A Slow Start

Starting research over the summer is an experience like no other. With everyone in advanced stages of their project working around me, stepping into the lab was intimidating to say the least.  Despite of the nervousness, I felt special. I was given my very own hood and desk. I spent the first few days familiarizing myself with all the drawers, the storage of the chemicals, and most importantly, my lab partner’s notebook.

Fortunately, my partner is the beholder of impeccable organization skills. That, of course, manifests in her equally impeccable notebook.  The well-organized notebook not only taught me how to follow every step, but also how to maintain a neat organized notebook. It did not take me long to realize the value of a lab notebook. In short, it is everything essential for furthering research.

On the third day of lab, I gathered enough courage to start my first synthesis reaction. It was a simple one: the addition of hydrazine hydrate to Rhodamine B to make Rhodamine B Hydrazide.   Even though it was an easy reaction, I encountered many challenges with simple tasks such as putting a rubber stopper on a round bottom. I quickly realized that a research lab is different from a lecture lab because in a research lab, skills are learned so well that they become muscle memory. There is little thought needed to complete many difficult procedures. In a lecture lab, we strongly adhere to step by steps in the manual.  The start was slow, but the volume of skills acquired thus far is immeasurable.


  1. Aaron Bayles says:

    It was really brave to come in and start chemistry research over the summer! That’s very rare, and since you were without a mentor and only relying on your partner’s notebook, problems are bound to pop up! Also, very impressive to know you did your first synthesis within a week of starting lab. Those are not the easiest things in the world and it seems like you did that with very little guidance.
    Over time, even the big stuff gets easier!

  2. alexanderwilliams says:

    I can relate to the intimidation you felt initially. I had little experience coming into lab this summer which made me thankful for having a mentor who was patient and receptive.

  3. Thank you, Aaron!

  4. I am also very grateful for the patience with which my mentor walked me through my initial stages!