Blogroll: The process

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Editor’s note: As we continue to invite bloggers out there in the wild to compose our monthly Blogroll column, fluorogrol penned the July 2014 column.


Bloggers shed light on the highs and lows of synthetic chemistry.

Resisting the temptation to tackle this retrosynthetically, let’s start at the start. Every project begins with an idea and, blogging at amphoteros, Andrei Yudin outlines the supervisor’s joy in bequeathing a crazy idea to a grad student: “as long as none of them violate any laws of thermodynamics, they will be eventually reduced to practice (and improved!) by our capable graduate students and postdocs.”

Tasked with turning that idea into reality, the student dives into the literature in search of precedent. Dr Freddy of Synthetic Remarks picks up the tale with a rundown of the quirks and deficiencies of certain experimental protocols that provoke widespread angst amongst synthetic chemists. Both his post and the follow-up at Derek Lowe‘s In The Pipeline prompted numerous further examples from readers. We’ve all been there.

With that minefield traversed, it’s into the fumehood. There, sooner or later, we all must face what Brandon Findlay of Chemtips calls “the black tar phase” — that one stubborn reaction that simply refuses to be tamed. He draws out the lessons learned in his struggle with an uncooperative transformation, ultimately advising: “pick what works and discard the rest.”

At long last, the final stage arrives. You’ve navigated the literature. You’ve beaten the black-tar phase. You’ve done your experiments, controlling for the possibility that the light at the end of the experimental tunnel is a train. The spoils of publication are yours. The Baran lab‘s communal blog, Open Flask, regularly fills in the backstories to their published chemistry, with Young Brando‘s light-hearted look at a recent paper neatly encapsulating the whole process, from idea to reality.

Written by fluorogrol, who blogs at


[As mentioned in this post, we’re posting the monthly blogroll column here on the Sceptical Chymist. This is the July 2014 article]

Stu Cantrill

Chief Editor, Nature Chemistry, Springer Nature