The awesome blogosphere has been joining in on the Blog Party in aid of @BRSM_Blog’s imminent departure from the UK. Here is a round-up of the posts so far. Have you written a post? If so, just share on twitter using the hashtag #brsmblogparty. If you don’t have a blog but want to offer some advice, just post in the comments section.

#BRSMBlogParty posts so far:

@Jessthechemist (me) gives BRSM a list of things to watch out for.

@azaprins implores you to keep blogging!

@Stuartcantrill kicked things off with a list of things that BRSM should know including that “bacon is somewhat limited and sausage is not sausage as you know it”. So true.

@SeeArrOh then posted a wonderful A Poste-docke Limerick with a fabulous ending line – “And never say no to some pub perks”.

@Chemtips talks language barriers and the class system. I particularly like that “all British accents are appreciated, and all can lend authority to your words”.

@MEvans86 advises BRSM to be nice to grad students…and to not be afraid to challenge your advisor.

@V_Saggiomo tells BRSM to run while you still can but since you can’t do that he does advise you to “always close the separatory funnel”.

@KarlDCollins gives some useful tips including to “quickly identify the most helpful/knowledgable PhD students and be as nice to them as possible”.

@ChemJobber tells BRSM to buy a car and explore because in “any direction you drive, there will be something different that is worth seeing”.

@_byronmiller has also joined in the party. He puts the case forward for BRSM to make videos a la Vittorio!

@Chembark has some top tips including this oh so true one: Try to be nice to—or at least respectful of—your colleagues

BRSM Blog Party: Bon Voyage BRSM

Welcome to the BRSM blog party. In a few weeks @BRSM_blog will be heading to the US of A to start his new life as a postdoc. As a goodbye gift, the chemistry blogosphere decided to give him a send off in the form of blog posts.

If you want to join in the party, then just write a blog post (either your own or using the template that I have used below) and share it on twitter using the hashtag #BRSMblogparty or give your advice in the form of comments below.

Here is my entry:

Jess (@jessthechemist), postdoc.

1. What is your message for BRSM?
Have a great time. Work hard but don’t forget to have fun. You are in a beautiful and exciting country. Explore it!

2. What is one postdoc survival tip you would give to BRSM?
Say yes to new opportunities. You never know what you will learn. I wouldn’t have predicted that I would learn how to use a 50 L vessel!

3. Do you have a fun story you could share from your postdoc and/or US academic experience?
Sometimes people give you work to proof read and it is terrible. Be nice and help them out. You were there once, remember.

4. A survival tip for living in the US?

I lived in the US for a year when I was 18. Here are some random tips I picked up along the way:

  • Meals are served in huge portions. Do not eat all your meal or you will come back to the UK obese.
  • Always say yes if you are offered s’mores. They rock.
  • Bagels taste better in NYC.
  • Hazelnut syrup does not belong in coffee.
  • Americans will not recognise where you are from in the UK so you should always just say London.
  • Right turn on red is awesome. Use it.

5. What would you like to see on BRSM blog in the future?

Keep us updated with postdoc life in the US and keep #blogsyn-ing.

6. Anything else?


BRSM Blog Party: Guest post by Freda!

img_mid_39122 (2)

Freda (@azaprins) – PhD student, not a postdoc!

1. What is your message for BRSM?
Have fun, enjoy yourself, and don’t forget us when you’re famous 😉

2. What is one postdoc survival tip you would give to BRSM?
Have a work-life balance if you can?! Carry on mountain biking in your spare time.

3. Do you have a fun story you could share from your postdoc and/or US academic experience?
Well not really, I am not a postdoc so I thought it?d be rather nice to get some tweeps together who are/were postdocs to bestow their advice and blessing on you at this blog party!

4. A survival tip for living in the US? Share an idiom if you’re American!
Do not make any jokes at US border & customs as gaining entry is essential. After that the world is your oyster.

5. What would you like to see on BRSM blog in the future?
How postdoc life is different Stateside, and keep the Woodward Wednesdays going!

6. Anything else?
Always remember that your interest in the history of our subject (quote!) helped to solve an important synthetic problem. I also think that you’re curious, clever and encouraging enough to be a wonderful postdoc, so I wish you all the very best for the future. X

Academic Family Tree III

I thought I would post a more updated #chemistrytwittertree since it  has recently been mentioned in the Nature Chemistry blogroll. This is by no means the final tree so feel tree to offer suggestions on how to make it even bigger and better.

If you aren’t on the tree but can spot a way on, then email me (theorganicsolutionblog at gmail dot com), tweet me or leave the info in the comments section. If you want to find out more about your own academic timeline then academictree.org is a great starting point. Also, if you spot any errors in the tree then please do let me know.

family tree 13-10-13

Undergrad Fails

@_Byronmiller, who blogs at Behind NMR Lines, @clay_owens and I recently (ahem months ago now) had a discussion about accidents and funny stories that we have witnessed whilst teaching undergraduates. This led us to start the hashtag #undergradfail where we, and others, described amusing and somewhat concerning stories from the lab. Andrew already wrote a blog post with about this but I thought I would also share some of my own experiences.

My personal #undergradfail moments:

  • Thinking that polystyrene and acetone/dry ice are a good combination (*Hint* they aren’t)
  • I have been guilty of forgetting to close my separation funnel tap before adding the solution. Come on people, we have all done that at least once!
  • As a bright-eyed, energy efficient undergrad I turned off the vacuum pump connected to my Shlenk line reaction over lunch. Disaster was averted. The lesson here is, never turn something off before asking a demonstrator/academic.

#Undergradfail moments that I have witnessed:

  • I saw someone make up a column with sand instead of silica. His thinking was that since sand is made from silica that it must all be the same stuff. Error. Similarly, I saw someone make up a column firstly with sand, then silica, then sand, then silica, then sand etc. It looked like a chromatography zebra. Most amusingly, the column still worked!
  • A lab demonstrator friend of mine had someone ask them “what is the stuff dripping on a Buchi.?” The demonstrator told him to try and figure it out. The student then asked “ is it liquid CO2 from the melting dry ice?”. Silence from the demonstrator.
  • Apparently dry ice and thermos flasks are also a bad combination. Broken glass. Everywhere.
  • I saw someone scratching the outside of a beaker to try and promote crystallisation of their product. I then had to point out, with a straight face, that it would be better if he scratched the inside of the beaker.
  • I caught someone cooling down their hotplate by throwing ice on it. Not smart.

#Undergradfail moments that others have told me about (sorry, I have forgetten who exactly but do point out if it was you so I can cite you):

  • Some one set their condenser to a 45 degree angle. They were supposed to set their apparatus up for a 45 degree (temperature) reaction. this was too brilliant not to mention. Please let me know if you are the one that told me.
  • Ever seen anyone use a suba seal as a pipette teat? I think @Azaprins told me about this one.

Do you have any funny #undergradfail or #postgradfail stories to share? Comment here or use the hashtag over on twitter.

#Realtimechem Carnival Round up: The weekend

So today is my final #realtimechem week round up post, well, because #realtimechem week is pretty much over and done with.

A BIG thank you to everyone who has blogged this week, you have all been super.

This weekend has had some posts for new and old bloggers alike. Chad even started blogging just for the #realtimechemcarnival. How fabulous is that?

Right, enough with the chinwag, here are the weekend #realtimechemcarnival posts.

1) Andrew gives us a #realtimechem week and #chemclub round up. It is great to see two twitter hashtags so lovingly intertwined.

2) Kat completes her week’s blog diary with a bit of an NMR mystery…

3) Chad gives us a tour or his lab and a sneaky peek into the life of an analytical chemist.

4) Over at Just Like Cooking, SAO closes up his #chemmoviecarnival series. He has had many a blog entry on a huge range of movies all have which have been a delight to read.

5) The Collapsed Wavefunction does a lovely round up of the blog posts from this #realtimechem week.

Don’t forget that Jay continues to announce the winners of the #realtimechem tweets of the week. There are many winners so be sure to check out the results. You could be in the chance of winning a free ChemSpider lab coat!

#Realtimechem Carnival Round up: Day 4 and 5


Here are the #realtimechemcarnival posts for Thursday and Friday (so far). If you haven’t blogged yet, you have until Sunday evening to get something written. Feel free to write about your thoughts on #realtimechem week or anything chemistry related.

If I have missed anyone’s blog posts on any of the days, then just holler.

The great bloggers who have been blogging every day have proven themselves again. Thanks Andrew, Joaquin, Kat and Penny!


1) Joaquin celebrates DNA’s birthday. How serendipitous that #realtimechem week landed on such a special birthday.

2) Kat continues to share her open experiments with us. It is great to see such clean NMR spectra and the start of crystal formation.

3) Alasdair over at At the Interface blogs about his favourite PhD result. I love the carbon NMR spectrum.

4)  Some great pictures on Penny’s blog today. Another great post by her, this time on fossil teeth.

5) Andy guest blogs here on his favourite chemicals. Do you have a favourite chemical, if so why is it your favourite?

6) Todays “Chemistry Classics” posts is errr another classic! Today’s posts is on X-ray diffraction.

Friday (So far):

1) A new blog, Chemically Cultured by Tom, to add to the list of #realtimechemcarnival-ers. He shows his artistic side by writing us an awesome #realtimechem themed poem

2) Another new #realtimechemcarnival-er, Fragment-Based Drug Discovery & Molecular Design, reviews a publication on non-additivity of functional group contributions to affinity especially for ‘#realtimechem week.

3) It is lovely to see Penny round up her #realtimechem week experiences. She points out that, like most of us, she is fuelled by caffeine and “we’re just ordinary people with jobs that are slightly off the beaten path”. I couldn’t have put it better myself.

4) Andrew rounds up his blog series nicely with a post on the Foundations of Organic Chemistry. If you haven’t read all of his posts, then go, now! As an aside, he also has the best chemistry blogroll ever.

5) Here at The Organic Solution, I summarise some of the #freehandrings tweets that started yesterday. Do you think you can do a better job?


Any more for any more? You have two days and counting…


#Realtimechem Carnival: Friday #Freehandrings

On Thursday morning a lab mate asked me how good my freehand drawings were. I obviously accepted the challenge and gave the drawings of benzene and cyclohexane a go. As I often do, I then tweeted about it to see if anyone else was up for the challenge (#freehandrings)



@Realtimechem and I were then inundated by tweets with people giving #freehandrings a go. Here are a selection of the attempts. If you haven’t had a go at drawing, then feel free to tweet a pic using #realtimechem and/or #freehandrings




Again, the @Naturechemistry gang and @Carmendrahl show us how it is really done and even throw in some 7-membered rings




Only to be shown up by @seearroh and then @Reedroberts


We have had a lot of different #freehandrings from many a tweep. Please continue to have a go at the simple and more complex rings!




#Realtimechem Carnival Round up: Day 3

It is great to see even more blog posts in aid of #realtimechem week. So many of you are tweeting and blogging some awesome chemistry.

Here is a run down of Wednesday’s blog posts. If I have missed any then just let me know.

1) Ferniglab’s Blog shares a more serious point of view with a post on “Data re-use warrants correction at Nature Materials”

2) Joaquin gives us yet another excellent post on life in the day of a computational chemist. I particularly like the picture of the electrstatic potential surface of a calix4arene.

3) Over at The Collapsed Wavefunction there are a lot of pretty calculations that I don’t understand and some really cool pictures!

4) Andrew continues his superb Chemistry Classics series with a lesson on prebiotic chemistry. He really is teaching us something new everyday.

5) Penny over at Paleopix continues her geological chemistry theme with a post on powdering rocks.  I warn you, fish scales meet their doom 😉

6) Kat continues to wow us with her open lab book posts.  It is a fabulous post on the joys of column chromatography.

As an aside, make sure to keep an eye on Doctor Galactic’s place as he is showcasing the top tweets of the day. Who knows? You could be a prize winner!

#Realtimechemcarnival Guest Post: My Favourite Reagents


Today we have a guest post by @Andy_Nortcliffe. He asked me very nicely if I could host his post and I was more than honoured to do so 🙂 If anyone else wishes to have their post hosted, then just get in touch.


My Favourite Reagents.

First of all, before I start harping on about the stuff in the lab I like to use, I’d like to thank @jessthechemist for hosting my guest blog post, much appreciated.

Now, onto the good stuff- reagents. We all use them, and we all have our favourites, along with the ones we hate to use.

I have a handful of them which are always a pleasure to use and I’m going to share them and hopefully you will all do the same.

1.) Ammonium formate.

Oh, I’ve just heard you all do a sigh of disappointment as you expect something magical as my first favourite, well, sorry. Yes, ammonium formate– super versatile reagent. I rarely do a balloon hydrogenation, following my time in industry where they were pretty much outlawed I’ve learned to get by without them. So my first port of call for needing to do a hydrogenation is trusty ammonium formate. From nitro- reductions, to Cbz/Bn deprotections, it always works a treat for me. Dry it under vacuum, whack in a shed load (it’s cheap as chips) with a tickle of Pd and come back overnight to a spot to spot conversion.

2.) HATU

For any of you with expertise in peptide coupling reagents, you will know that there is a growing list as long as your arm. So I’d like to recommend HATU to you all. It’s not as cheap as some of the others (Alfa Aesar sell at a good price), but it’s worth it for its effectiveness. Combining the reactivity of a racemisation suppressant and a carbodiimide, all in all a good egg. Couple of equivalents with same of Hunigs base and you’re onto a winner.

Last but not least…

3) TFA

So, I choose TFA as I have a thing for tert-butyl esters. I always find stuff survives a lot better stirring in a dram of TFA overnight, than in base for half an hour. So TFA, nasty stuff, but good results.

So if you have any reagents you’d like to share (good or bad), please add to the comments and maybe we can all find a new thing to play with.

Thanks and happy science’ing