Monday, August 20, 2007

Moving on up...

I have officially moved up in the world of graduate students. As of 4:00 this afternoon, I have an "undergrad" at my disposal!

Friday, August 17, 2007


Friday evening after work I popped a Lean Cuisine into my trusty Kenmore microwave, turned the time to 3 minutes, and went to check my email. After I heard a loud popping sound, I went back into the kitchen only to discover that my microwave had caught on fire. Tons of disgusting-smelling smoke filled the air, and I could barely see my kitchen. Luckily, I'm a chemist, so I was prepared to pull the trigger on the fire extinguisher. Amazingly, the chemistry microwave we have in lab has never created any problems, but my own food microwave decides to blow up in my face! My new cat and I ended up spending the night at the Ramada Inn to avoid inhaling the nasty smoke.

So I am wondering--do all of your chemistry departments offer safety training before you start working in the laboratory? We had to take a laughable online safety exam--but also had a small practical course in which we were required to put out a small fire using an extinguisher. Although I found it annoying at the time, I'm very grateful for that hot summer afternoon that we spent putting out fires. I had never used a fire extinguisher before in my life.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Won't you try some of this lovely lemonade?

Where have I been? Well, among other things, I was getting shot up with iopromide and drinking a lovely lemon-flavored mixture of 2% barium sulfate. (If I hadn't sick already, that concoction would certainly have done the job). While barium is a toxic metal (atomic number 56, which makes it perfect for CT scans because it readily absorbs X-rays), barium sulfate has a very low aqueous solubility and is quickly flushed out of the body, thus preventing any extremely bad side effects. (On a sidenote, barium carbonate, which is soluble in stomach acid, is toxic and used as a rat poison). When I mentioned to the CT technician that I am a chemist, he was super nice and even showed me the drug data sheet on iopromide (which even had a structure!), so I could get a glimpse of the lovely iodinated compound that would soon be running through my body. As far as I can tell, iopromide was developed in the early 1980s and is one of the safest nonionic contrast agents out there. Nonetheless, it is necessary to sign an "informed consent" form before the drug can be administered. With an iodine content of almost 50%, iopromide is able to enhance the visibility of organs and blood vessels during radiographic procedures. Once it is injected, it feels like you are on fire and you get a yucky taste in your mouth, similar to the one you had in 1st grade when you licked the flagpole :o)