Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Graduate Tours and More
The weather was absolutely perfect! The temperature went all the way down to high seventies!
After waking up and showering, I ran over to Havemeyer to suit up for today’s lab. Did I mention that we were given brand new lab coats and safety goggles? One feels much more prepared to tackle a distillation lab when protected by snazzy science gear!
After a long few hours, our group managed to produce a small amount of ethanol! To determine that what we had distilled was indeed ethanol, we performed the simplest qualitative test we could devise; we burned it! And instead of leaving the building for lunch, we had the chance to meet with graduate students attending Columbia!
Michael and I were given a tour by Zach, an aspiring Materials Chemist. Amazingly, he grew up in the Bay Area and furthermore, he had not been attending a private Jewish High School, he would have attended De Anza and been part of our school district! It makes me wonder that if he was our age, he may have been a part of the ILC!
But geography aside, he took us on a tour of the lab he worked in and told us about his work on so called “Quantum Dots”, tiny particles which fluoresce light at specific wavelengths corresponding to their size.
He showed us his fume hood as well as a sample he had synthesized. He would later run tests on the sample to determine whether or not it was the specific Cadmium compound he was trying to achieve.
Unfortunately, due to its high toxicity, he smartly decided to not work on it while a bunch of outsiders were in the lab.
After the tour, we hustled down to a presentation room where professor Ronald Breslow showed us some of the big issues that modern day Chemists are working on including better batteries, cures for viruses, and improved solar cells.
My image of Chemistry as a discipline only about the complex and arbitrary manipulation of molecules was revolutionized! The incredible variety of applications of a Chemical background hit me when two grad students were talking about a Chemical Engineer’s likely job as a reactor designer! I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s lab, where we’ll be synthesizing and then isolating Aspirin!