End of term 1

Hello chemicals,

Another post to reflect upon university life (after about 22/23 days). So how’s university life going? Well, now I’m at home (for four weeks). I finished at 11am today so came home after that.

Currently just writing this post after which I shall turn to the thermodynamics group task that I need to submit. Hopefully it won’t be too bad since thermodynamics is now beginning to make sense but I still struggle with enthalpy.

This is where the four-week Christmas vacation kicks in! As much as I miss Warwick and the people, I cannot wait to begin my marathon study sessions. I have planned my vacation to ensure I head back to Warwick in January feeling content and prepared for the mocks.

I am not sure if I mentioned in any of my earlier posts but I am officially a Warwick student blogger!!! I have, so far, made two posts: one discussing how to deal with tough lectures (can’t believe this was my first post) and another one discussing my vacation plans. You can find the posts here: http://studentblogs.warwick.ac.uk/ along with blog posts by other students sharing their experiences.

This Christmas, I am particularly looking forward to writing my lab reports. I have written two such reports before as well: one for the Nuffield Foundation placement, and another for my extended project, so I feel rather confident (but nervous at the same time). I am hoping to get two lab reports done. One on qualitative ion analysis – an inorganic chemistry experiment that I discussed in one of my earlier posts. The other one on the lab I did yesterday.

Yesterday’s lab was the Harcourt Essen reaction. It was HARD. The experiment didn’t involve any exciting colours changes so no beautiful pictures this time however a lot of emphasis was placed on precision. This was annoying since I am a very rough chemist. More like cooking in the kitchen lol (and we all know I can’t cook so you can imagine the consequences). Also, we had to ensure there was no contamination but this is something I deal with quite well. I used a micropipette as well which I think was quite cool.

But now, moving onto the slightly embarrassing side of the whole experiment, I failed my pre-lab three times therefore had to effectively beg the chemistry department to give me another chance (just had to explain to them that the term ‘physical chemistry’ scares me so I messed up). That was a difficult beginning but this isn’t where it all ended.

In the lab, I had to do the experiment FIVE TIMES to get the data. Here’s why:

1st attempt: I messed it all up. Instead of adding thiosulfate to my solution, I added peroxide.

2nd attempt: I used the micropipette incorrectly. There was more air in the pipette than thiosulfate.

3rd attempt: I ended the experiment sooner than I should have. I had even washed all my glassware only to later find that I didn’t have sufficient data.

4th attempt: I was supposed to add peroxide to my solution. I added acid.

5th attempt: I did it all correct. I was supposed to record 15 readings but I recorded 16 just to annoy the experiment that had annoyed me the whole day.

I was in the lab the whole day. Didn’t even have my lunch because I was determined to get my data. Luckily I had a nice demonstrator (as always) who didn’t get angry at me for messing it all up.

And that’s how labs ended for me. But I loved my time in the lab that day where after doing it about three times, even my demonstrator complimented me by calling me an ‘expert’. That made me laugh! And in the end, I realised this:

Well, I hope you have a lovely Christmas and a productive vacation!

Enjoy reacting,

The Chemicalist

My first set of labs

Hello chemicals,

Sitting at home rather tired and with a mild headache but really I cannot just sit and do nothing. I have to be doing something therefore thought I should write about how labs are going.

One of the most fascinating things about chemistry is labs. The wide variety of reactions that we get to do, the kind of sophisticated equipment that we manage to get our hands on. I’ve already had the chance to use an IR spectrometer, a rotary evaporator, a centrifuge, and something perhaps not too advanced but still cool – magnetic stirrers.

This week Thursday and Friday, I had my first set of labs that were not intro labs hence more exciting because no longer do I feel like a rookie in labs now! Yesterday, the lab went a little wrong hence I ended my day with a heavy heart feeling bad about how the experiment didn’t work out. As a result, when I was preparing for my today’s lab, I was very concerned thinking that my second lab might also be ruined likewise.

Today’s lab was about the qualitative analysis of ions. I looked at a set of cations and anions. This was fairly straightforward but very exciting. The various different colours that I formed and how bizarre some of the colour changes were! This was absolutely great and I really knew what I was doing hence enjoyed my time.

Later, the second part of the lab involved some detective work. I was given two solutions – one consisting a mixture of three cations and another, a mixture of three anions. I was required to use the knowledge I acquired from my previous experiments to identify these set of ions. With the cations, I had a flowchart to follow but not with anions. It was really fun trying to solve the mystery and I had a nice demonstrator as well.

Evidently, things might not always go well in labs but the banter is always there. The way I add 6 drops instead of 5 and then justify to myself that the word “drops” is ambiguous. My greed for glass pipettes goes unnoticed by everyone which is a relief although I am never guilty about it. The way I was grabbing lots of them at once was hilarious today. But that was just because I didn’t want to contaminate anything and I didn’t want to keep going to grab them from the table that was two fume cupboards away from me.

I loved my time today. Also, I used the centrifuge a number of times today. It is amazing to learn how A level biology made a centrifuge sound like some large machine like NMR however when I first saw it today, I was left gobsmacked looking at the size of it. It was literally on the table and I was using it as if I was using the fridge or something.

I can see that I’m actually beginning to learn how to multi-task as well as plan ahead, thanks to labs. I have two different things up and running and I can manage the two properly which feels great because I am not otherwise the breed capable of multitasking. You might know that with protocols, you cannot really afford to read a line at a time and do the experiments. It is important to read ahead and just be aware of what is coming up. I tend to do a virtual experiment in my head before I conduct it in real (lol, I got a chemistry lab, well supplied with all chemicals, in my head too). This just makes life easier in labs and I rarely have moments of surprise or panic.

And the final thing before I end this post: the best thing about the end of intro labs is that we no longer work in pairs. I know that same old argument about collaboration in science and working together but trust me, when you have a control-freak lab partner who wants to do everything and you are yourself a control-freak, there are more collisions than there should be. There is always a race going on. Whoever take the chemical gets to pour it, and then the use of various other chemical equipment is always a race. Now, I get to do it all on my own. There is no race, no rush, no concerns about missing out on even a single mole of fun. It all belongs to me. It is all mine. I work in my own fume hood and I often am super lost in my work.

I enjoy the reactions, the labs, my life and you, as always –

Enjoy reacting,

The Chemicalist.