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Why all the best chemists make mistakes

September 24, 2014

Ok so maybe I’m giving myself the ‘big up’ here by writing that title.  Maybe I think I am one of those ‘best chemists’.  Maybe I have to to keep me going?  I don’t know how I stack up in the grand scheme of things and I don’t much care but what I do care about is getting better, learning more, trying more, being more and if that makes me good then so be it.

I’m prone to a bit of Walter Mitty style day dreaming and today was no exception, not least because I am absolutely exhausted after a very busy year which has included copious sprinkles of international travel.  But that aside, I can daydream with the best of them without any excuse.

So today I was in my lab making a batch of something for testing. I’ve made this stuff a few times so my mind was on auto-pilot a bit and it was only when I got to the end and realised my result wasn’t what I was expecting that I suspected I’d made a mistake – are you following me?

Anyway, what I had done is forgotten to add one of the ingredients and the mixture that is usually reasonably smooth flowing was very thick.

Rather than throw the mixture away and cry at my lack of ability to concentrate fully something dawned on me.  That one ingredient changed the whole formula,  that one, silly little ingredient,  hardly worth a mention, not especially grand nor marketable actually changed the whole freaking formula!

I would have never have known that if

A) I was one of those perfect people who reads instructions carefully and ALWAYS concentrate, never deviating from the small print.

OR IF I WAS

B) So annoyed with myself for stuffing up that I just threw it in the bin.

It also dawned on me that this sort of minor miracle can only occur if you get your head out of the theory and start trying things in practice.  I make mistakes every day, some people will probably be laughing at me right now for that admission and my foolishness at being a consultant that cocks it all up  but I’m not.

Because I know that when the unexpected goes wrong in a laboratory we don’t shout ‘woe is me’ we shout ‘eureka’ and then run off to patent it.

and that’s why you should never trust a chemist with a clean lab coat.

Amanda x

 

One Comment leave one →
  1. Alexa permalink
    September 24, 2014 11:20 pm

    Totally agree 🙂

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