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Aspiring Graduate Students: You have questions, FSU Graduate Recruiting & Admissions Committee has answers!

Last December, Mike Shatruk, chair of Florida State University’s chemistry graduate recruiting & admissions committee, hosted an AMA (ask me anything) on reddit.com/r/chemistry. The post generated considerable interest with 191 upvotes and 178 comments. The questions ranged from job prospects to metrics for grad school acceptance.

This year we have decided to give it another try and this time a little earlier in the application timeline. Mike will also be joined by me, Ken Hanson, one of the newest members of the graduate recruiting & admissions committee.

So if you have any questions about graduate school or the admissions process please swing by reddit.com/r/chemistry/ on Tuesday September 16th beginning at 10:00 am (EDT). If you’re unable to join us on Sept. 16th, please feel free to share your questions below and I will make sure they make it on the AMA.

 

Update: Here is a link to the AMA.

By September 9, 2014 2 comments Uncategorized

Recapping Mike Shatruk’s AMA

Mike Shatruk, chair of Florida State University’s chemistry graduate recruiting & admissions committee, hosted an AMA (ask me anything) on reddit.com/r/chemistry last week. Over a span of three days, he answered redditor’s questions about applying to graduate programs, factors in admission decisions, faculty advisor selection, and more. A recap of the AMA is shared below (Quick note: Some of the content has been edited for clarity and grammar/spelling).

Application Process

Can you give us a short summary of how FSU does its admissions process?

-Chemjobber

Mike: We ask students to submit their:

  • GRE scores
  • Unofficial undergraduate transcripts
  • CV
  • a personal statement
  • three recommendation letters
  • a ranked list of three programs of interest (choose from analytical, biochemistry, inorganic, materials, organic, physical)
  • a ranked list of three professors the student might be interested to work with

After the application deadline, the admissions committee divides students by research interests and 1-2 committee members review applications in each respective area and make admission decisions. Each student is admitted individually. It’s a lot of work, but we believe we should dedicate time to screening our applicants as well as we can.

Can you please briefly explain currently the best approach for overseas students to search for suitable positions. From memory, so please correct me if I am wrong… 1) pass GRE, 2) Identify desired Universities, and 3) submit application by Jan/Feb in order to start in August.

-ItsAllChemistry

Mike: Yes, you’ve got the right sequence in mind.

  • Pass GRE and make sure the scores satisfy the program-stipulated minima (we ask for at least 150 on verbal and 155 on quantitative parts of the test)
  • Get a copy of transcript from your undergraduate institution * Look through the list of US universities with PhD programs.
  • Write a 1-2 page personal statement as to why you would like to apply to a particular program, what prior research experience you’ve had if any, who of the professors you are thinking to work with (doesn’t have to be just one person), what your career goals are, etc.
  • Compose a brief CV to go along with your application
  • Get three people to agree to write your letters of recommendation
  • Submit the application package as described by the program. For FSU graduate program, you can check this link for international students.

When does your program typically send out acceptance letters/emails/notices? 

-Jeol

Mike: Usually we sent our acceptance letter from January 15 to February 15. We typically give you 1-2 months to report whether you’d like to attend our visitation weekend. IMPORTANTLY, following the Resolution by Council of Graduate Schools, no school can push you to accept their offer prior to April 15.

 

Application Materials

Grad schools generally ask for thing like GPA, letters of recommendation, research experience, and test scores. How much weight is applied to each one and/or which is most important?

-RBWoodward

Mike: To answer your first question, it depends on the particular school, but in principle, all the components of your application are important. I would say that most PhD program value some research experience. GRE scores are usually viewed as reflection of your intellectual ability, and your GPA indicates how well organized you were in your undergraduate courses and if you’ll be able to stay focused in your PhD pursuit. Finally, the letters of recommendation often help to improve the value of your application if your referees have something really good to say about you. At FSU we consider each case individually and carefully. We also know that sometimes a low GPA is not a real reflection of student’s ability, in which case we review the trends in your grades to see whether you’ve been improving toward the end of your undergraduate education.

How does a minor in a related field factor into your decision (I’m MSE but have a chemistry minor)?

-danny31292

Mike: The major/minor relationship really depends on the school you’re applying to. For example, we have a very active and broad materials chemistry program, so having an MSE student with a minor in chemistry will be viewed positively.

What little unknown things can we do to help us get into our first choice grad school? 

-RBWoodward

Mike: Make sure that your scores and grades are above the minimum requirements that the school stipulates. It would be better if they not just above the bar, i.e. if the requirement is 3.2 GPA, then it will be better to have 3.4 and higher. Also, work carefully on your personal statement and make sure your application is complete and submitted on time.

Ken: One trick for getting into the school of your choice is to try and do summer research at the university before applying (sophomore or junior year). You can do this through either an REU program or simply contact a professor directly to see if they are taking summer research students. If you work hard and show that you are competent it is the best summer long interview you could possibly give. If the rest of your application package meets the minimum requirements, the advisor would be hard pressed to say no to a competent student joining the program.

I’m a UK undergraduate, currently applying to Master’s programmes in Europe. I was wondering if the Master’s is really worth it if I apply for a PhD in the US. Would I effectively do another Master’s as part of that, or could I sort of skip ahead?

-Kalivh

Mike: We actually like international students with Master’s degrees, because they come somewhat more prepared for PhD program. Yes, you’ll be taking some coursework again, but you will be likely to go through it faster. You also will have a faster start-up period in the lab, if you’ve done research as part of your M.S. degree. The research experience in the UK is just as valid as that in the US. Basically, we just would like to see that you’ve been in the lab and experienced some research environment, so it’s easier for you to get started. We also need to see that you are interested in research, because that’s what the PhD degree is all about.

Does having a B.A. vs a B.S. make any difference in getting accepted?            

-altqq

Mike: B.S. is preferable, but it also depends on what courses you have on your transcript. If you took a lot of science courses and have good grades in them, then you have good chances.

 [I was doing well and then my grades plummeted.] What advice can you give me if I am sure I want to pursue a graduate degree?

-Thrownawaymyacademic

Mike: You’re in a tough spot. One of your options might be to seek a summer research opportunity in some school to which you’d like to apply. You could just apply to some lab as a volunteer giving the argument you’ve just presented above. If you’re lucky, you’ll get your chance. And if you prove yourself to be much better than what you grades tell, then maybe the professor you have worked for will vouch for you as an exceptional case.

 

Admission Decision

Is there anything you frequently see in an application that make you dismiss an otherwise likely candidate (something they write in the statement of purpose, ect)?

-Joje0904

Mike: Regarding your question about obvious flaws in the application, those would be (1) missing the deadline. It shows that you’re not very well organized and serious about the process; (2) something negative your referees have to say about you – and I mean negative, not just critical (some criticism never hurts); (3) deteriorating grades toward the end of undergraduate school – they indicate that you are currently academically weaker than in the beginning of your studies, that you don’t do very well in senior-level courses, and that you’re likely to fail in graduate-level courses for those two reasons.

How much importance do you place on an applicant’s undergraduate school?

-velvetjaguar

Undergraduate schools do matter, but if a student has good grades and test scores, as well as research experience, he or she has just as much chance to make it as a student from a higher-ranked school with lower grades. Again, each case is individual, but we tend not to discriminate applicants based on their undergraduate schools.

How screwed am I if I don’t have any research experience?

-Ben

Mike: It’s important, but not necessary. If your grades and GRE score and recommendation letters are strong, then you have a chance. We also offer an optional bridge summer research opportunity for students who have been admitted to our program, which in your case might be a good option. Again, without research experience all your other markers have to be pretty strong.

Could an excellent Chem GRE score (ie 95+ percentile) offset a mediocre GPA even if the Chem GRE was not required?

-Sophia7X

Mike: Perhaps, but I cannot answer that because we do not require Chem GRE. You’ll be better off asking the specific school directly.

How much do admission committees value the experience gained from professional employment?

-head-splitter

Mike: Your industry experience is likely to be viewed positively, as it suggests you might be more mature in your attitudes and seeking the graduate degree to better your professional opportunities.

 

Salary/Benefits

How much does FSU pay their students? Do they receive benefits?

-EagleFalconn

Mike: Our graduate stipend in 2014-15 will be $21,500 per year. Out of the fees you pay, about 50% comes back to you as a reimbursement later. The health insurance subsidy is $1,300.

PhDstudentslave: Looking at the FSU program they only pay their students $20,000, however they then charge their students about $1,000 in fees each semester, (Fall, Spring, and Summer) leaving them a mere $17,000 a year. I believe the only perk the students get is subsidized health insurance option (~$800 a semester).

Spookyjeff:  I’m a chemistry graduate student at FSU. I’d like to note that in the area you can live comfortably on the stipend without much effort

Ken: Cost of living is something to consider rather than just the dollar amount. Here is a simple cost of living calculator. For example $20,000 in Tallahassee is equivalent to $21,500 in Chapel Hill or $26,000 in LA or $32,500 in San Francisco.

How soon is funding discussed in your program? Is it detailed along with acceptance?

-Jeol

Mike: Funding situation depends on the specific school. At FSU Chemistry and Biochemistry, we guarantee funding to all admitted PhD students at least for the first 5 years, which we believe is sufficient for graduation.

Choosing a Research Group/Advisor

Is it rude for me to bother an adviser’s other students to get a feel for how they treat their students?

-Joel

Ken: you should definitely talk to the adviser’s current grad students before joining a group. The adviser can easily put on a facade when you meet and greet but hopefully their students will give you real insight into the group/research/adviser. If the students don’t want to talk to you that is probably a red flag about the group dynamic and social environment. Remember that you will spend the next 4-7 years with these coworkers. You want and will need people that are willing to go out of their way to help you. Asking questions before you join is a good way to test the water.

hstlives: My former advisor would encourage prospective students to meet with his current students. When you speak to a professor about joining his/her group, bring up the topic of meeting their students and see if they help you out with the initial meeting.

Mike: You most definitely want to talk to students from the groups you’re interested in. A rare advisor will tell his or her students not to indulge you into learning about their experiences in graduate school. It is very important that you join a group whose research is truly interesting to you and where you can see yourself fitting well not only intellectually but also socially.

What’s the best way to go about contacting a research advisor about joining their group?

-velvetjaguar

Mike: If you are interested in research done by a particular faculty member, I suggest e-mailing them directly. They usually will reply promptly to your request.

Why is it so important to find a good advisor?

-SafeInTheArdennes

Mike: It’s probably the most important choice you’ll make in graduate school. You’ll have to work with that person and his or her research group for 5 years, on average, and to be successful, to build a strong resume, you need to be comfortable in your work place, get good and thoughtful advices, expand your knowledge and skills, and know that if you do all that your advisor will support you in all future endeavors with strong recommendation letters.

What advice do you have for applicants as far as selecting an advisor?

-THEchemgirl

Mike: You certainly need to look at possible advisors before applying, because you don’t want to apply to a school, get in, and then find that nobody does any research that interests you. When you attend our visitation weekends, which serve as preview of the program for admitted students, you’ll have a chance to speak to 5-6 faculty members. Once you start in the program, you’ll be able to listen to brief presentations in which faculty describe their research projects. You will also be able to talk to many faculty and students before making your final choice. Most schools give you a few months from the start of the program to pick an advisor.

 

Other

Does FSU have a program for graduate students for teaching chemistry or chemical management?

-Thorisgodpoo

Mike: We attempt to educate our graduate students toward diverse career pathways, including research, industrial (management), or teaching careers. Two most important things you learn in graduate school are how to do independent research and how to teach others about chemistry. You’ll have a chance to TA in the lab or at recitation session. Usually students who are looking into teaching careers prefer to do recitation sessions, because those really let them experience how to explain concepts to students in classroom setting. Some of our senior graduate students who would like to apply for teaching jobs are even given a chance to lecture for undergraduates, and we are currently working on making such experience into a permanent program. That being said, having done a strong PhD will let you keep your options open to other career choices.

How likely are credits to transfer from undergrad to graduate school? I’m taking a few extra graduate level classes to supplement some of my learning and wondering if I should just audit it.

-lammnub

Mike:It depends what school you are attending (i.e. the school rankings and rigorousness of the coursework). We usually allow transfer of up to two courses, but typically that policy applies to students who have completed master’s coursework. Nevertheless, we will consider your request for the transfer of graduate courses if you’ve been admitted to our program.

How bad is it to do your undergraduate and PhD at the same university with the same professor?

-manar2710

Mike: In the United States it’s not very typical, but it does happen. In European and Asian countries, that’s a norm. Anyway, what you’ll be judge by in the first place is your productivity and the quality of your work (the number and impact of publications). But having the BS and PhD from the same place might be viewed just a tiny bit negatively when you apply for a faculty position. Nevertheless, a strong PhD and a productive postdoc experience (at a different place, I hope), will cancel out that very quickly.

I hesitate to use the terms “grade inflation/deflation”, but how does the choice of undergraduate university affect your perception of GPA?

-Paradigmist

Mike: We are aware of those issues, and we usually factor them into consideration, although it’s not easy when you get applicants from hundreds of different schools. So, our judgment is based on our previous experience with applicants from particular institutions.

 

By December 9, 2013 0 comments Uncategorized

Aspiring Graduate Students: You have questions, Mike Shatruk has answers!

Are you thinking about applying to a chemistry graduate program? Do you have a few questions first?

  • What is the application process?
  • What items do I need to gather in order to apply?
  • What is the most important part of my application package?
  • How soon will I hear back after applying?
  • What should I consider before accepting admission?
  • How do I choose an advisor?

Mike Shatruk is an associate professor of chemistry at Florida State University and chair of the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department’s graduate recruiting & admissions committee. He will host an AMA (ask me anything) on reddit.com/r/chemistry/ on Monday, December 2nd beginning at 10:00 am (EST).

If you have a question but won’t be able to post them on December 2nd, share it in the comments section below and I will make sure he gets it. I’ll also compile all of the questions and answers afterwards and post them on this blog.

Update: Here is the link to the AMA.

By December 1, 2013 5 comments Uncategorized

Lab Horror Stories

After Jyllian Kemsley’s story on the non-supervised cavalier graduate student and his missing fingers, members of the chemistry reddit shared their own harrowing experiences around the lab. I would suggest we all try to learn something from these stories, the most important lesson being always wear your safety glasses!

bri1232001:

I work in a chemistry lab and last week an intern was involved in an accident. The intern sealed a glass vial with water and dry ice inside. The vial exploded and glass shrapnel gave him multiple lacerations on his face and arms. He was taken to the emergency room where he received stitches. His safety glasses had some extensive chips removed from them. He was very lucky to have had them on.

myarlak:

I saw someone get 2 large drops of sulfuric acid on their arm, and the acid ran down their arm about 4 in. they now sport scars that look like something with large fangs bit their arm and ripped… I personally have been sprayed in the face with phenyl Grignard, not horrible but burns when it gets on you, burns when you wash it off. I saw a gas tight syringe full of diethyl zinc lose it’s gas tightness, caused a small fire and that was it. I saw the results of someone leaving lithium open in a glove box… melted through one layer of steel and bowed the 2nd layer as it burned in nitrogen… that’s about it, mostly a bunch of close calls.

simplemathtome:

two postdocs were working in the glovebox next to me. They spilled some MeLi and were mopping it up with kimwipes. They knew it would be dangerous when they pulled it out of the antechamber, so they prepared an EtOH bath (which, to be fair would safely neutralize a small amount of MeLi, iPrOH would have been better). One postdoc opens the antechamber and, as quickly as possible, took the kimwipes out and dunked them in the EtOH bath, only problem was, the kimwipes burst into flames as soon as the kimwipes were exposed to air, setting the bath on fire. In the panic, one of the postdocs went to get MORE ETOH and poured it on the fire. The bath overflowed, she started yelling for liquid nitrogen, I got out of my box and started running towards the liquid nitrogen. The next thing I know, i hear screaming, the postdoc walks out of the lab (right under a safety shower, without pulling the water release) with her entire pantleg on fire. I cant find LN2 so I take off her labcoat and snuff out the fire on her leg. The other postdoc managed to put out the EtOH fire, but he didnt remember how he did it. They both went to the hospital, one of them stayed for 2 weeks. That was my first summer in a lab, right before sophomore year.

sprouts42:

Teaching a group of 13 year olds a few months ago showing them the decomposition of limestone and running the gas through limewater to show carbon dioxide. You have to get the limestone really hot in a boiling tube using the bunsen. After the practical was over I told the students to turn off the bunsen forgetting to tell them to remove the delivery tube from the limewater. Almost simultaneously the sound of limewater rushing up the delivery tube into the boiling tube and causing it to explode 15 times over. Screaming girls all over the place and glass showering everywhere. Another safety glasses save the day moment.

shyguysays:

When I was in organic lab, my TA closed my heating reaction flask a little too tightly. It blew up. I pulled three pieces of glass out of my forehead right above my right eyebrow. The stopper hit my partner in the head. We lived long enough for the department to let us graduate.
Yay for goggles!

theddman:

My lab neighbor (synthetic organic, read: the jocks of chemists) was running a huge silica column that burst all over him because his girlfriend was distracting him. He had to use the emergency shower!

Same lab neighbor blew up another column or something with concentrated TFA in it, he has a few cigarette-looking burns on his arms from it.

I personally was making some 10 M NaOH in a conical 50 mL tube (“Falcon” tube) early in my career. I added the pellets and the water, closed the screw cap tight and shook vigorously to dissolve it. Well, of course dissolving NaOH in water is highly exothermic. Yep, the entire thing blew the eff up and got NaOH all over me, my bench, and even the ceiling. Luckily I didn’t get burned anywhere important because I was wearing safety glasses.

I overfilled an ultra filtration device with very VERY expensive compound, lost half into the centrifuge rotor. Effing pipetted that shit out and HPLC purified it (shhh, don’t tell the boss!).

I could go on and on…labs are filled with dangerous things and overly curious hands.

thelt:

Last year in our lab we had a 4L waste jug of Piranha (3:1 conc. H2SO4:conc H2O2) solution explode, actually more like geyser, all over the lab. Thankfully no one happened to be in the lab otherwise they would have been fucked. Pretty much everything within about a 10 ft radius of where the jug was destroyed. The paint peeled off the walls and ceiling, lights had to be replaced everything. Hazmat team had to be called in to clean up the mess. For about the next week or so I couldn’t stand to be in the lab for more than about 20 minutes or so before my throat would start to burn.

Note: When storing waste piranha don’t cap the bottle.

smilingfreak:

Well, I’m a comp. chem, so there was that one time I spilled coffee on my lap. It was like, really, really hot.
Yeah.

Screw you all! I’m a real chemist! Honest!

erallured:

I worked in the stockroom in undergrad and was unsupervised a lot, especially in the summer. I was messing around and made some NI3. I knew it was really unstable when dry, so I took just a spatula tip of it out of the beaker and spread it on some filter paper. It couldn’t have been more than a milligram or two. I was working in a fume hood in an empty lab away from anyone else. I kept pressing on the thin streak of powder trying to set it off but it wasn’t going. I decided maybe I didn’t have enough/it was too spread out, so I was going to add some more. I used the spatula to move the paper slightly, and apparently it had dried and this small movement was enough to set it off.

¡BOOM!

I was instantly deafened and after a couple seconds had a loud ringing in my ears. A few seconds after that, a research student opened the doors and walked it. She said something to me, but I couldn’t hear so I just said “hi” and smiled, hoping she was just greeting me. She walked away with no indication she knew anything was up and gradually my hearing came back. I have no idea how she didn’t hear anything, she must have only been a few feet from the lab door when it happened. I was so shaken up, I dumped the rest (I had a good 5-6g of precipitate) into a waste jar and got out of there. All in all, not the worst, but for a few minutes, I thought I’d lost my hearing permanently.

DessicatedDogsDick:

A guy in my lab was cutting titanium sponge off an electrode (molten salt process) when it caught fire. There was probably around 2 kilos of the shit that went up in a very large, hot fire. He emptied two CO2 extinguishers onto it, which only made it worse. In desperation, he picks up the metal tray it’s sitting on (still burning) and bolts outside. The tray melted through just as he reached the door. The lab bench and stuff around were basically ruined from the heat.

zlukasze:

I was adding “dry” ether to stannic chloride, prepping to make tetrachlorobis(DMSO)tin(IV).S omeone had mislabeled the ether, and it apparently had a very high water content because the lab promptly filled with hydrogen chloride gas and shrapnel. The space abutted some department offices and they had to be evacuated.

Farrar:

There was a pretty bad one where someone had to go to hospital; they were pressing the bung onto a conical flask, when the glass smashed. Because of how they were holding it, a rather large piece sliced up their arm, slashing open their wrist and it required quite a few stitches.

There was also an incident where an evaportating dish exploded and it cut open atleast three students, but luckily those were only minor surface injuries.

Oh, and one where someone ate some copper sulphate and had to have their stomach pumped…but that’s more of a ‘don’t be so stupid’ rather than a horror story…

calladus:

In high school chemistry class, way back in ’81 or ’80. Due to budget problems, the chemistry teacher was let go and the job was given to the woman who usually taught English. Class was pretty boring – very few experiments, mostly reading and explanations of what “ought” to happen when this is mixed with that.

But there was one experiment with mercury that she wanted us to do. So she went into the chemical storage area, and came out with a container of mercury. It was a very heavy container – well over 20 pounds. She dropped it.

Mercury ran in little balls all around the classroom. To fix it, the teacher gave us all 5×9 index cards and had us scoop the mercury together to the middle of the classroom where she swept it all up with a broom and dustpan and returned it to the container.

When everything was “cleaned up”, we all continued with class. The container of mercury was put back into the chemical storage area. As far as I know, she never mentioned this to the principle, or anyone else..

barrysagittarius:

I worked two years in an Organic Lab and two years in a Chemical Physics laser lab. The worst two to strike me were: – In my organic lab I was putting glassware in some basebath and the flask dropped from my tongs. As it sunk, the air escaping splashed bath into my face. Some minor scars on my forehead and thank god for my safety glasses 😀 – In my laser lab, i passed through the beam path; a common practice since the laser is focused – usually – inside the reaction chamber. However this time, one of the beams was focused outside and I brought my hand through it. I still remember the SNAP sound and the burning feeling inside my hand. Much fun.

The worst things happened to others in my lab. I spent a summer making precursors for this very lengthy organometallic compound we were making. One of the reactions was to bromenate a compound and was HIGHLY reactive – I was adding the bromine solution dropwise while the target flask was at -5C and it still fizzled with each drop. Anywho, after the reaction, it had to be quenched and washed with ether. After I did this on a 100mL scale a couple times, the grad student I was working with decided to try and scale it up to 1L (…). I was out the day, but when I came in the hood was brown. And the floor, and the ceiling, and… and we had much less glass ware, including the entire glass vacuum line. Apparently he didn’t completely quench it, and with one shake in the separation flask (can’t remember the name, been a while) it exploded. Horrible chemical burns and stiches later… he was back at it a week later.

The second worst thing was my laser lab. Me and a grad student were building an electron gun from spare parts for an experiment. We had to hack together the power feed into the vacuum chamber, so it was just a flange with a bunch of copper leads. To power the gun, we used these flimsy connectors we had to clip on and off the leads (until we got the final connectors in). Oh and our Power Supply was 10kV floating (in a lucite box :D). Well, again, I was out sick, and my grad student got his thumb too close to one of the leads and WHAMMO! 10kV to the chest; blown across the room into a wall but otherwise okay.

relampaguear:

At first here, I must confess this happened to my lab partner and not myself. I work in an organic lab that does a lot of solid phase peptoid synthesis, and after the desired residue length is reached, we cleave the peptide from the resin using TFA. My lab partner was using a 10 mL syringe to measure the aliquot needed and pulled the stopped out all the way, splashing concentrated TFA all over her face and arms. Thankfully the only lasting casualties were her goggles and a gnarly scar above her eyebrow.
Go goggles go!

abyssuk:

I used to work for a major peptide synthesiser in the UK. The worst part of a peptide SSPS (solid state peptide synthesis) reaction is the cleaving of the peptide at the end from a silica bead basically. Most times this can be done with TFA but for some more difficult peptides you need to cleave with 99% HF gas cooled to a liquid with solid CO2 pellets in polypropylene flasks. All contained in specialist equipment from pressurised cylinder to flask in a fume hood. . I’ll stress now It wasn’t me who did this.. but once the poor soul who was doing the reaction couldn’t open the HF cylinders valve because it was rusty.. so hit it with a hammer!! The valve broke off and the HF gas started venting out to air very quickly. The whole building was evacuated very quickly and the fire brigade was called out, luckily nobody was hurt as the hood vented most of the gas out of the building. Afterwards once the fire brigade deemed it safe the damage to the fume hood and roof of the building looked like that scene in aliens.

pfschmit:

I was making a catylist using LiAlH4 and reacting it with a diglycol, not realizing a byproduct was H2O. I soon found out when the temperature went through the roof and a explosion followed. Fortunately, I had a blast shield in fromt of the flask. Nice fire though

palad:

In high school, our chem instructor warned us very clearly about the flammability of acetone. So naturally, my lab partner and I wanted to see if our teacher was correct. On the last day of a week-long lab, after everything had been cleaned up, we filled a small beaker with acetone and carefully placed it in one of the deep sinks. As I lowered the lit match toward the mouth of the beaker, I failed to notice the puddles of acetone spilled on the tabletop moments before by other students. One giant WHOOOSH later, and we had the attention of every student in the room, including those 30 feet away who claimed they felt a wall of heat blow past them. Fortunately, the acetone was the only thing flammable nearby, and it quickly burned itself out.

When I got home that afternoon and looked in the mirror, I started wondering why some of my hair had changed color. As I touched it and it flaked away into ashes, I realized just how close the flames had come.

merlin2112:

Around 12 years ago, I was given the task of preparing Azomethane. No, not Diazomethane, but Azomethane. This was to be used on the surface of Pyrite via FABMS. Anyway, the procedure called for: dimethyl hydrazine NaOH H2O Mercuric Oxide Following a reference (see Surface Science(279)79(1992)) the procedure is fairly straightforward; the problem lies when You have to evaluate the solid Azomethane to determine if any color is present.

After making ~25gm of Azomethane a normal procedure was called when I had to wipe off the frozen vacuum tube. POP! The tube exploded, giving Me lascerations to my hand, side of my face, and shattered my glasses, which gave Me a lascerated cornea!

Luckily all glass was removed and I was back in the lab after 7 days recovery making Azomethane again!

Mitch
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By September 6, 2010 12 comments chemical safety