash tag.

I was slightly concerned with IP issues, tweeting my actions live during the day and the (remote) possibility of being retweeted around the world. Even tweeting at work is frowned upon, with work WiFi not allowing it, and twitter.com blocked on PCs. When my phone told me that I had been quoted in a CW blog post, I imagined my colleagues reading it and pointing out obvious IP issues that I hadn't seen! It worked out fine though and I think the images and words I posted were fairly generic, and not something I wouldn't tell strangers anyway. Again, @Doctor_Galactic :

What do I have to do to join in? What should I tweet?
To join in you simply have to tweet about your day in your particular field of chemistry using the hashtag #RealTimeChem to show that it is part of the event.
Incidentally, pictures of your day (such as great looking experiments) are most welcome. Obviously, only take pictures of things you are allowed to show, we understand some chemistry must be shrouded in secrecy.

Overall #realtimechem was fun, and valuable for connecting chemists around the world. It gave me the sense of belonging to a community. People doing similar things (and more interesting things!) to me, using the same equipment as me. Looking forward to next year.