Undergraduate Laboratory Adventures

If I’m being honest, I don’t remember that much about undergraduate chemistry laboratory classes.  I remember which academics seemed ‘nice’ and which seemed ‘odd’.  I remember which of my classmates fell into either of those two categories as well.  I only remember a few experiments and a few experiment related moments.

I was fascinated with the sodium in liquid ammonia for a Birch reduction, but anything with sodium metal fascinates me, even now.  I’ll find excuses just to use the stuff whenever possible.  I was totally perplexed by an experiment designed to measure how bad cigarettes were, drawing air through a lit cigarette with  a syringe and filter.  The white filters quickly turned brown, and the gas was analysed in a big red balloon full of nitrogen.  There was the added interest of injecting the syringe full of gas into the balloon through a bit of sticky tape.  I recall guddling round in a fume hood trying to pick up mercury by pipette after a hungover classmate spilled it everywhere.   The rest is really a bit of a blur, well, apart from someone always hanging clamps of my lab coat when I was in another world.

I remember one experiment very clearly, preparing a tetrameric luminescent copper complex.  I remember it clearly because it was a new lab experiment in the year I took the class, and that it had been suggested by one of the postgraduate students.  She clearly had a vested interest in its (and therefor my) success.  It is based on a paper by Kyle [10.1021/ja00008a026] in JACS, and involved several compelling aspects.  Firstly, the synthesis required pyridine, secondly the stuff glowed under uv light and thirdly, there was liquid nitrogen involved.  It was logical then that when I was looking for a new lab experiment, something to synthesise and characterise that was a bit more exciting than aspirin, that I turned immediately to my old lab notebooks and dug this one out.  Now all I’ve got to do is see if I can still make the stuff.  From the lab book date, its been 10 years.

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