Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Sophomore Year - Part 2, Organic Chemistry Lab

In the laboratory section of organic chemistry I had Dr, Swinehart. He was rather aptly named, although his name should have been 'swineheart', because he was truly a pig at heart. He was just a dirty old man. He would sidle up to all the pretty girls in the lab; it was pretty disgusting if you ask me. But he was harmless. He was also your typical absent minded professor who was close to retirement age.

Thus, he had trouble taking attendance. There were three young men who had an agreement where only one would show up to lab per week, and that one would say, "Here!" when for all three names. Dr. Swinehart never caught on. Their favorite trick to play on him was to throw a pellet of metalic sodium in a sink behind him while he was leaning on it so it would explode and he would jump. Very funny.

I used to love organic lab because of the glassware. We all received a brand new kit when we entered class. It was so pretty and functional.

A typical organic chemistry glass ware kit

At first I was intimidated, but that soon passed and then I was just having a good old time. I used to love trying to discover what unknowns were by purifying them. (Of course I had already prepared them on my job with the chemistry department.) I followed all the prescribed analytical steps and then finally got to the pretty crystals at the end on top of the filter paper on top of the Buchner funnel. It was always so rewarding.

A buchner funnel

Dr. Swinehart also taught us to use the gas chromatograph in our lab.

A gas chromatograph. Note the tank of hydrogen to the left.

We ran some samples through it and then were supposed to find out what they were and tell him. So there I was running an unknown and standing in front of the gas chromatograph and next to the tank of hydrogen when he comes up and traps me there with his body (he was tall and bulky), points to the three peaks on the paper and says, "This one is benzene, this is toluene, and that is xylene." Then he walks away. A few minutes later, my trace is finished and I remove it from the feeder and then next student is ready to use the machine. So I walk to the front of the lab and hand him my trace. He says, "Please identify the three peaks."

I say, "This one is benzene, this is toluene, and this is xylene."

He says, "That is amazing! How did you know that?"

I said, "Dr. Swinehart, you just told me what they were."

He got a puzzled look on his face. "How are you doing in the lecture part of this class?"

"I think I am going to get an A."

"Oh. I guess I'd better be thinking about giving you a better grade here then."

Then I looked puzzled. What was he thinking?

The other thing about organic chemistry is the other students used to bug me because I knew what their unknowns were. So, when they finished identifying them, they would come up to me to see if they got them right. I usually gave them a head shake or some other subtle indicator. The ones who were wrong were usually so far off, it was a lost cause. The professors thought that since I worked for the chemistry department I needed a real challenge and they spent their time concocting unknowns that would puzzle me to no end. Boy did they; I was never able to identify one. But, I still got a B+ in the lab section of organic chemistry.


Shaney said...

Hmmm I was so mischevious at school, they did well to keep me away from the lab...*winks*
You see I did the right thing not tagging you, only to have someone else bite your ankles...:P
There is nothing more off putting then when an old man becomes suggestive about a young girl...It really tests my gag reflex!

Sue said...

Yeah, thanks for not being the one to tag me, but it was bound to happen.

Yes, Swineheart was gross, but thankfully harmless.