Medicinal Banter

Good day boys n girls and here’s wishing you all a fine weekend!
So I had my FINAL ethics and diversity training this week as part of my PhD. Now I know you are all expecting me to tear it apart and be truly brutal with my opinions on it all… But between reading a few papers and dropping a couple of tweets, I actually listened to some of it. Here are the highlights.
I zoned in during an argument between the teacher and a fellow PhD student discussing a sign they saw in Spain saying “Men must wear trousers” referring to a hotel restaurant. They were trying to decide whether it meant men as a gender or men as a sex. Please don’t ask me to make sense what this meant as I’m still fairly clueless. The conclusion they came to though was the sign should read “wear a skirt or trousers in the restaurant”. It all got a bit out of hand and what should have been a two minute convo to get us thinking about these things ended up in a heated debate. I then went on to learn that apparently on Tinder/Grinder (I forget which) there is now the option of over forty different genders. There is also a big thing in the States about it now and toilets people can have and use and not use and this concept of “misgendering” people.   Back to twitter land for me…
When I came back in again the subject had changed to the above in academia and how we should behave and act around such people. My answer is no different to anyone else? If you are working dangerously, expected to be yelled at just as much as anyone else. If you do great, the opportunities for success are just the same. Look at Stephen Hawking. Science should not be about anything other than the quality of an individual’s research. This week whilst teaching undergrad labs, one of my students was in a wheelchair. Did this prevent the student in question from doing a great job and making molecules. Not one bit. Does their disability or gender have any effect on their potential? No. Disabilities and gender do NOT effect a person’s potential.
Then in comes the massive counter argument of “ There are less women in STEM, fact!”. Yes, there are. “There are more women than men in creative subjects however I don’t see men championing for interior designer equal opportunities. I digress, is this no women in STEM all down to conscious or subconscious bias. Unlikely. Statistically more men than women enter STEM at undergrad levels so the pipeline is already lacking women. Then the pipeline is also leaky. I don’t want to go too much into it really.
After this I got bombarded with how many women are lecturers compared to males and how many make it to professorship compared to males. Here I have a problem empathising because realistically I will not make it to either of these dream jobs in the current market so boohoo, I’ve got bigger problems.
I also got told to “avoid banter”… Not happening. Labs need banter to deal with the painful failures of reactions and crushing pressure of writer’s guilt. It gets you through those rough times of which there are plenty.
The talk went on and I could continue telling you all about it but it really doesn’t make for hard hitting blog material (although let’s face it, everything I throw up on my blogs is trash), and my final thoughts were “This is ok, I get its importance, just don’t drag me away from my beloved fume hood”.
Outside of my learning to use gender neutral pronouns I have also been doing some chemistry would you believe it. A quick and dirty synthesis of cyanoacetamides. I decided as I wasn’t following any specific literature, only a similar method that I would trial a few different methods at once and see what stuck. The starting materials are cheap and we have them in bulk so why not. I left them cooking overnight and in the morn, two out of my six pots had recrys’d into beautiful pink needle like crystals. Excellent I thought. Washed ‘em and dryed ‘em and ended up with something resembling candy floss. I then chose not to throw away my remaining reactions as I figured a TLC was in order to see if anything was going on at all. As I moved them about they all recrystallized in my hand. Truly wonderful reaction it seems that can tolerate a bunch of different conditions and crash out every time. It also means I’ve some eleven grams of my candy floss to take forward into subsequent reactions. Even works solvent-less. Winner.

I was also subjected to a very fast paced talk this week from a visiting chemist on his supramolecular chemistry. Lots of wild graphs and photos and every supramolecular chemists old favourite, catenane. I’m not sure I was the target audience if I am honest.  The man seemed very nice and that’s all I would like to say about that…
Today’s #ReactionRecap is the Robinson Annulation. This cheeky little reaction is the result of efforts by Sir Robert Robinson back in the 1930’s. Essentially we have a Michael addition followed by an intramolecular aldol reaction to generate – unsaturated cyclohexanone. The mechanism begins with a deprotonation, allowing a Michael reaction to occur. Then deprotonation occurs again for the aldol to proceed on its self like a snake eating its own tail. Dehydration occurs and et voila. Robinson Annulation done.


Very useful for forming the central scaffold of several natural products such as steroids.

Time for me to do one now as I’ve a fume hood to attend to. More fruitless reactions await no doubt!
Catch me all over twitter @LewisMGooch





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