Saturday, March 31, 2012


Aaah, it's nice to be home! First time in 9 weeks (longest I've been away!).

Unfortunately being home means that I now have to unpack everything, and being the first time that just about all my stuff has been home in 2 and a half years it's proving tricky to find a home for everything (I used to have a wardrobe for one thing!)

Ah well, sure I'll get there soon enough! Having not even been home 12 hours I've already had a trip to the bike shop (bearing cake of course!), thought I'd best pop down and say hi seen as I'm working there again over the bank holiday weekend (it's been a while). Was nice to have a bit of a catch up with everyone (and delay the inevitable unpacking for a bit longer!)

Had a nice walk with my parents and the dogs too.

A day of visitting people and organising stuff tomorrow before my epic couple of weeks of work begins on Monday morning (think I need to be leaving the house by 7.15!)

I'd best get back to unpacking, still have various things strewn across my floor and I haven't even started with the clothes yet!

Friday, March 30, 2012


Just a quick one today 'cos I'm packing all my worldly possessions ready to go home tomorrow!

Today being far less exciting than yesterday (well it would be, seen as today didn't involve jumping out of a plane at 13000 feet!), I thought I'd write about the things I've learnt today.

1) Packing related - I have too much stuff. Nobody needs this many things that they don't use. I'll have to have a proper clear out as I unpack everything at home (won't be enough space for it all otherwise!

2) I don't like chorizo. Being the end of term I was trying to use up the food I had left. Not a bad combination given the last time I went shopping (but I definitely made too much!), I now see the reason why I hadn't yet eaten the chorizo...
3) It is perfectly possible to eat a milky bar yoghurt (which are really nice by the way) without a spoon, but some of said yoghurt will probably end up on your nose and chin!

4) Have I mentioned packing enough yet? I've also learnt that the weight I can actually lift comfortably is a lot less than what it I thought it was (and what it used to be!). This makes lugging things down the stairs tricky!

That'll do from me then. Next time you hear from me I'll (all being well) be at home!

Thursday, March 29, 2012


OK, I'll have to start this blog with I picture I took myself (pictures of me, taken by someone else will follow). It does set the seen for where the blog is going though! :P

A lovely sunny day at Langar Airfield and drop zone!

OK, now to the exciting stuff! I got up this morning, as usual, and headed in to my 9 am lecture. The end of the lecture came and my friend said "I'm going skydiving" (this isn't out of the ordinary as she's the president of the sky dive society at uni), she then said "do you want to come?"

Given that sky diving is on my official list of things to do before I'm 25 (and even if it wasn't I'd have wanted to do it!), I said yes, so off we went to the air field. They got me up and ready remarkably quickly! So after a quick brief we were on the plane and on the way up to 13000 feet!

I hadn't really had time to get nervous as it had all been decided very fast, I was ridiculously excited by this point! The nerves did start to kick in a bit when the door was opened and a few of the jumpers left at a lower altitude. More nerves when I'm sitting dangling my legs out of the door (although very excited too)...

(please excuse my stupid faces - I don't do photos very well!)

And there we go....

Had about 60 seconds of free fall, wow. That's an adrenaline rush and a half!

He wasn't even looking!

We then had about 5 minutes gliding down with the parachute open. That was nice. After the rush of free fall everything was so quiet, and even with the haziness of the sunshine you could see for miles and really take in the view. He even did a few spins on the way down. And here we are coming in for a perfect landing...

Definitely one of the best things I've ever done!

Spent the rest of the day on the airfield (hopefully haven't got too sunburnt!) watching everyone else dive (some of them are amazing!)

Tomorrow promises to be far less exciting, a lecture in the afternoon and a day spent packing I think!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


I'm going to be *that* person. Whilst it was mainly nice outside and I have definitely enjoyed the sun, I was too hot!

Still - here's some nice sunny photos (should have photographed our BBQ - 2 in March isn't bad going!)

I fear my opinion of the sun today may have been some what skewed by lab induced grumpiness. Had to go to sort out our NMRs today. Mine are entirely rubbish, despite definitely putting enough of my product in (and requesting that one be ran for longer given that it gave a weak signal the first time I tried) all the useful peaks pretty much blend into the noise. Still, nothing I can do about it now so should probably stop panicking about it!

Had a doctors appointment this afternoon and being the lazy person that I am I spent the 4 hours in between finishing uni and having to be there generally not doing very much of anything on campus (hence the photos!). Having read back through my blog I realise I was quite cryptic about my last doctors appointment, I shall do the same now because you know, somethings should really be kept at least a little bit private.

The worrying thing is that he has now seen me so many times he doesn't have to shout my name in the waiting room, because he knows me. Was a bit of an odd appointment today as we'd basically decided what was going to happen the last time I was there, but he wanted to see me before I disappear off home for a month. I got a top up of painkillers, plus a new drug (new to me, not an actual new drug), the chemist in me still gets very excited - I have to google them, and then find out their structures and how they work!

His big secret weapon (no not that sort of secret weapon!) if my consultant doesn't come up with something a bit magic when I see him in a few weeks, is acupuncture. Not sure how I feel about this. I think I'm wiling to give it a go (although I'm not entirely sure!), but it seems a bit like giving up as it's only going to help the pain and isn't going to fix me. Not a great thought, but I shall be optimistic and cling on to the hope!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Science is great when it works isn't it?

The last 3 hours in labs would have been very stressful had it been anything other than the last time I'm going to have to set foot in that lab! It was a real shame that our GSK mentor wasn't there today. I isolated what I think I could safely say is the best product I've made in the entire 3 years of my degree. Well I haven't actually seen an NMR of it so it might be entirely the wrong thing but it was all nice and crystalline, and quite a good amount of it too!

Look at my shiny product :D

So that's it. Labs are over. We're meeting tomorrow to collate our results and then it's just a matter of the 2 reports to write over the Easter break. My geeky results spreadsheet says that due to the module weighting a good mark here will just about secure me a 1st overall in my degree so keen to do well!

The weather is definitely reflecting my mood at the moment. I practically skipped home from uni! Despite the wonderful sunshine I (and my housemates) were lacking inspiration as to what to actually do, so a couple of us went for a walk into town...

The rest of this week should be relatively straight forward. Not huge amounts of work to do ('cos nothing is imminently due!), just 3 hours of lectures (leaving 1 hour of lecturing left after easter, my last ever chemistry lecture!), sorting out a few things with the group for labs and packing my stuff to go home :-)

I do have a doctor's appointment tomorrow though, don't expect any dramas mind. And need to sort out my exam situation, not that I'm really doing much sorting now - the highly efficient powers that be are doing it for me!

Oh heck...the closer I come to finishing uni means the closer the need to find a job is coming!

Monday, March 26, 2012


Today is one of those days where I think writing a proper post about what I've been up to is a bad idea. I suspect you'd get bored very quickly of my grumpy take on labs today!

Knew it wasn't going to be great (had an e-mail last night from a team member saying they wanted to go ahead and try and get lots more chemistry done and just hope that we have time!). Luckily I was in the position where this was kind of irrelevant to me as I was still in the middle of another synthesis (because I'd spent too much time helping others out last week!) and that therefore took priority.

The good news was, I had some product. (very good because 2 of us were aiming to isolate this particular species, and we'd been told one had failed and one had succeeded, but not which one was which!). Once again the "simple" process of crystallising my product took me ages. Stupid thing wouldn't dissolve in any of the solvents it really should have done. Got there in the end though...

It looked like I had a lot of product but once I'd done an NMR and melting point suddenly I didn't have very much (really annoying given that my product burnt in the MP apparatus so I don't actually have a melting point..), managed to do a solution IR, and then had to vac it down to get my product back - managed to submit 2 mg (rather than the desired 3-5 mg) for testing to GSK, pending a good NMR. Needless to say this was a lot of effort for not much back.

Lunchtime came and I was feeling rather tired and broken (although our GSK mentor did say well done for getting a product and even said he was proud of me - cue warm feeling inside!). With lunch I had many painkillers, this turned out to not be such a great idea. They've never affected me quite so much before, so don't know if other factors were coming in to play, but I was definitely not awake. Struggled to even stand up right for a while! But I persevered (even when one of my team mates suggested going home), and managed to work up 2 reactions and get them ready for columning, which our team had to do manually because te machine had broken again. Definitely didn't have time for that!

Tomorrow looks like we might be panicking a bit. Have 4 or 5 products to isolate between us, plus we need to get all our characterisation done and tidy up our cupboards! Then planning a meeting Wednesday to collate all of out results so that we can write up our reports! On the plus side...3 hours in the lab tomorrow morning and that's it. No more undergrad labs for me - ever!

So much for keeping it short today!

Sunday, March 25, 2012


This blog is being brought to you from the garden. Pretty sure I'm the only one in the house who's actually awake so yes I am on my own out here. Just me, the sunshine, my laptop, coffee and a packet of biscuits! Have to make the most of it 'cos there't too many trees around so the sun doesn't last long in this garden. It really is lovely though!

First order of business - I was right. Cake baking occurred in the kitchen yesterday afternoon so it now looks as if someone hadn't spent 3 hours cleaning it yesterday, and instead threw around a bag of flour. Ah well, it as inevitable wasn't it?

Now those of you that pay attention to this blog will know that I had been advised by my doctor that 5-10 mins of gentle riding once a week should be my limit. You will also know that yesterday I did a not so gentle 15 minutes and complained that it hurt. What did I do this morning? After going over another polymers lecture I may have accidentally gone out on the bike again. Can't resist with the weather like this! Picked a slightly different route (slightly shorter, and a nice change of scenery!).

It didn't take long in the saddle today to realise that my doctors advice had been for a good reason. But did it stop me? 'Course not! I powered on, the new route having a bit more of a hill in it, so it was the first time in a long time that I've had the chance to really push my legs a bit. My new route also had another obstacle in it.

Now, I'm not sure what compelled me to do it. Given that just leaning on the bars causes enough problems, and bumps are definitely unpleasant. But something inside my head said that riding my down these steps (with rigid forks!) was a good idea. It was fun, despite the pain that it caused. This was a couple of hours ago, but I am still feeling broken. Hopefully be OK by labs tomorrow!

Ah yes, labs. Last week in teaching labs. Ever. If it was down to me we would spend the rest of our time in the lab just refining the products we've got, getting all the characterisation sorted and then being left with plenty of time to sort out all our glassware and stuff. Nice gentle lab sessions. Unfortunately it's a group decision and I expect that, despite the fact I'm 99% sure we won't have time, they'll insist on trying to make more compounds (because we are a bit lacking in variety) which is going to result in running around like headless chickens throughout the lab sessions and probable not achieving anything. Still. Such is life!

It's hard to be grumpy sitting in the sun, radio on (via the web) quietly, birds singing (and the always audible sound of the traffic!). It seems I've come full circle in this blog. So that's it from me for the weekend! I'll let you know how labs go tomorrow!

2012 Cycling total: 44.16 miles

Saturday, March 24, 2012


Well yesterday was a bit of an odd day, much of it was spent quietly contemplating. Had to clear out Ned's cage, and find something to fill the big gap left on my desk.

There was some positivity yesterday though. Had a meeting with my disability adviser about my summer exams. Shan't go into the details until everything is sorted out but it was a productive meeting. Things are being sorted. I hadn't spoken to him since before January exams, 'cos I've just been plodding along and haven't needed any help so it was nice to have a meeting with him. Unlike some of the academics I've spoken to recently about arm related matters (who, don't get me wrong, are all very helpful!), I feel happier talking to him so it was good to have a bit of a chat with him. Not sure what exactly it is but when speaking to him my conversational skills go beyond saying the absolute minimum which is what normally happens in these situations! He asked me how I felt too, not just a usual "how are you?", or "how do you feel about what we're discussing?" but actually how I feel about the fact my arm might not improve more than this. (Not that I want everyone to ask, 'cos that'd get really annoying, but was good of him to do so).

Anyway, enough about that. The sun appears to be shining. In true Nottingham fashion it's really quite hazy, as it has been for the last couple of days. Nice enough though. Forecast suggests further improvement as we go into next week too - yay! I love this type of weather - warm enough that I don't need a jumper but not too hot.

While the mist was still lurking this morning I spent almost 3 hours cleaning our kitchen. It was disgusting. I know it won't last long, but such is the way when you're living with students (slightly annoyed that within a couple of hours of finishing a housemate had already left a dirty spoon on the side!). Should have taken a before shot to emphasise the work I put in but anyway, here's our nice clean kitchen!

The highlight of my cleaning is the fact that the microwave is now white, inside and out! Cleaning of the inside was not pleasant, it's making me feel ill just thinking about it! Cleaning the outside was very satisfying though - in the last 18 months the top of the microwave has slowly gained colours from various bags of bread, but now all trace of that is gone!

After going over some lecture notes (the pile is slowly going down now lectures are winding down!) I figured I should probably make the most of the weather. Bike ride anyone?

It's really frustrating not being able to go any further, that was too far really, and I rode too hard. Just can't help myself! Still 2.2 sunny miles ridden :-)

Brings the 2012 total to 42.29 miles.

I feel like I should be doing some more work now. Really want to be on top of all these notes before the holidays seen as I'm going to be busy for much of the time away from uni. Shot myself in the foot though (somehow thought I might), riding too hard hurts! I'll try and do a couple of hours on polymers at some point today...

Friday, March 23, 2012


I said goodbye to Ned today.

Don't know what happened to him, he was fine Wednesday night and was in bed when I left for uni yesterday morning. When I came back he was looking very ill indeed, lying against the side of his cage. I had an afternoon and evening of hamster cuddling, trying to keep him warm and encouraging him to drink. Unfortunately it didn't help.

Found him a nice spot in the garden though.

I'm quite upset by this. To some people, he was just a hamster, one that I've only had for a year, but he was really important to me. I got him at the end of exams last summer, which wasn't all that long before I had my cycling accident. I've said before I know it could have been a lot worse, but it's still be quite a tough year for me, and despite various states of hand working, and the fact that holding a hamster has often been quite painful he has offered me many big cuddles with his fluffiness. When not being cuddled I've spent many hours watching him happily playing in his cage (usefully positioned on my desk!).

The "trauma" of this experience has been made worse by the fact that he's the only pet I've had since moving to uni so it's been entirely down to me to look after him. Therefore it was also my responsibility to bury him. Never had to do that before :-(

It has already been suggested that I get a new hamster, but I don't think I will. Not for a while anyway.

I'm gonna miss you my little Neddy bear...

Going to be a long day at uni today I think :-(

Thursday, March 22, 2012


Not going to write much today as my hamster is ill and I am on cuddling duty.

Here's a picture of Wollaton Hall in the sun though...

Normal service should resume soon!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Well, in a change from my usual rambling on about the usually dull things I've been getting up to I thought I'd write a bit about lecturing today. More specifically what I think makes a good lecturer.

This has been inspired by the fact that modules are now drawing to a close for the last time in my chemistry degree and over the 3 years I've had lecturers from over 30 academics. Out of all of those, if I look back I'd suggest that perhaps 3 of them were/are exceptional. I shan't name names, but I know that this opinion is at least shared by my group of friends. All 3 of them have reached the position of professor and although some aspects are shared, on the whole they have very different teaching styles.

At this point I'd like to say that with the exception of a couple (again - I'm not going to name names here!) the rest have been very good too, but it's just that these 3 stand out as the best of a good bunch!

So what is it that they've done that's meant I've formed this opinion of them?

I guess the first thing is that they clearly know their stuff to such a level that they can answer just about any question thrown at them, and if they don't know (perhaps because it's not directly related to their specialism), they'll admit it, but will go away and look it up and explain it to you!

This isn't the most important thing though, as most of the lecturers (can definitely think of one exception here mind!), will know the material they're lecturing inside out, at least around the time of the lecture course. For me, I think the most important thing is the clear passion for teaching. They genuinely care about passing on knowledge to the students and will often go the extra mile to do this. It really does show through when they're lecturing to us.

This one might be more of a personal thing as I guess everyone likes to learn in different ways, but common to the people I'm thinking of are clearly defined learning outcomes (not necessarily explicitly stated but there are many lectures that I leave thinking "what have I actually learnt from this?". This is definitely good when it comes to exams as you know what it expected of you.

A sense of humour is also important I think, the ability to engage us students (who especially by 3rd year have mainly lost the will to learn anything!) with jokes and experiences really helps. Nothing over the top, but where appropriate it really works. It gets us paying attention and often aids memory as well.

I should probably balance this with things I don't like. Apart from the obvious lecturer being unprepared and not really knowing what they're doing, lectures which send me and many of my colleagues to sleep are the classic monotonous death by powerpoint lectures. A few examples spring to mind where an academic has just read from the slides and has clearly had the mindset of "this is what the students need for the exam, I will deliver them the material in the quickest and easiest way possible for me and be done with it". Equally annoying is the "I'm going to give you handouts, and have a power point presentation but then spend most of the lecture talking about things which aren't relevant in any way because that's just how I roll".

Don't know if it's just me, but where we've had a particularly good lecturer for a module I've often been inspired to go away and put in the effort and do some extra work myself to ensure success in a exam, whereas the less good ones I tend to find myself not thinking about in the gaps between the lectures, and only really doing as much as work as I have to. I expect this will be reflected in exam grades!

On a more personal note, it has become clear over the almost 3 years I've been here (and particularly over the last 6 months) that there are some academics that care about the students, and some that don't. I've been pleasantly surprised recently to find a number that really are lovely and are clearly going out of their way to be helpful, and often doing the job of others who it would appear care an awful lot less! So, er - thanks if you're one of the good ones!

In a quick change of subject, as I needed a photo of something here's my lunch! Toast, cheese, bacon, beans and BBQ sauce. It was amazing. Definitely too much food though. I'm not even remotely hungry yet so I expect a late dinner is on the cards tonight!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Well at least nothing went horribly wrong in labs today. Looks like we're still not going to make enough products, but we'll give it a go!
Here's some "science occurring"

My miscellaneous meeting today went well I think. Lots to think about and lots to organise but it does mean that I don't need to worry as it looks like things will be sorted out! :-)

Not much else to say today really, other than that we had feedback about our med chem report. Turns out there's an 8 page limit. Thanks for telling me that before I started, given that mine's 10 pages long and not finished... the general content of it is OK though apparently, just need to cut out some of the detail with early results!

Monday, March 19, 2012


Have I ever mentioned that I don't like labs?

Once again it was all going too well! After a productive morning somehow by the end of the afternoon we're really behind and given that next week is the last week of the project we might not finish now. We've made enough compounds to do our lab report, as we only need 2 between us, but not enough to do the medicinal chemistry report.

In a bit of a mad rush at 4 we've put on one of last weeks reactions again in a hope to get a good intermediate which we can continue with and get enough compounds, but the time it'll take to go through the column it's doubtful that we'll actually finish with it (given we'd have to column the final product too....). Panic!

Here's what I ended up spending much of today doing...

My hands also smell of miscellaneous chemicals, despite numerous washings. And my arm hurts.

Sorry. I'll stop being grumpy now. An evening of no work awaits (tomorrow afternoon is designated for getting more lecture notes done!), ready to get back in the lab early tomorrow morning!

Sunday, March 18, 2012


Today has thus far mainly been work filled so I shan't bore you with the details, have been remarkably productive though (just as well as I really did need to make a dent in the pile of notes to go over, although it is still in double figures!).

Other work related news - got my lab report mark back yesterday, it gave me 82% overall in physical labs. Really pleased with this, especially seen as my housemate, and member of my group got 71%. Nice to know that hard work pays off sometimes! If I can get a similar mark in the final lab rotation (should be doable given I got 84% in the first one) it should really take the pressure of exams, seen as labs are worth so much - so fingers crossed!

Somehow in between work, and family visiting I've managed to watch the world cup cycling (men's and women's XC and DH). Really exciting stuff watching the action in South Africa, just disappointing to know that that's it until early June as far as the World Cup goes!

As well as providing me with much entertainment it really has reminded me how much I miss cycling. There's a huge difference between a 10 minute pootle to the canal and the buzz of racing along dusty singletrack on a sunny evening! It's almost certain that I won't be racing this season (although am hoping to turn up with my camera instead!), but getting back on the bike is still something I'm keen to do (obviously fixing would be handy for other things like uni, and getting a job but biking is fun!), I'll definitely be having a good chat with my consultant next month (given he expected I'd be problem free by now...) to see what can be done!

*grumble grumble* rubbish arm *grumble grumble*

Speaking of doctors...

This guy must be a plastic surgeon right? (sorry!)

Not sure about the bed side manner...looks a bit scary to me!

Back in the lab tomorrow, should be starting our Suzuki couplings, according to one of our lecturers they're rather easy to do - so much so that he made the moron/boron comparison! So fingers crossed! Our GSK mentor is coming in tomorrow too (yay!), so that should help things to go a bit more smoothly!

So until tomorrow folks! :-)

PS: This is my 78th post of the year, having made 78 posts in the entirety of last year I feel this is something to be proud of!

Saturday, March 17, 2012


Well I don't really celebrate St. Patricks day but it was difficult not to get caught up with all the activities in town - was a great atmosphere!

We were as good as in the parade at one point (glad I went for a green jumper!), we were trying to cross the town square on a hunt for food and failed miserably as the parade was going all the way round!

Had a really nice day with the family, really looking forward to going home in a couple of weeks now!

Despite spending much of the day out and about I've been quite productive work wise - managed to get through 5 lots of lecture notes so far (although still have 17 to go!!!)

I don't normally mention the news, but given what's just happened in the last few minutes, Fabrice Muamba, a presumably healthy guy, collapsed, mid game of football and it's not looking good. 10 minutes of resuscitation, including defibrillation and reports say he wasn't breathing when he was stretchered off. Horrible that such things can happen. :( Fingers crossed he recovers.

Not going to say anymore than that today 'cos I need to get back to work. Fun times!

Friday, March 16, 2012


I have been entirely organised and started speaking to the relevant people today, I say "speaking" I wimped out, despite having the perfect opportunity to do so, and sent an e-mail so have a meeting thing organised for next week. Hopefully this will mean things get sorted out (although I'm still not entirely sure what can be done!). What would be even nicer is if I spontaneously fix between now and exams, but I expect that might be a bit optimistic...

I have also finished the dreaded med-chem report, well at least finished the draft of it enough that I could hand it in to be checked over before writing of the real thing commences!

I have a lecture at 3 today. On polymers. Until 5. Yes 2 hours, of polymers last thing on a Friday - who thought that was a good idea? Means I should stop writing and get ready to leave, so I shall make it quick!

Today's photo is a very fluffy looking Ned the hamster...

Parents are visiting tomorrow. This is very exciting because this is the longest I've stayed at uni. I'd always gone home every 2-3 weeks but I haven't been back since the Christmas holidays so it'll be very nice to see them (and they must be missing me if they're coming to visit!)

Does mean I ought to tidy my room though...

So, goodbye until tomorrow folks!

Thursday, March 15, 2012


I'll try and keep it brief because I'm tired and I've got this blooming med chem report to finish the draft of but based on the afternoon I've had I need to write something even if it's just to make me feel a bit better!

The day got off to a not great start, having spent much of the night lying awake and coughing I was rather tired this morning. Pretty sure I was actually asleep at one point in the 9 am lecture on surface chemistry (oops!), coffee powered me through the second lecture although that wasn't great either!

With 4 hours to kill until I had anything else at uni I came home, crashed on my bed and had a nice long nap followed by a rather delicious bacon and cheese sandwich (complete with BBQ sauce), even managed to get a bit more of the report's 9 pages long already!

Right, back to uni for the organic tutorial. got my work back and it was covered in much red pen (thought I'd understood this stuff as well....)

I think I get most of it now, but it was a difficult tutorial for me. Being tired meant paying attention was already difficult, and given that I thought I understood it so therefore had to relearn it I was in a perpetual state of confusedness! The real problem came from the fact we were aiming for a 90 minute tutorial (although it turned out to be almost 2 hours in the end!). I was really struggling to write things down, even by the halfway point (swapped and tried to be right handed for a while!), not helped by the fact our tutor made a few mistakes which meant crossing out what I'd just frantically copied down and doing it again!

Tutor was really great though, the faces I was pulling at the end suggested I was stuck rather than just in pain so he did ask if I was OK! We then launched into a conversation about my arm (which he then decided should probably be continued at the end rather than in front of everyone in the middle of the tutorial!). I think our discussion achieved very little (although it was a much needed discussion I think!), as there's not much any one can do. He's worried about me, and how I'll manage in exams (as am I!) and is going to speak to some people for me and at least try and sort something out. I should probably try and get the ball rolling. Maybe will tomorrow. I don't really do asking for help!

But yeah - by the time I left my arm was really sore, and combined with the already tiredness and now refreshed exam worries I was on the verge of tears as I started walking home. Had to ring my mum on the way back!

My housemate helped when I got back though, a much needed hug and a trip to the shop...

My plan for the evening is do as much of this report as possible (it's only supposed to be a draft so I'm sure it will be fine at the stage...), nice long hot shower and then an early night so I can hopefully catch up on some sleep!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Keeping it short today because I am once again ,as well as still being tired, ill and broken, up to my eyes in medicinal chemistry and feeling a tad stressed about it!

The frustrating thing is that this is supposed to be just a draft (just as well 'cos we don't have all the data back yet!), and it's going to be read so we can be advised as to what we need to change. I know I've written mine wrong because I've pretty much gone with how I write my lab reports which is good for normal chemists but apparently medicinal chemists don't like that!

BBQ last night was actually quite successful (apart from the vast amount of washing up left!), go me being actually sociable for a change!

Here's a sample of the bottles left behind (none mine!)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


So, what's new?

Labs - my NMR was declared MIA at 10 am this morning (despite having all the right paperwork!), so that was redone, and confirms (I think) that my product is my product. That's about all the happened in labs!

The plague - My cold which should be getting better by now really isn't, that's 8 nights sleeping sitting up so far and it is spreading I now have an earache and have gone a bit deaf :( . I need sleep...

Riding - despite being ill, and broken I needed a little ride so went out for a quick spin today. Arm definitely hasn't improved, another 2.05 miles under my belt though...

That brings the 2012 riding total up to 42.14 miles.

Other news:

At some point in the last 2 weeks my housemate has had is bike stolen from our shed. Thankfully they didn't take mine (it was locked to the floor!), but I have now moved it inside. If any one sees an 18" grey Inbred around Nottingham it may well be the one so please let me know...

Not nice to know that someone has been in our garden and our shed :(

Last thing:

Having a BBQ this afternoon. Many people have been invited. I'm going to hide (and being ill I feel I have an excuse!). I should probably show my face at some point just to be sociable...

Monday, March 12, 2012


Now it's no real secret that I don't particularly enjoy doing labs at uni, so much so that it's one of the reasons I swapped onto the 3 year course as I didn't want to do a 4th year project!

Today has had me thinking about what exactly it is that I don't like about it. I've come to the conclusion that it's not the actual practical aspect of it. Give me a supply of good glassware and easy to find chemicals and as long as I vaguely know what I'm doing, even with dodgy arm, I'll happily get on with it.

Even when I did my work experience (where what I was doing was actually important to someone else's work!), once I was confident enough in what I was doing I was happy.

This morning for example, it was a bit tedious, but I spent 4 hours perfecting my product (which should already have been pretty pure seen as it came off the column!), with the help of the friendly demonstrator (yes there is only 1!) I managed to turn my slightly oddly coloured, small amount of gummy solid into around 80 mg of a really nice looking white powder. Now I'm apparently a bit of a perfectionist and no one else in my group felt the need to do any of this, but I did and definitely think it was worth it!

Rather sore arm by the end of it, never have I had to transfer so much liquid by pipette! My initial recrystallisation was in the suggested solvent which it turned out to not be particularly soluble in, but I persevered. Due to the rate of solvent boiling often equally or exceeding my rate of addition of solvent I may have got through half a bottle of ethyl acetate to end up with my product dissolved in 50 ml of the stuff! Product then refused to crash out so we had to try a few things to get it done. And then much rotor-vapping and transferring between flasks until we could get it in a solvent suitable for NMR!

Bit of a late lunch having worked hard all morning, but such is life. I then spent the afternoon waiting for my NMR to be ran. It still hadn't been done by the time I left (first annoyance of teaching labs - I wouldn't have minded if they'd have told me, but I'd been told it'd be done for me while I was eating my lunch!).

Having cut my lunch short to get back to the lab it transpired there was actually nothing for me to do. I have now officially got over my rotor-vap fear, spent much of the afternoon getting rid of solvents for my team members, and then doing their washing up for them. Why was there nothing else for me to do you ask? The next stage of our project required the products from the last bit of the experiment which were awaiting columning, and the machine was broken, and there were only 2 manual pumps. (second annoyance of teaching labs - never enough equipment).

As well as these more practical issues the general way that the teaching labs are ran stresses me out. Always seems very high pressure, with very tight deadlines, and yet there are so many factors out of our control! We were told at the beginning of the year that labs this year weren't about gaining practical skills (despite the fact there's still so many things we don't know) and that the experiments have designed to be easy so we can practise things like planning, report writing, data analysis etc. Fair enough, important skills to have but if you're going to design easy experiments, make them actually easy. Or give us enough time to do them so that we're not panicking the whole time! Or at least just reweight the marking so not quite so much rests on the products...

Not sure I like the way the demonstrating system works either (sorry, it really has bugged me today), there are few demonstrators that I would actually turn to and ask for help as many seem to not really know what they're doing. Fair enough because not everyone can know everything but there's not enough of the ones that know what they're doing enough of the time! And the one's that don't have a tendency to come and interfere, and ask lots of questions which aren't all that important and that I don't have time to answer because I'm trying to do six things at once! (how did I end up doing so many things when I had nothing to do for my own project?!)

OK, enough complaining! Today has reminded me that even if my curly arrow drawing often produces some nonsensical mechanisms, and I definitely have a lot to learn, if I was going to be a chemist (and you never know...there's always a chance), organic would be where I go!

Here's my product by the way. I didn't want to hand any over for analysis because I was so happy with it!

Sunday, March 11, 2012


It's difficult not to be happy when the weather's like this isn't it? (even if it is supposed to go back to being cloudy tomorrow!) I haven't quite reached "happy" yet, but I'm getting there!

I thought a picture of the lovely weather would be appropriate but the only place I've been today is Sainsbury's and that's not very exciting so I thought you could see my dinner instead.. yummy pizza!

It was supposed to be BBQ chicken flavour, but the "good" pepperoni ones were on offer so this was cheaper (sorry Matt, I'll get BBQ next time instead!)

Just to clarify, I didn't eat all of this pizza - half of it has been saved for lunch tomorrow!

I have been remarkably productive today and as well as shopping (and prescription collecting) I've done the washing, cleaned out the hamster, tidied up, finished the tutorial, written some more of my report and gone over 4 hours of lecture notes. Hopefully get another hour or 2 done later, probably necessary seen as there's still 13 hours of lectures left! (We have more lectures in a week than I seem to be able to go over at a weekend!)

I'm going to mark today as a success though, given that I'm still tired, ill (I've been drinking vast quantities of orange juice in a vague attempt to help!) and a bit grumpy.

Much less grumpy now though thanks to a small number of people (I hope you know who you are!) who have helped last night and today! :-)

Labs all day tomorrow. If I somehow manage to have scraped together enough product tomorrow will be easy given that I have one thing to stick on the handy columning machine, and one recrystalisation and all is good. Alternatively (and probably most likely), I'm going to have to start last weeks reaction again so that I can get an NMR, IR, and melting point etc. plus have enough to give to GSK to test for us! Without amazing GSK guy this week, and with the addition of the rest of the lab group in the lab tomorrow I fear failure may be imminent!

Saturday, March 10, 2012


I was debating whether or not to do a proper post today, in fact the decision was something which received much thought on the long drive home back from the beach.

Had a really nice day out with the housemates, a definitely much needed break I think! Although it did remind me how crazy I have become, I wouldn't join in with the paddling in the sea because that would have involved getting sand on my feet *shudders*.

Here's a few photos from the day...
It was pretty cloudy when we first got there, but despite the greyness it still looked pretty good!

The sun showed itself later on and it turned out to be really nice weather wise

I found a crab claw too, had great fun teasing my housemate with it! (revenge for him dangling me upside down over the sea!)

Brought back a lot of memories too, it has been a very long time since I've been to Skegness and yet many things were just how I remembered them. We had a nice fish and chips on the front (even if my mushy peas did "dissolve" my chips, a well earned meal after our epically long walk on the beach - right from where the pier is all the way down to just past Gibraltar Point!

I think the highlight of the day was the reaction of one of my housemates, her previous visits to the beach have involved the family's beach hut and barbecuing sea bass so I think Skegness came as a bit of a shock! There were a huge number of signs which received the comment "seems legit", an example being "Skegness Pier, what a great idea" along with the "for sale" sign spray painted onto a vacant ice cream/souvenir selling booth thing, there were many more - all were photographed and I expect will be appearing in a facebook album at some point in the near future...

Now the down side of a trip to the beach, especially after last week and yesterday in particular was the amount of thinking time it gave me! The long time there and back, not to mention the epic walk along the beach! I really don't need more thinking time.

Now I've always been pretty open with this blog, but for the time being I don't really want to go into the details. What I will say is that my trip to the doctors yesterday didn't go as planned. Don't worry, I'm not about to die or anything (well at least I don't think so!), but I didn't get the news I was hoping to be hearing at this point. It seems a safe bet that the slim chance I had of racing a bike this season has now evaporated and that's the least of my worries!

One the advice of @lonemat (happy now you've been mentioned? :P ) I'm trying to be optimistic (and am going to have fun...working?) - I have time on my side, I am going to come up with a plan B though. Thanks for your help today though!

I have a feeling I'm going to be leaning on a select few people over the next few weeks and months, some who will be reading this and some who won't (and I expect some will be happier about it than others!), so thanks in advance for putting up with me!

Right, that's probably enough from me. The ill/tired thing hasn't disappeared yet so I should probably get an early night. Having not done any work today I have a mountain to climb tomorrow, amongst the rest of the things I need to do, and I don't think there's enough hours in the day to do it all. When did uni get so difficult? :-(

Friday, March 9, 2012


Shan't write much tonight 'cos I'm tired and I don't want to turn this into a rant!

Not really done that much today, I blame the fact that I'm ill (still blaming the chemistry...).

A combination of tiredness, a mountain of work to do and not the news I wanted to hear means I'm a bit grumpy. Hopefully this will cheer me up a bit...

Hopefully off to the beach tomorrow with housemates tomorrow which should be good (although won't help my mountain of work!), possible except for the long drive there and back all crammed into a not very big car!

Told you I wasn't going to write very much!

Thursday, March 8, 2012


Despite the fact I'm feeling substantially less than 100% today (almost woke my housemate up in the night because I felt so ill, and yes I'm going to blame it on organic labs!) I've actually had quite a nice day!

2 hours of lectures passed with much sleepiness (definitely glad I record them)!, probably could have paid more attention in the 2nd one but I had an e-mail to reply to, we've reached a level of friendliness where smiley faces are acceptable so I thought I'd make the most of it and reply quickly!

After lectures was when the fun started though, went to the computer centre with a friend for a couple of hours - he had a plan to write, and I was supposed to be continuing with my med-chem report (I did make some progress...), but ended up drawing his diagrams and helping him do research instead (ionic liquids are more exciting than enzymes I've never heard of...). Following this we went to one of the campus bars and he bought me a drink (just coke!), and paid for a BBQ chicken wing platter thing which we shared.

We then played pool too, despite rubbishness of arm I even managed to win a game!

Then home, lots of work to do but I ended up having a nap (yes I know...) and then finally made it to Sainsbury's having been needing a trip for a while. Had to go to the big Sainsbury's so I could stock up on cough remedies (not that I expect they'll be any use if it is chemical related, although I expect it isn't!). All that means it's now half 5 and I still haven't done any more work, but I did get a nice view on the way back which my iPhone camera picked up much better than I expected!

Tomorrow's an odd kind of day. One lecture at 10 and a workshop at 4 (and we have to get our lab plan for the next 3 weeks approved in the middle somewhere). I have contemplated staying at uni for the day and attempting to work but I think I shall come home instead, especially seen as I have a doctor's appointment at 5.20...wonder who's going to be the tired grumpiest - me or him?

See you tomorrow folks (unless my lungs have given up by then...)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


I've said it before and I'll say it again, it's been a funny sort of day...

Yesterday evening was far less productive than I'd hoped - my plan of doing the organic tutorial because it might be fun failed miserably because I couldn't do it and still haven't finished it. I then really started trying to write this med chem report (draft due in next week), I've gone off biology...spent lots of time googling and vaguely came up with something which I've sent off in hope some one will have a look at it and explain the biology yo me ('cos I'm pretty sure I got it wrong!).

Biology has also plagued me today - we have a new lecturer for the second half of biosynthesis, I suspect I'm going to enjoy this half a lot less. He started by telling us we have to learn the 20 amino acids (not a huge problem I suppose, but could do without it!), someone questioned this by asking if it was fair, given that most of us are straight chemists with no biological background, the response was "yes, they're chemicals aren't they? Besides, you need to have something to memorise for the exam!". Not sure that's entirely the right attitude but hey, such is life!

Now before this lecture my morning began in a similar way to yesterday, I managed to spill my molecular modelling kit everywhere (having been playing with it yesterday to try and do the tutorial!). Made a bit of a mess!

And then off to uni, earlier than my housemates 'cos none of them are doing this module. It was a bit cold and drizzly when I set out. Bit miserable but still OK. Got about halfway in and it started chucking it down. Can only be described as torrential. I was not happy when I turned up to uni, I don't remember ever being so wet! The had to sit through this biosynthesis lecture.

My plan was then an hour of drinking coffee and working. But the coffee machine was broken, and I was distracted by a friend so did neither of those things (did get 5 million points on temple run though...)!

Thankfully the next lecture was better, he's definitely a contender in my personal lecturer of the year competition!

My afternoon then picked up significantly. An afternoon away from work and instead spent with (non-chemistry) friends as it was my oldest friends birthday. We had party food, played games and most importantly had cake!

The only down side to this was the almost hour long walk back afterwards (how I miss my bike!), but, although cold, it was sunny so with my iPod for company it was a nice walk. Lots of thinking.

I should probably do some work now. Not sure quite how the work keeps piling up on me. Don't know how the lazier students amongst us do it... perhaps I'm just not that efficient!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


It went too well yesterday didn't it?

My product from yesterday once solvent free is what can only be described as a smear on the glass, and it needs crystallising next week so the amount will only go down. Our scale up reaction (which is the one we're were supposed to be doing next week), didn't go horrendously but I'm sure has produced way less product than we need so chemistry wise not a brilliant session!

To make things worse I managed to burn my finger (and now have a rather impressive blister!), who knew that glass would burn when it's hot enough to be bendy...? And, I dropped a solvent bottle (got a bit adventurous with my left hand!), managed to rescue it with an impressive reflex catch in my other hand, my reflexes hadn't taken into account the round bottomed flask I was holding in the same hand... not brilliant (although I guess I was lucky as I avoided spilling the contents of the solvent bottle, and despite smashing the round bottomed flask between that bottle and my hand I somehow managed to avoid getting a giant shard of glass in my hand...). And I worked hard to ended up with a rather sore arm at the end. :-(

I knew things were going to go horribly wrong without our GSK mentor around! This led to a very grumpy Becky, especially given that he's not back next week and we're sharing the lab with lots more people so it's not going to get any easier!

*grumble grumble labs grumble grumble*

My mood has been slightly improved by the fact that for lunch we went to Domino's cos it's voucher time again so had a really nice pizza for only £1, and we sat on the grass in the sun and ate it!

Then had a highly amusing conversation with housemates which resulted in one of them proving that he could open the fridge from lying on the floor if the other one broke his legs with an iron...don't ask!

I've got an afternoon of work ahead of me (again!), assuming I can motivate myself. Organic first because despite epic failings in labs I'm actually finding that the most enjoyable at the moment (I should probably whisper things like that so no one hears!)

Monday, March 5, 2012


OK, so today was the first time I've had to do any "real" chemistry in a lab in around a year. Lack of practice, rubbish arm and knowing how much is riding on marks from labs at the moment I was a bit apprehensive. More than a bit 'cos I couldn't even manage breakfast this morning!

Our schedule was looking tight, lots of stuff to get done.

Now brace yourselves for this. It was actually OK. Got a pat on the back from our amazing GSK mentor because we worked hard, and well as a team and are now ahead of time! (assuming death by TLC tomorrow yields the results we want!).

Only had to steal someone's arm a couple of times and somehow managed to do most things right handed (and only stabbed myself with hypodermic needles twice!), my product was the second to be columned, and the first persons had failed so I was a bit worried at this point, because it was getting late in the day. But it appears to have done OK so we'll find out for sure tomorrow.

In our group's super organisedness we managed to get reactions set up which we weren't supposed to be starting until next week which is always good. A bit of breathing space should we need it now! Not seeing our GSK mentor for 2 more weeks. This worries me because not only is he a really nice guy he's helpful and kept us on track (and answered all our stupid questions!).

I also seem to have got over my fear of the rotary-evaporator with help from a nice demonstrator! Now only slightly worried that it'll cause my product to spontaneously combust or something....

In summary - I can apparently do a reductive amination and deprotection without anything horrible happening, and doing things under nitrogen doesn't makes things that much more difficult when you're allowed to use balloons!

Here's some science happening...

Yes it even had a nice colour!

So tomorrow, numerous hours of TLCs (oh the joy...), 1 lecture and then home to...oh some more!

Despite 9-5 at uni today I have managed to be reasonably organised! Doctor's appointment booked - 5.20 pm on Friday, I'm going to regret that aren't I? And got the ball rolling with volunteering for St. Johns Ambulance, the chap I've been speaking to seems really nice. Hopefully get going with that over Easter, and then continue once uni has finished! Should be fun (I'd been meaning to do it for the last 2 year!), and I would imagine looks reasonable on a med school application...

Sunday, March 4, 2012


Well as you know my plan for today involved lots and lots of work. I'm not going to lie, I got off to a bit of a slow start. I must have been tired 'cos I didn't wake up until gone half 7 (and that's late for me!), lounged about until breakfast at 9 and then ended up laying on my bed dozing until well past 11.

That was the morning gone then. Once I got going though I was pretty productive, managed to get through 4 hours of organic chemistry lectures (so I'm up to date with that module, until Wednesday anyway!), still have quite a few more hours to go (although thankfully out of double figures now!), not going to do any more tonight mind!

Also managed half an hour or so of some physical/inorganic chemistry work shop questions. Not interesting enough to hold my attention though so I gave up and had some food instead. Based on my now, post-dinner feelings I expect that's it for me today with work, 'cept for helping my brother learn some maths later!

Given that I'm going to be in the lab all day tomorrow I think I can have a relaxing evening. Looks like we really will be in the lab all day as well, as opposed to previous lab rotations where everything has been done early. We've got a tight schedule to follow if we're going to get everything done for our project. I'm not optimistic, even now and not having set foot in the lab, but it is my first "real" chemistry in over a year and depending where life takes me it could be the last time I ever go in a lab so I should try and make the best of it. I'll keep telling myself that. *grumble grumble labs grumble grumble*

Here's today's picture. Work and coffee (lunch!), what an exciting life I lead! :P

Saturday, March 3, 2012


First thing to talk about today is last night, don't get me wrong, most of it was very good but unfortunately for 2 out of the 5 of us it ended in a less than pleasant manner (I shan't go into the details...). Safe to say it's put me off going back to a Flaming Gill pub again as well...

So today, having opted to not have any painkillers before bed (following the post-meal antics), I woke up early and hadn't slept very well. At least it gave me the chance to test whether my arm has fixed or not (it hasn't!). Up by 8, washing on, house's washing up done and cracking on with my lab report.

The next 4 or 5 hours were very dull. Despite lab report being almost finished yesterday it took me a long time to finish it today. A few tweaks here and there, getting the referencing done and the figures labelled. I think all my hard work over the last week or so has been worth it though - my housemate proof read it for me and said he was scared by good it is!

It may have been stressful doing all the data analysis and going round and round in circles but I almost enjoyed writing the report, because I like writing (hence the blog!). Just hope my mark reflects the amount of work I put into it!

Now, at this point I still had 13 hours of lectures to listen to and make notes from, some work shop questions to go through, and some more planning for labs on Monday. From this I achieved the lab planning bit. Feel like I should have done more work but I expect I really did need the break from it. Lab planning was successful though, opened the new moleskine notebook (thanks GSK!) and made some notes as to plans for what's going to be going on in the lab. Still not looking forward to it though!

I then sat, for a while, then went to Sainsbury's with my housemate, and then sat some more. Work was in front of me but I just couldn't bring myself to do it! Unfortunately at around 4 I scuppered my chances of doing any more work for a little while 'cos I opted to go for my now weekly 10 minute bike ride. Well, according to endomondo I did 14 minutes (2.09 miles, max speed of 21 mph...), that's a little bit further than last week, and a little bit more further than the week before that. I now feel really quite broken!

If anyone was driving/walking along near the canal in Nottingham and saw someone with a manic grin but at the same time pulling really quite strange faces riding a bike. It was me! (despite the rubbishness of my arm I can't help but smile whilst riding - just wish I could go a bit further!)

And as has become tradition, here's my bike leaning on something near the canal. I'm going to run out of things to lean on soon seen as I can't go very far!

I'll try and do some work later, if not tomorrow will be more productive I'm sure!

2012 Riding total: 40.09 miles

Friday, March 2, 2012


Huzzah, it's the end of Friday! If only this meant the end of work. Much work to be done over the weekend - lab report to finish, notes to go over, a workshop to do and labs to prepare for. Really need to start writing our medicinal chemistry report too - have a while left to do this but it's occurred today just how little of the med chem stuff I actually know so it may take a while!

Today has been an odd kind of day, I'm not sure entirely why but I've just felt a bit strange. I've decided it's because I've been working too hard (although I doubt that's the actual reason!). In between bouts of strange feelings I was rather amused in our organic chemistry lecture, without having to worry about writing down the notes I couldn't help but look at what I'd been handed and think that the carbene derivatives all looked a bit sad/angry:

Today, as with most Fridays was a very stretched out day at uni so once I'd finished our lab plan for next week (yes, the group one which I ended up doing just about all of....) I thought I should go for a walk, and run an errand at the same time, so I could make the most of the good weather. Despite the rather inappropriately "placed" hills I do love our campus :)

Ooo, an update on my secret mission...I e-mailed someone else about it, as they'll likely be involved too so it's only fair they know what's going on (even if you lot don't get to know!) and he was a tad more helpful with his response so my not looking forward to labs is at least slightly less now!

Tonight? Instead of work I'm taking the night off. My housemate is doing a bit meat eating challenge at the pub in celebration of his finishing of labs for the year (I'm not in the slightest bit jealous...), so for once I'm doing the student thing and spending my Friday evening down t'pub. Although not going to studenty 'cos I shan't be drinking anything alcoholic (cos I don't really do drinking alcohol and even if I wanted to I'm told it wouldn't mix well with my various painkillers...)

Hope you all have a good Friday night!