Friday, August 3, 2012

Lucky 13

In four weeks I will be starting my 13th year of college...

Some people would call this hardcore, I would call it having a fear of the real world.

When I stepped into Chemistry 121 twelve years ago, I never thought it would lead to this.  I thought I was going to be a medical doctor; diagnosing ear infections, prescribing Viagra and stitching up wounds.  That was until I had to help take care of a wounded cat.  The poor kitty had a puncture wound and it was my job to hold the flashlight.  One would think that  pre-med student could hold a flashlight...incorrect!  I passed out and hit the floor.  I left my dreams of being a doctor there on the floor.

This opened up opportunities for pursuing a new become a chemist.

I can still remember the day that I knew I wanted to become a chemist.  It was during second year organic chemistry lab.  We had a solid sample that had a mixture of an acidic compound and a neutral compound.  We had to figure out a way to separate the two compounds.  What a feeling of accomplishment!  I knew right then and there that I had to do this everyday.

When you ask a five year old, ten year old, or even a fifteen year old what they want to be when they grow up, the answer is rarely a chemist.  But, there are actually a lot of us out there; you can probably find one hiding behind a corner being socially awkward.

The first question I get from people when they find out I am studying organic chemistry is "what are you going to do with that?"  My response is always, "I am going to be an organic chemist".  "Yeah, but what does an organic chemist do?"

Good question!  I mix chemicals together, in a certain order, in a round flask full of organic solvent, stir for a couple of hours in the absence of oxygen, either heating or in an ice bath.  I stop the reaction (usually with water), separate the water from the organic solvent, wash the organic solvent with various water solutions, dry the organic solvent with salts, concentrate the solution down and purify the remaining oil/tar/solid.  Repeat, because chances are the reaction didn't work.

Super exciting!  Well, at least it was for the first 8 years.

Every chemist has a backup plan.  Common backup plans include: florist, baker, barista, interior decorator, party planner, party starter, bartender, caterer, and chef.  My first backup plan was to be a party planner/starter with L. Dett.  I now dream of leaving this hell hole of constant disappointment and opening up my own shop.  I would sell soaps, vegan baked good, and useful wood items that Mike has crafted, and I would probably make about zero dollars.  So chemistry is is!

I have a feeling though, that year thirteen is going to be lucky number 13, meaning that it will be my last year as a student, all of my reactions will work flawlessly, I will publish in an amazing journal.   One can dream!

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1 comment:

  1. Don't give up on the party starter business. I feel there is big money there...we just have to live on the same coast...preferably the same state!