C&EN Onion European Chemical Sciences Correspondent Fluorogrol Reports
Exchange student Michel Fontaine's report on his summer's work at the University of Oxford, which included an acknowledgement of "Automatic Reply: Prof. C. Newman, for his constant encouragement and helpful suggestions," has left his former labmates scratching their heads.
"We can't work out if it's a joke or not," explained third-year graduate student Graham Lewis, who supervised the French chemist. "We've spent the whole summer trying to distinguish deadpan humour from genuine language difficulties. I don't know if there's a French word for impenetrable, but if there is, that's him all over." According to Lewis, Fontaine's research interests include quantum dots, carbon nanomaterials, and hand-rolled cigarettes.
Despite the promptings of postdoctoral researcher Bruce Gilbert, Prof. Newman seemed confused about the summer student's identity. "Michel? Of course I remember her. Three months' worth of free labour seems like a good deal, but then they send you a stocky French girl with a moustache," he blustered, as Gilbert stared at the floor and shuffled uncomfortably.
C&EN Onion attempted to contact Fontaine for his side of the story, but he proved as transient as one of his trademark enigmatic shrugs.