Contributed by Correspondent Matthew Hall (@cispt2)
Iowa City, IA
A scuffle broke out in an organic chemistry department last week resulting in a graduate student receiving a black eye. Tommy Schuetz, a fourth-year graduate student, had spent four fruitless years attempting to prepare a series of aromatic five-membered rings containing arsenic. Unfortunately for Tommy, this class of molecules are known as "arsoles" (similar to pyrroles).
Following synthesis and work-up, it is reported that Schuetz handed the sample to first-year graduate student John Madigan, to collect an NMR spectrum in order to characterize the compound. The spectrum was "perfection itself", indicating that Schuetz had finally succeeded, but on rushing into the lab to congratulate Shuetz, Madigan announced "look at this arsole!" Schuetz, whose back was to Madigan, turned and clobbered his junior colleague for his "outrageous insubordination."
Following a brief scuffle, Schuetz was made to realize his error. Madigan is reportedly in a delicate frame of mind, and has decided abandon his own project, searching for fused arsole systems, termed "huge arsoles." "I actually wanted to study biochemistry" said Madigan, "but after the whole debacle with whether or not arsenic is actually incorporated into bacteria, I just figured I'd stick with chemistry."
The department itself has been aroused by the affair, and it is said that this is the most scandalous event to occur there since the notorious nude calendar produced after the annual Chemistry dinner in 1996. "I'm still trying to get over what I saw that night," stated an anonymous faculty member. Schuetz has not formally apologized for his part in the fracas.
A physical chemist, speaking on condition of anonymity, described the atmosphere in the organic labs as "toxic." "It's not organic chemistry anyway," stated Mary Waller, an inorganic chemist from one floor down. "Those hypocrites whack arsenic into their molecule – at that point it's inorganic as far as I'm concerned. They should stick to their own kind. Then this sort of trouble wouldn't take place." Waller then excused himself to get back to the synthesis of a new ligand.