Organic Chemistry Lab Adventures

Having many hours of lab is a normal part of life for undergraduate science majors. Almost every science class has attached to it a four hour lab.  I have two lab classes and therefore I spend a large portion of my afternoons in lab. On Mondays I have organic chemistry lab from 1-5.  Call me nerdy, but I love o-chem lab.  It all has to do with my lab professor, Professor Tom Vasquez.  

Lab is usually not the most pleasant endeavor—working from right after lunch until dinner time. While I love sciences, by the time 5 o’clock on lab days rolls around, I can’t wait to leave lab. But organic chemistry lab is so different.  Professor Vasquez makes it fun. He gives very entertaining pre-lab lectures that are also easily understood so we don’t feel hopelessly lost when standing in front of thousands of dollars worth of equipment I can’t even name. He also initiated what has come to be known as “the three o’clock stomp”. At 3 o’clock, the entire lab stops working and simultaneously stomps or jumps on the ground.  The point: to annoy the general chemistry lab below us and to show them what they have to look forward to if they continue on in the chemistry world.  It is times like the “3 o’clock stomp”, that I appreciate the professors at Pomona.  They are people who want learning to be fun.  Professor Vasquez wants us not to begrudgingly come to lab because we have to, but because we want to.

I have never been more appreciative of the amazing o-chem lab staff than on Monday.  We were performing the “synthesis of Limonene lab”, meaning that we were to spend four hours turning a simple orange peel into an organic molecule.  My lab partners and I had successfully finished the synthesis and were diligently cleaning up our bench so we could leave.  I was washing the last of the dishes when my partner turned to me and asked, “Where did you put our finished limonene?”  Then it hit me.  I had just washed down the drain the chemical we had spent four hours synthesizing.

I felt awful.  Any other professor would have made us stay another four hours, or at the very least would have deducted points.  But Professor Vasquez told us that we could use someone else’s data, and that the only thing he required was that he had the right to make fun of me for the rest of the year.  Hey, I’ll take it! Bring on the jokes!

Thanks to Professor Vasquez, and the entire o-chem lab team for making lab one of my favorite times of the week!