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.