Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Summer Student Thanks PI's Out-of-Office Message in Final Report

C&EN Onion European Chemical Sciences Correspondent Fluorogrol Reports

Oxford, UK

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.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Post-Doc Sells Soul For Tenure-Track Position

Westwood, CA

After six years of post doctoral research, UCLA chemist Jordan Watkins, PhD., has secured a tenure track assistant professorship position, sources within the university state, after reportedly agreeing to a Faustian bargain with The Prince of Darkness.  Daniel Stephenson, a graduate student and labmate of Dr. Watkins, indicated that the Dark Lord of the Abyss and Purveyor of Suffering was summoned to lab bench of the latter, shortly after coming to the realization that, at 34 years old, he "should be a professor or something, not stuck in this goddamned hell-hole."

In an interview with our staff, Watkins laid out the terms of the agreement between himself and Lucifer, the Unholy Abomination from Beyond.  "Well, I summoned him in the usual manner: pentagram drawings, candles, incantations, the blood of an undergraduate student, you know, typical stuff.  Pretty much, I get a tenure track position at UC Riverside in exchange for an eternity of suffering in a burning lake of sulfur."

When reached for comment, The Master of Demons indicated that Watkins had initially demanded placement at a top-five institution in exchange for the eternal torment of his immortal soul.  "He wanted me to put him at Harvard.  Harvard.  Come on, what does he think I am, a miracle worker?  Told him the best I could do was a middle tier UC.  He should be grateful, really, with that kind of publication record..."

Thursday, August 14, 2014

248th ACS National Meeting In Review

San Francisco, CA

The 248th national meeting of the American Chemical Society concludes today.  But, since no one sticks around for Thursday's sessions any way, our journalists have assembled the top news from the most important biannual meeting of the chemical sciences.  We are pleased to present the ACS National Meeting in review:

Researchers at ChemGlass discover elusive carbon-hydrogen double bond

Photo credit to @SeeArrOh

In a talk given to a roomful of eager chemists, Senior Methodology Development Scientist Matthew Allen at ChemGlass revealed a novel approach to synthesizing C=H compounds.

The ever-elusive moiety, dubbed a "protokene" by Allen, was reportedly synthesized from bivalent hydrogen, upending all of what was previously understood about molecular orbital theory.  After reporting on his group's findings, which included unequivocal evidence indicating C=H bond formation such as crystal structure, high-resolution mass-spectrometry, and COSY studies, Allen added, "...and I bet you didn't even realize we had a methodology development sector."

Pfizer CEO Ian Read and AstraZeneca's Pascal Soriot settle differences, make up on exposition floor

Tensions between the two megapharm firms ended abruptly Tuesday morning when Pfizer Chief Executive Ian Read apologized to AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot.  Sources indicated that at approximately 10:30 AM, Read entered the AstraZeneca booth, where Soriot was speaking to potential capital contributors.

"I thought something was about to go down," stated bystander Sarah Kessler, a third-year graduate student at UPenn.  Witnesses state that Read proceeded to issue a personal and sincere apology to Soriot, stating that he had been "a huge dick" about the attempted takeover of the Swedish-Anglo pharmaceutical firm.

"All that stuff I said about AstraZeneca's stock being over-valued, man, I didn't mean that.  You know that was all a show for the board."

Soriot, sensing an opportunity to make amends, reportedly replied, "Bro, you know we're still cool.  I shouldn't have hard balled you like that.  The whole press release thing, my bad.  Hug it out?"

The two then warmly embraced for what one anonymous bystander recalled was "an uncomfortably long time."

Second-year graduate student's mother only attendee at poster session

Sources confirmed Monday that the sole attendee of PhD. candidate Jonathan Byrnes' poster session was his 63 year old mother, Mariam Byrnes.  Jonathan, whose talk was titled "Novel Catalytic Methods for Aromatic C-H Oxidation" reportedly spoke at length about his research to an audience of one.  Instead of customarily waiting until the end of the presentation for comments and questions, Mrs. Byrnes interjected less than five minutes into the talk, to request that Jonathan "speak louder and enunciate," and "straighten [his] shoulders."

Upon completing his presentation, Jonathan beseechingly asked no one in particular if there were any questions or comments.  Witnesses claim his mother asked for verification about "what the red one represents" in reference to a x-ray crystallographic image on the poster.  She further commented that "all the hexagons are very nicely drawn," expressing pleasure that her son had "finally worked on [his] atrocious penmanship."

Three chemists hospitalized after actual bear mistaken for @ChemFreeBear at local brewery

Tuesday evening a "Tweet-Up" of chemists ended in abrupt tragedy when a large North American Brown Bear was mistaken for popular twitter personality @ChemFreeBear.  Several bloggers and chemists attending the 248th ACS meeting had met up for an evening of revelry at the Bay-area Thirsty Bear Brewery.  

Upon seeing the 712-pound, 8.5-foot brown bear approaching from the outside, patrons warmly welcomed the presumed entrance of the well-known blogger and anti-"chemophobia" advocate.  However, loud cheering soon became screams of horror, sources at the brewery reported, as large startled mammal began swatting over tables and roaring at customers.  "It was awful," stated brewmaster James Dillon, "broken glass everywhere..." his voice trailing off slightly, "and the screams...  their screams."

Sources report that Philadelphia-area chemist David Grager was trapped beneath a large banquet style table overturned by the bear while attempting to flee the chaos.  Boston-area graduate students Jennifer Kuzek and Melinda Chung suffered claw-induced lacerations.  All three were transported to the University of California San Francisco Medical Center for treatment, where they were treated for minor injuries.

This incident marks the third time chemists attending ACS meetings were attacked by wild animals, following @Chemjobber being mistaken for a particularly aggressive duck, and @SeeArrOh for a stray, rabid dog in 2011 and 2013, respectively.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Grad Student: NMR Tube Theft "Not a Big Deal"


Liverpool, UK

University of Liverpool student Kevin Kilpatrick remained sanguine today following the disappearance of his sample from the carousel of a communal NMR spectrometer. The second-year graduate student, working on polyketide synthesis in the Blackwell lab, believes an as-yet unidentified member of the department took the sample in order to reuse the tube, and fears the contents are already lost.

Speaking to C&EN Onion in a soft northwestern burr inflected with upbeat despair, Kilpatrick played down the incident: "It's not a big deal. OK, it's a pretty important intermediate, and 6 of my 17 milligrams were in that tube, but it's just one of those things." Bad fortune was also to blame for an earlier loss of valuable material. "I sneezed on the balance last week," he admitted.  "That did for half of the previous intermediate."

Despite the importance of the sample, the beleaguered grad student has taken no action to recover it. "Some people would have sent a screaming mad email to the entire department," he explained. "But I think the 'high importance' flag is best kept for life-or-death situations."

Kilpatrick confirmed that proton and carbon NMR spectra were acquired before the sample's removal, and revealed a contingency plan for the loss of material. "Whoever took it, they were good enough to leave me the printouts. Sure, I had planned to vac it down and send it for elemental analysis, but I can just make that up."

Prof. Blackwell could not be reached for comment.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Nation's Unemployed Chemistry Graduates Take Solace In July Job Numbers

Everywhere, USA

Unemployed chemistry graduates breathed a collective sigh of relief today as the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its July Employment Situation Summary.  Taylor Baker (22), currently working on a food truck, recently received her bachelors degree in chemistry from Northeastern University.  "I'm so glad that the employment situation is looking better!" exclaimed Baker, ecstatic that unemployment in the chemical sciences at the bachelor's level fell from 4.6% to 4.2% from June to July.

"Only half of my paycheck it going to paying off my student loans.  The other half's going to rent for my Allston apartment, but at least I got approved for a $5000 line of credit!" added Baker.

James Pierce, PhD. (29), similarly expressed overwhelming relief at the present state of the job market.  "I was planning on holding off on finishing my doctorate until I had something locked down, but with these job numbers, I'll probably only be unemployed for three, maybe four months before finding a post-doc position."

"I mean, I realize that the salary numbers have been relatively stagnant for a while, but it could be worse, right?" Pierce stated of the employment situation for doctoral level chemists.  "Sure, the numbers don't count the underemployed or 'discouraged workers,' but 2.2% ain't half bad," he added.

At present time, high school junior Alex McGill was being told by his guidance counselor that pursuing a degree in chemistry in college was a "surefire" route to achieving "rapid employment" with a "great starting salary."

Friday, August 1, 2014

Spectroscopists Admit Nuclear Overhauser Effect "Not A Real Thing"

Livermore, CA

Scientists at the Center for Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (CNMRS) at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory held a press conference yesterday to concede that the nuclear Overhauser effect, a central tenet of NMR spectroscopy, was a complete fabrication.

"Thank you for gathering here today," began CNMRS chairman Ben Hunt, PhD., "This has gone on long enough, and it's really starting to get out of hand."

"Look, it kinda started as an in-joke between the theoretical guys over at Varian back in the 60's.  The fact of the matter is, the nuclear Overhauser effect is not a real thing.  I mean, 'Overhauser?'  Really?  No one would ever be named that."

"Honestly?  One of the junior technicians thought we were being serious, so we just kinda rolled with it.  We really have no idea how through-space coupling works."

Dr. Hunt continued to explain the origins of the many experimental acronyms used in two-dimensional NMR spectroscopy.  "NOESY?  Come on guys, we thought that was a dead giveaway.  Then it turned into something of a competition over who could create the most ridiculous acronym.  How could a spectroscopic method referred to as 'CAMELSPIN' ever be a serious scientific procedure?"

Hunt finished by once again apologizing for the deception, saying, "Once everyone was on board, it has already gained too much momentum to fess up."  He then added, "Plus, don't even get me started on 'electron paramagnetic resonance,' am I right?"