Midnight Oil Crisis

I feel like I’m travelling down a dark and tumultuous path by saying this, but I don’t mind working crazy late hours in lab. Not to say I enjoy working long hours all the time, but I’d generally prefer to be in lab from afternoon to evening. In fact, I’ve been looking forward to late nights in lab since my highschool guidance counselor joked that I was the kind of person to be struck by an idea at 2 in the morning, and shuffle down to the lab in pajamas to work on it. Although I’ve yet to be struck by some wild idea and head to the lab around 2 in the morning, I think the latest I’ve stayed in lab is around 2 or so in the morning.

It does have its perks. By day, I’m the undergrad, I’m pretty reserved and am still trying to feel everything out. In general, I try to keep up the appearance that I know what I’m doing. By night, I own the lab! But, seriously, I play whatever music I want, at volumes slightly louder than during the day (but exponentially more satisfying), perhaps dance around a little bit. I never have to wait for a rotovap. I can multitask or unitask, work at whatever pace I feel like, and learn to troubleshoot my own problems – even if that means trying something I’m not sure will work. I can also blog about things while I wait for my stuff on the high vac. Like right now!

And it does come with it’s sense of isolation, which allows one’s mind to wander. Which, can be good, bad, or indifferent.¹

The only reason that I bring it up is that I’m, in a way, concerned about my well being. I mean, it is 11 o’clock on a sunday night, and I’m in lab. Grad students here, as well as grad students across the inter-blogs have lamented the long, grinding, soul sucking hours of lab, and the students who become absolute slaves to lab. I’m only an undergrad… and I’m here, and I don’t mind it. Kyle, over at yonder chemblog, stresses the idea of working smarter, not harder. And, while I agree with him (in theory), I feel weird that I’m still OK with working relaxed, late hours. (It’s not the 12 hour workday, everyday, that Kyle sought to escape, but it’s far from a focused beam of chemical productiveness that he describes, or even conventional hours.)

Ultimately, I just don’t want to find myself a hopeless slave to lab. Maybe my preferences will change when lab essentially becomes the all day, every day occurrence in grad school, but I’d hate to think I’m already a prisoner, and suffer from Stockholm syndrome.

[1] Gloves can be used for many things. Aside from protecting your skin from chemicals, they can also serve as a quick notepad when you’re at the balances, or for other sketching purposes…



8 Responses to Midnight Oil Crisis

  1. psi*psi says:

    Long nights at work aren’t so bad at first. Eventually, they get to you…generally when you find you no longer have a choice in whether to stay in lab or not. There’s a line between “I’m a little tired but I’ll stick around and finish this anyway” and “FUCK YOU SOLAR CELLS I WANT TO SLEEP NOW.” Lately I’m on the less cheerful side of that line.

    I’m a huge fan of gloves as notepad. So convenient!

  2. mitch says:

    Are there other graduate students around when something will go horribly wrong?

  3. chiraljones says:

    usually, yes. rarely, no.

    but I’m not blindfolded juggling LAH, butyllithium, and chainsaws, either.

    In the event that I’m the only one in lab, I’m separating/purifying products. That’s about it. Which mean’s I’ll have to try pretty hard to fuck shit up via rotovap or column. I suppose I could use DMSO if I wanted to cause trouble, though….

  4. psi*psi says:

    it’s entirely possible to fuck shit up via rotavap. my first lab fire was pentane in a rotavap with a bad electrical connection…

  5. A column could explode under pressure and cut your face – watch out, seriously. Run that shit behind part of a sash if your hood allows, even if you’re holding the 24/40 adapter connected to the compressed air by hand. You’ll never hear the end of it if you have an accident without a grad student around.

    I envy your enthusiasm and passion for passion – I used to be that way, in love with the idea of suffering for science, for complete abandonment of time and self (and a warm bed) in the event that work needs to be done – so enjoy it while you can, my friend, because graduate school will drain it out of you, drop by drop 🙂

    • chiraljones says:

      I try my best to minimize the risk: always have a t-valve to a bleeder-line between the air and the adapter, and the flow rate on my columns is sufficient that I never have to seriously pressurize the thing.

      In the teaching lab though, all of our columns are fritted…. I don’t know if as frits get old they collect junk in their pores, or if frits are just naturally a bitch, but for every column there, you really have to crank up the air and hold on tight to the adapter to get things moving at a decent rate – bleeder line is practically useless because it will completely rob you of whatever flow rate you might have achieved… Running very pressurized columns on glassware of unknown age/undergrad-abuse-level is not very reassuring. However, that lab is always TA supervised, so there will always be someone around to pick the glass out of me if needed.

  6. Liquidcarbon says:

    I think you’ll appreciate this.

  7. Liquidcarbon says:

    argh, the image got eaten up. Here:

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