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, November 30, 2008

Full Circle

Hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving (assuming you live in the US). It was a good time to get together with friends and family.

My last day at work wasn’t as bad as I had expected. Pretty much everyone I knew had taken Wednesday off, so I had done all of my goodbyes the previous day. And since I’ve only been in the new building for about a month, it wasn’t like walking out was all that big a deal. Still, I’ll always remember my last day at work, just as I’ll always remember my first day of work, although for very different reasons. The story I’m about to tell is a lesson on what not to do when leaving school to start a new career….

It was Monday and my PhD still wasn’t finished, despite the fact that it was due in the graduate office on Friday. My thesis advisor had already left town on sabbatical, the movers were showing up in a couple of days, my timetable was inflexible (you’ll see why in a bit), and my fiancée had already made it abundantly clear that I would NOT be missing any of the agreed upon dates. (In the interest of truth, and the fact that my wife might actually read this post, I will point out that this fiancée is not my current wife). The thesis was pretty much done, but I was still fiddling around with the figures, since the thesis examiner was known to be a stickler for thesis formatting rules and if he declined to accept it on Friday, there would be hell to pay.

On Wednesday I discovered my thesis advisor was required to sign my cover page in two different locations. I had had him sign about 10 copies of the cover sheet before he left town (in case I needed backups), but hadn’t noticed the need for the second signature and now he was out of the country. I sweated bullets for a while before I remembered that, as the head of the chemical education program, he had a stamp with his signature on it stored away in his office. After talking with my advisor by phone, and after much practice, I managed to stamp his signature onto the appropriate spot without it obviously appearing to be a stamp. I was hoping the examiner wouldn’t notice.

On Thursday, the movers showed up and after explaining to them which items should be packed and which items should be left alone (I lived in a house with four other people), I went back to working on my thesis. At one point, I left to bring back some fast food, since everything seemed to be going smoothly with the movers. Of course, the instant I left, the movers started packing up my housemates stuff. I spent several hours on Thursday unpacking boxes and returning items which weren’t mine.

After pulling an all-nighter, the thesis was finished by Friday morning and I made all the necessary copies at Kinko’s. I showed up at the thesis examiner’s office with the copies at the designated time, 11:00 am, knowing that the office closed at noon, which meant there would be no time to fix any problems in the thesis should the examiner reject it. I had heard rumors about this guy, who was apparently fond of using rulers to ensure that all formatting rules were followed to the letter.

He accepted the thesis.

Relieved, I drove back to my house, packed up a few things, picked up one of my housemates (who was one of the bridesmaids), and immediately drove 4 hours to southern Illinois for my 5 o’clock wedding rehearsal. Yes, I was trying to squeeze a wedding into the middle of all this. I warned you this was not the way to do things.

Saturday was the wedding, and other than some discomfort in the morning due, I suspect, to a few drinks on Friday night, everything turned out well.

Sunday, picked up a U-Haul trailer and loaded my wife’s things into it.

Monday, left for Detroit, stopping at my house in Urbana to pick up more of my stuff. This made it a 3 day trip, which meant arriving in Detroit on Thursday. Unfortunately, I hadn’t had the time to make hotel reservations, assuming I could just find something on the fly. Not knowing Detroit very well, I ended up stopping at a motel whose reputation turned out to be rather suspect. This suspicion began when, during my check in at the office, some guy appeared, asking if the motel rented rooms by the hour. My suspicion was confirmed when the manager specifically had me park the car so that the doors of the U-Haul would be backed up against a tree, so that no one would be tempted to break open the lock. Needless to say, I must have checked the trailer 10 times over the course of the night.

Friday, I showed up for work on the absolute last day I could have arrived and still been granted vacation days the following year. Thus the rather strict timetable.

Saturday, left for the honeymoon.

That was one hell of a week!

My advice: Make sure to give yourself plenty of time for relaxation before reporting to your new job.


Anonymous said...

I would of faked the signature and not of sweat it.

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