Articles by: noel

Mitch on TV on the internetz

Sorry to cut you short, Maz, but I have to make this post. Mitch’s TV interview (you know, the one about spreading some chemical love to the youth) is finally available online! You can find the video clip on this page, as of today it is on the top of the page.

Alright people. Watch and discuss!


By June 24, 2008 3 comments Uncategorized

Prepare for the big day: enviromental inspection in lab!

“The real reason that I need a laptop is so that I can take my ES&H trainings at a location where booze is allowed.” – wisdom from a colleague

For some reason, Berkeley is one of the two UC’s on a semester system (the other one is Merced). Because we suffer extra long academic terms, we also get out of summer early. As everyone else struggles to finish all the finals, this is my third week interning with a synthetic group. Tomorrow is somewhat a big day. It’s auditing day. I want to pose this question to y’all experienced lab-goers: what’s with the unspeakable fear with the EHS people?

Yesterday, I returned to the lab after some fun with Raman. I was greeted by several unfamiliar faces, poking their heads into the cabinet, drawers, refrigerators and scanning every bar code they could find (to this moment I still don’t understand–all the chemicals are properly labeled and cataloged!). A colleague explained to me that the lab is getting audited by the corporate people on Wednesday. Then asked me to hold on to the trash can while he pull the extra-large hefty bag out and stick a waste tag on it.

As a former clean room and currently managed by fun, friendly, energetic PhDs who are slightly OCD about cleaning, I really think the excessive cleaning is quite an overkill. What was originally a clean and organized lab now looks spotless and eerily uninhabited. Everything is perfectly placed. Every bottle has the label facing forward. Every glassware is washed (by me) and sorted. The fume hood is now completely vacant. This place looks like some kind of model lab you can build in a conference exposition for people to visit.

Why does this happen every time the authority needs to inspect our workspace? Why is it necessary to pause and put away your active work because someone is coming in to see if you are following all the safety and environmental protocols? It’s not only natural, but necessary that there are reaction running, vacuum pumping, dirty dishes waiting to be washed, spatula and wash bottles left on the bench because YOU ARE DOING YOUR JOB!

Since we finished cleaning yesterday, I went through the whole day today, working 3 projects simultaneously without disturbing the perfect details of the lab. I’m not sure if this whole deal is something EHS mandates, or it’s just a thing that we as scientists do because we are embarrassed by the mess–like how I make effort to clean my room before my parents visit (kind of). Either way, I guess it’s not enough to just abide to the rules on a daily basis and exercise the common sense of a good chemist, but some last minute cramming is also required.


P.S. I was unsuccessful in scanning bar codes for bottle disposal–it turned out that they don’t like to be bent when you scan them. I guess retail isn’t my calling, after all. 🙂

By June 10, 2008 3 comments Uncategorized

Mitch on TV (again!)

As mentioned in the previous entry, Mitch was recently featured on TV for his contribution to research, awareness and chemical education. Because of his awesomeness (and the nature of network TV), American Latino TV plans to rerun the interview this weekend! Woot! Again, for local listing, check out this page.

When this was first aired, we had a pizza party at Mitch’s place with a bunch of friends. There was never a dull moment in the short but entertaining segment. Let me assure you that this is totally worth watching. This is such an embarrassment for Mitch, complete with goggles, lab coat, baby pictures, and obviously his awesome undergraduate minions. But obviously, it’s the baby pictures that made it all worthwhile.

Hopefully the clip will be available online soon for our friends and readers worldwide. 🙂


By June 5, 2008 2 comments science news

Scientists Killed or Injured by Their Experiments

Here is another find on Reddit. This is obviously an incomplete list but definitely a good read.

Top 10 Scientists Killed or Injured by Their Experiments

As a nuclear chemist in training, I was obviously biased and went straight to look for Madame Curie. Lo and behold, she was number two on the list (boo)!

Here’s a personal addition inspired by Mitch: Antoine Lavoisier

Not quite the most scientific experiment, but a captivating story. A version was found on Ingenious Ireland: “During the French Revolution Lavoisier, who was also a tax collector, was branded a traitor and tried, sentenced and guillotined, all in one day. One story relates that Lavoisier’s final experiment was to see if a severed head remained conscious after death. He told his assistant that he would continue to blink for as long as possible after he was decapitated; the assistant apparently counted some 15 blinks.”

It’s very likely to be a myth, but the idea of it is still fascinating.

Does anyone have a sacrifice for science story?


By June 4, 2008 7 comments Uncategorized