My 10 Favorite Things About Chemistry

Following some other bloggers efforts in this area (started I think by ChemJobber), I will list my own list of favorites.

1. Pretty crystals. You have no soul if you cannot admire beautifully formed crystals. A particular instance is where you have precipitation in a test tube after purification and intricate feathery crystals form. Wonderful.

2. Others have mentioned their favorite smelling solvent, for me it is THF. Not sure what it is about it.

3. When the analytical data puts you right. I love it when I get an NMR or mass spec and it is not quite what I was expecting – until I check the mass or the proper structure and sure enough, that extra singlet at 3.5 ppm is there because it is supposed to be there. Forget the camera, the NMR never lies.

4. Fireworks. It is far from normal in the regular routine of chemistry, but occasionally it has been known for reactions to get a little lively. Quenching a large scale LAH reaction is just fun. Well, as long as it stays in the flask, it is. Cleaning up spills is definitely not fun.

5. Involved reaction procedures. I don’t know why exactly, but synthetic procedures that have you adjust the temperature of the reaction several times, involve multiple reagent additions and several color changes just seem more worthwhile. Sure, it is easier to just throw everything in a pot and heat, but it is too easy. More satisfying to do the intricate. Well, assuming it works after all that.

6. Easy work-ups. On the other hand, while work-ups are an important part of what we do, they aren’t exactly fun. So when a work-up comes along that says “pour into water, collect the precipitate”, I am happy.

7. I love it when a synthetic plan comes together. Misquoting the A Team aside, the feeling of working out all the wrinkles of a scheme and seeing that final NMR of clean product is a natural high. It is so energizing and makes the struggle to get there all the more worthwhile.

8. Well drawn structures. We have lots of computer assisted chemical drawing tools, but there is still something of an art to a nice clear structure. Hand-drawn ones are nice too, I like a clean crisp benzene ring and aliphatic chains where I can tell how many carbons there are.

9. Funky reactions. You know the ones, where you start with compound A, do something seemingly innocuous to it (usually involving a Lewis acid) and it is transformed to the final product in one pot.

10. Celebrating and venting with colleagues over a pint. Nothing like that.


8 comments on “My 10 Favorite Things About Chemistry

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Nature Chemistry, Pond. Pond said: RT @NatureChemistry: "I love it when a synthetic plan comes together" RT @davidperrey: My 10 favorite things about chemistry: […]

  2. Chemjobber says:

    #6 is a winner; as an occasional kg-scale chemist, especially.

    I like #8 as well; are all the sides of your handwritten benzene rings equivalent? I’ve noticed that, for a lot of chemists, the 2 horizontal sides get quite short.

    • Chemjobber says:

      I meant vertical.

    • David Perrey says:

      I included that one partly as a professor I had as an undergraduate (Phil Kocienski at University of Southampton) was not only one of the profs that spurred my interest in organic chemistry but one of the most meticulous drawers of structures. He would not always get through the material he wanted, but the structures were very nice. Contrasted with some other scribbles I have seen, including my own in a hurry :), I find I appreciate that care taken.

      In answer to your question, I endeavor to make them even hexagons. I think sometimes the bonds inside the ring are quite parallel, but that is because they are partially delocalized.

  3. […] My 10 Favorite Things About Chemistry « Chemical Space […]

  4. thehav says:

    Nerd 😉

  5. akshatrathi294 says:

    Neat list. Thanks for the idea. I think I will make mine too now. 🙂

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