helen-louise (baratron) wrote,

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My supervisor is nuts, part 1

So, you probably want to know how my college work is going. The thing is, nothing very exciting has happened. I mean, I spent the whole of last week reading books and making notes on protein synthesis. Wow.

So instead I should tell you more about the wonderful but utterly insane man who is my primary supervisor, Philip. Lately he has been working fairly intensely with an MSc student who took a month off work to get as much as possible of his lab project done (remember we're all part-time students?). Said student is lovely but very uncertain of himself in the lab. As a result, I've been getting regular text messages on my phone from Philip saying that he can't get to meetings because of "disasters in the lab". I have total sympathy and understanding because I will be exactly the same once I start lab work, having not done anything of that nature since, er, 1996.

Anyway, so I saw Philip on Tuesday and he apologised for having had to spend so much time with [other student]. I said "It's ok, I've mostly just been dealing with disability stuff. Actually, I've been quite amused by it all, because it's like building up credit - if you've had to deal with that many disasters with another student, you should be happy to deal with at least that many with me!". And I told him how Richard and I apparently have divergent ideas of what constitutes successful recovery of a lab situation. Personally, I'm happy if no humans or expensive equipment is damaged, and the product can be recovered. Richard thinks that only the equipment is important, because humans can heal and you can redo the work. I think that Richard is a big-ol'engineer and has no idea what a multi-stage chemical synthesis is like.

So I asked what has been happening. Philip said "You know we don't have an NMR machine, we have to go over to UCL to borrow theirs?".
I said "Yeeees?", picturing exploded NMR machine that doesn't even belong to Birkbeck.
"When [other student] did the mass spec on his product, it didn't have the right molecular weight. I eventually realised it was because the methanol and water present were forming a hemiacetal."
"And... what was the problem?".
"Well, just that it took me so long to work out what was wrong."
"Did [other student] throw his product away, thinking he'd made the wrong thing?"
"No, he's still got it."

Get this. I am working for a man whose idea of a disaster is getting the wrong molecular weight on a mass spectrum. What the hell does he call it when there's a massive explosion and you're removing shards of glass from your skin and scraping product off the ceiling?

I'm doomed, aren't I?
Tags: philip, wuzzie

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