|Leaving the Research
To Do Before You
So, you've decided to join that huge group of ingrates who, just when they're become true, independent collaborators who need almost no guidance from me, have the nerve to graduate! It's amazing how general this trend is.
Seriously, now that you're off to new adventures, you need to leave your bench and everything connected with it in the clean, orderly condition you wish you'd found yours in, or perhaps actually did. Specifically, you need to deal with four things: the lab notebook(s), chemical samples and intermediates, spectra, and any group job(s) you've been putting off, in hopes of being rescued by the end of the semester.
To do this, please check, and amend if necessary, these specific points:
Wrap a piece of Scotch tape around the label, since almost any solvent will wash the label clean (of course, solvents will also eat adhesive tape, but at least it serves as a barrier).
Flush the vial with N2, and finally use Parafilm®1 - just a little - to completely seal it. Then, find a small cardboard box that will hold all of your samples.
Dispose of unusable, impure, unidentifiable samples - Do not leave them behind! This is NOT an exercise in labeling hazardous waste! Remember how you felt when you found, in the deep recesses of your bench, a vial of dark brown sludge, with no label? (It better not still be there!) Let's not place the next person at your bench in that position.
Spectra (IR, NMR)
After all of your time here, you've probably accumulated many IR and some NMR spectra. Treat these items carefully; they're the most valuable documentation we have. The best way to organize spectra is twofold:
A few group jobs entail keeping things in order and/or clean, such as Hazardous Waste, Vacuum Pumps, and Group Area Cleanliness. In the past, people have taken off, leaving overflowing waste containers, vacuum pumps/manifolds dirty and in need of maintenance, and group areas sprinkled with MgSO4, dust, and other gross stuff.
Well, that hasn't been a problem for awhile now, because it's a contingency of leaving the group in good standing to not leave any responsibility hanging, for others to do for you.
Consequences of Not Leaving Things Clean, Orderly, and Finished
Ordinarily, I wouldn't even include this section, but, not long ago, a departing group member challenged me - right to my face - as to what leverage I had any more to be sure he2 had organized his samples and finished some group job, now that he was out the door. BIG mistake.
Imagine his surprise when he opened his grade report to find an "I" for research - it was a couple of credits he couldn't afford to lose and still graduate. He called me and treated me to a series of attempted manipulations, including trying to convince me with "logic", pleading, cajoling, using the "poor pitiful me" ploy, getting angry, etc. After he was finished (I'd listened without a word), he said "So...can you let me off, just this once, I'll make it up to you (ha), etc.". I said one word: "No". This initiated another stream of invective, which I interrupted when he took a breath, and said simply that if it were done, I'd remove the "I"; if not, I wouldn't.
Reisgned to what had to
be done, complete with grumbling, whining, and other behaviors more
suitable to a five year old, he came back on a
weekend day, finished the whole thing in under three hours, and all was
well, although I'm sure his friends still hear about my incredible
lack of understanding. This person had obviously not yet encountered
truly abusive behavior - and, I suspect, had seldom heard the word
"No!" when growing up.
1In sealing a vial or bottle with Parafilm®,
about as much as you'd need to go around the neck of the container 1-12 times. Remove the paper backing, hold
the end of the Parafilm against the vial/cap interface with a finger,
and slowly wrap around the vial, pulling and stretching the Parafilm as
you go. Once you've gone around once, the Parafilm will anchor itself,
so you can concentrate on the wrapping. It should easily go
around the cap twice.