Chem Coach Carnival


So what do scientists really do on a daily basis? Twitter chemistry peep @SeeArrOh has organised a carnival across the science blog-o-sphere, entitled #ChemCoach. This is a fabulous idea, which will hopefully be complemented by #RealTimeChem day in November, which is going to attempt to give a day-in-the-life account of the world’s chemists!

See other #ChemCoach entries here. My contribution is below:

Your Current job:  I’m a post doctoral research associate at one of the UK’s (and the worlds) top Universities.

What you do in a standard work day:  Most of my day is spent in the chemistry laboratory carrying out organic reactions using all manner of smelly/toxic/flammable compounds (great fun!) and then attempting to purify the resulting products using flash column chromatography (not such great fun!). Time outside the laboratory is spent looking through the literature to search for  new methods of making the desired compounds and reading about chemistry. There are also group meetings, discussions, trips to conferences and training courses, witty banter and plenty of tea/coffee (in the office obviously – safety first!).

I also try to keep this blog here up to date when I can inbetween reactions!

What kind of schooling / training / experience helped you get there:  Why did I want to do chemistry? I blame my high school science teachers, two irrepressible Scots. Both had such an infectious enthusiasm for the subject I couldn’t help but be hooked! So I headed off to university at the tender age of 18 and graduated 4 years later an MChem degree. Subsequently, I then earned PhD from the same uiniversity specializing in organic photochemistry where I constructed complex polycyclic compounds from very simple starting materials in one or two-steps. I was also involved in teaching undergraduates during my PhD which I found a satisfying and worthwhile endeavour and a great way to make friends! I was then invited to Post Doc for a good friend and colleague moving with him to my current university in 2011.

How does chemistry inform your work?  Pretty much everything I do at the moment is actual real life laboratory chemistry. I am though looking to branch out now that my post doc is ending and move into a different career beyond the laboratory. I particularly like the writing side of things, so am hoping to get my foot in that door.

Finally, a unique, interesting, or funny anecdote about your career:  I’m probably one of the few people who’s managed to get all my chemistry qualifications whilst the administration of his university were doing their level best to make sure I didn’t get them. My chemistry department was almost closed during the third year of my chemistry degree (which we fought against and won!) and then the same univerisity decided to fire my supervisor during the third year of my phD for reasons that can only be described as “brain madness”. I finished up my thesis in three months and completed my Ph.D. without needing to utilise the allowed 4th year for writing up. It’s not something I’d reccommend, although I actually found the writing to be a bit of a buzz.

I’ll give you quick positive note to balance out the slight gloom presented above. I was blessed during my time at University to meet some of the most amazing, brilliant, clever, funny and all around fabulous people. Chemists know how to work hard and play hard. I’ve never laughed so much in my life as I did in the office where I spent my postgraduate days. Don’t let anyone ever tell you that scientists don’t know how to have a good time and are shut away like Gollum in his cave. Chemists are the best.


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