Chem Coach Carnival

So, I’ve always fancied sharing and discussing my views with the world, and this Chem Coach Carnival over at Just Like Cooking has given me that extra push to give it a go.
Here goes…

Your current job.

Currently halfway through a PhD in organic chemistry at a UK university.

What you do in a standard “work day.”

I synthesise organic materials, a few transition metal complexes and browse the literature. I supervise research students (MChem/MSc) and demonstrate practical skills to undergraduates in a more formal teaching environment. I also help organise seminars and problem sessions within my research group. In short, I read, practise, and teach chemistry.

What kind of schooling / training / experience helped you get there?

I hold an MChem degree from the same institution at which I am now studying for a PhD.

How does chemistry inform your work?

Having an understanding of the way molecules behave helps me plan syntheses, and more importantly, help me find a way out when I’m stuck.

Finally, a unique, interesting, or funny anecdote about your career…

Short though it is, one or two things have happened. The best story would be during my undergraduate, I did a reduction with DIBAL, quenched the reaction, filtered and threw away the moist residue into the aluminium residues. Unbeknown to me, a PhD student had recently had a fire with LithAl, and got a little nervous and threw away the rest of it without destroying it. There was at first, just a spark, we moved it away from the waste solvent (just in case!) and kept an eye on it – why would we think there would be live LithAl in there? 10 or so minutes later, we’re all passing round the waste container, commenting on the heat being produced. We put it down, and carry on, then… WOOSH! Huge fireball inside the fumehood. Building evacuated.

In hindsight we could have dealt with it better, but we really didn’t know why it was getting warm, and the student who threw away live LithAl didn’t say anything, even though they were present.

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