Articles by: noel

Gaint Machine Creates Science: The Onion on LHC

In case you are still wondering what exactly the LHC does and why it’s important, this infographics from America’s Finest News Source sums it up pretty nicely:

While you marvel at the beautiful illustrations, I will duck back to my cave and try to finish my last (and very very painful) semester of coursework. Hope everyone had a great time at ACS! The weather here in the midwest is so good that it almost feels like San Francisco.



By March 31, 2010 4 comments Uncategorized

One semester down, 11(+/-3) to go…

On the day the first snow arrived this winter, I wiggled into a glove box for the first time since my sophomore year. I was 19 then and 22 now. I am 2300 miles from home in a very, very cold place where I pay my own rent and car insurance.

I will finally finish my first semester of grad school in a week. It’s weird to think that I had just driven cross country to this cluster of red brick buildings in the middle of a corn field not too long ago. Today I did my first synthesis in grad school, which earned today a blog post of its own.

Here are some of my random thoughts and lesson learned from my first couple of months of grad school:

  1. The midwest: I was and probably always will be a Cali girl. But so far, the lack of a coastline, mountains,  or any civilization beyond the city limit really haven’t bothered me yet. I love the humidity in the summer and watching the leaves turn color.
  2. Classes: This semester, I took advanced group theory and a matsci class. I find these interesting but not very difficult (probably true: MS = More of the Same). Taking graduate-level courses in my senior year definitely helped. I probably didn’t spend nearly as much time on these as…
  3. Teaching! I teach an honors genchem course. I love my students (all 80 of them!… ok, most of them)  and it’s a ton of fun to teach. I like that I can be a teacher and a mentor, since most of them aspire to do something relating to chemistry. I also learned that I should never have children of my own. Why bother when I can have college-aged ones that I can return to their respective parents when I get sick of them?
  4. Research: We spent a lot of our first semester getting tours and meetings to decide whose research group we will be married to for the foreseeable future. I haven’t gotten to do a lot of work in lab yet, but so far I think what I saw in undergrad and a little bit of the post-bac life about grad school is rather accurate.
  5. Stipend: If I haven’t griped to you about this already, here it is– many of you know that I took a pretty significant pay cut (I get paid about 2/3 less now than my previous job) to go to grad school. The thing about not living in California though… I live very comfortably on my paycheck. If anyone is thinking about grad school, that should be a major consideration to make (cost of living vs stipend).

Take home lesson to those of you who are thinking about graduate school: observe grad students and ask questions. Do the math on your budget. There is more to it than the ranking. After all, you are putting 6 years of your early 20s on the table, wouldn’t you expect a little more from yourself in return?

Happy first synthesis day to myself. A glass of Livermore Valley merlot for the many more reactions to come and fires to put out.


By December 7, 2009 3 comments Uncategorized

On the subject of safety goggles


As azmanam pointed out, Chemjobber’s post about Lab Essentials made it onto the most recent issue of Nature Chemistry–hooray! Well, kind of. One of my comments about comfy eyewears somehow got a mention as well. Now, I didn’t imagine my debut in the Nature publications quite this way. But if I have to be known as the Asian girl with the flat nose, I might as well use this chance to elaborate on the cause that is dear to my heart.

I’ve worn glasses for as long as I could remembered, but my journey to finding a pair to wear in lab has been a rocky one. I must not be alone in this: it’s so hard to find a pair of safety glasses that fits well! My problems are:

  1. The plastic part that is supposed to sit on the bridge of my nose isn’t really long enough to touch it; instead, the goggles sit suspended above my face. I have a flat nose; I’ve learned there are more important things in life to be upset about.
  2. Since the goggles can’t sit on my nose, the bottom edge of the lenses digs into my cheeks for support. I get the most awful imprint on my face and it starts to hurt after a couple hours
  3. Because they are ill-fitted, they fall off all the time when I’m in the middle of doing something

Do I get your attention now, PPE manufacturer? (hint)

When I first started taking chemistry as an undergrad, I was told to fish out a pair of safety goggles from the big box my TA provided. Over the next few years, I had tried on my fair share of safety goggles. Some of them were rocking the retro vibe like this, some others were the more simple style like this, and the others were the nice adjustable length like the one shown above.

The variety was nice. But I never liked any of them. I hated wearing safety goggles/glasses because none of them actually fits me. I don’t know how long it would take PPE companies to figure out that chemistry students with flat nose everywhere (including, but not exclusively, the Asian kids) are resenting wearing goggles!

I think we can agree that safety goggles are among the most important part of personal protection equipments. It’s a must for novice and experienced chemists alike. I would think that fit and comfort are significant factors in designing these because of their proximity to your face. As an undergrad, I didn’t have much of a choice of the types of goggles I could wear, so I just went with whatever that was provided to me. Let me assure you the fun of my chemistry experience was greatly diminished because of the discomfort of wearing one of these.

We’ve always had problems with freshmen (even older students) not wearing their goggles in teaching lab. Aside from laziness and carelessness, I think a big factor of it is comfort. We can promote better safety habit simply by showing students that in the same way we select glove sizes that fit us, it is possible and important to do the same for safety goggles.

And really, we have nitiles gloves in 5 sizes and like 20 different colors; I think it’s possible to add supportive nosepiece to safety goggles.


Note: I currently use a pair of AOS goggles with rubber nosepiece that I am reasonably happy with. It still falls my cheeks sometimes (as the rubber nosepiece is still quite shallow) but is a significant improvement from previous experience.

Note #2:  Nature Chemistry–if you need guest writers, you know where to find me. 😛

By November 10, 2009 27 comments opinion

Hot dogs and group meeting

We had our group meeting an hour early today to accommodate a make-up lecture my prof/boss wanted to do before he leaves on a business trip. Instead of doing the reasonable thing and get dinner before group meeting (@5:30 PM), he reviewed his lecture notes instead.

In the middle of group meeting, his wife (also the NMR director) cracked the conference room door open, threw two hot dogs wrapped in foil at him, and left. It made my day.

Hi people! I’m almost done with my first semester of grad school. I’m still alive… kind of. Is there anything that you wish someone had told you during your first year? I’d love to hear it. 🙂


By November 9, 2009 0 comments Uncategorized