This blog is my attempt to reconnect with the world of chemistry. I have a PhD in Inorganic Chemistry and make a living doing research for a large company in Michigan. As times have changed, that company has changed its focus and I no longer have as much chance to do the basic, fundamental research which I most enjoy. Through this blog, I am hoping to recapture the magic which I felt during my graduate (and undergraduate) days in college. Expect topics on chemistry and alchemy along with some non-chemistry related items which I think might be interesting.

"The chymists are a strange class of mortals, impelled by an almost insane impulse to seek their pleasure among smoke and vapour, soot and flame, poisons and poverty; yet among all these evils I seem to live so sweetly that may I die if I would change places with the Persian King."

Johann Joachim Becher (phlogistonist)
Acta Laboratorii Chymica Monacensis, seu Physica Subterranea, (1669).

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Fall and Chemistry

It's September and that means the fall semester has begun in most universities. Of course, this also means the start of chemistry classes. If you are currently employed in industry, like me, then you probably didn’t notice this momentous event, at least until you realized the college football season had begun. If you're an undergraduate, or perhaps a first or second year graduate student, you probably noticed it a lot, especially as you paid for this semester's chemistry textbooks. Once they're done with classes, however, grad students usually don't pay much attention to the beginning of semesters either, unless they are required to teach undergraduate courses. Once they make the switch to full research mode, the ebb and flow of university life is often lost to them. I've known grad students who were so oblivious to the change of semesters, they would often wonder out loud why parking was suddenly so difficult to find.

When I was a graduate student at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, however, it was always easy to notice the start of the fall semester, no matter how deeply involved you were in your research. It wasn’t football fever, or seeing all the wide-eyed newbies milling around in herds, or even the sudden lack of parking. The most obvious sign that classes were about to begin in Urbana was: after going through the entire summer with absolutely no road construction projects, suddenly seeing 4 or 5 road projects spring up around campus during the week before classes. Try to imagine 30,000 students showing up at the same time in cars and vans loaded with all the necessities of life (for a university student) and finding many of the roads blocked off. Seriously, this happened every year I was there and I have no reason to believe that tradition still doesn’t occur today. Correct me if I’m wrong.

By the way, the Illinois football team lost their opener to Missouri. I’m not too particularly bummed out about that since Missouri is where I received my B.S. and M.S. in chemistry. Talk about a no lose situation -- one of my alma mater’s had to win.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

we definitely still have road construction at Illinois. And we won our second game.