Friday, May 31, 2013

Angry Birds: Academia

The title is just what I think would be a thoroughly hilarious game for one's smartphone.  However, as I am a cranky postdoc (at least until early next year), I have found the franchise thoroughly helpful for those moments where I need to kill a minute or four in lab waiting for something to incubate/boil/equilibrate.

While I am tremendously interested in chemical microscopy of all sorts, various online discussions of a recent Science paper regarding AFM studies of single molecules of reactant and products reminded me of the somewhat odd excitement over "seeing" something.  Your eyes are limited spectrometers that can only deal with photons, and many don't appreciate the signal processing involved between your eye and your brain.  Now, if we could do electrons and neutrons as well, I'd be less worried about our restricted optical window.  Heh.

I keep meaning to post long overwrought thoughts about NMR, lipid bilayers, and the scurrilous treatment of valence bond theory by some people, but don't hold your breath.  Maybe once I clear my to-do list further, I'll have the cognitive energy to do so.

Question for any who might be reading - is there an opposite of "minimal publishable unit"?  When you have a ~ 15 page article in a solid journal along with another ~ 15 pages of supplementary information, maybe you want to see about splitting that work up.  Especially if you're citing the SI in the main article. 

I'll go topple over some structures now.....

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Sunday, May 5, 2013

A bit overdue, I suppose.

It seems that I have neglected you, dear blog.  I would express my regret, but, well, I've been busy.  I do hope that any occasional visitors have been having themselves a healthy, enjoyable, and productive 2013.

In any case, research is progressing to the point to where critical experiments will be run within the next few months, and presuming that my calculations are not too far off, we should obtain a reasonable amount of interesting data that will be published not long thereafter.   Which should help with the entire "what to do next?" conundrum.

However, before I meander to other topics, an observation - the one thing that keeps biochemistry challenging is that your samples are never entirely happy.  You can purify it to some vague approximation of homogenity, put it in a buffer it likes, add cryoprotectant, and flash freeze in countless little aliquots for storage at -80 degrees Celsius.  And when someone takes out an untouched aliquot 3 years later to check its viabiity, they find it's.....reluctantly alive.  You compare it to a sample made of protein you prepared a week ago, it's clearly working nowhere near its potential.  Now, I had the occasion to stop by my old grad school lab the other year, and the one student working on my old project is still using the small molecule ligands that was synthesized by myself and another student ~ 10 years ago. And that sample was not aliquoted out in tiny volumes, each one to only be used once, rest assured. 

Onto said other topics......

- I have to say I am extremely tickled and intrigued by the idea of approaching quantum mechanics as a certain generalization of probability theory.  It's probably a good thing I have no intentions of being a faculty member anywhere, as I'd probably try to pull off a presentation like this to students. 

- I sort of postponed my entire relativistic quantum chemistry self-study program.  I will get back to it.  One of these days.

- I am finding myself in the position where I need to start doing some serious practical and theoretical NMR teaching to a very small audience, though.   The whiteboards in lab are going to get messy, I suspect.

- Should probably start microblogging more often, to boot. 

Anyway, going to try and chime in more regularly here over the upcoming weeks and months. 

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