Labspeak, STAT

Go to the profile of Catherine Goodman
Mar 27, 2019
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While all of us are familiar with a certain amount of brevity (via acronyms, such as ASAP) in our daily writing, it seems that the internet chat lingo and texting revolution is finally starting to catch up with even me, for whom writing this blog is by far the most technological thing I’ve ever done (even my email software knows that ?? is a smiley face!). And now that I’m starting to tell people things ‘BTW’ or to send them emoticons, I’ve been thinking more about what could be done with this shorthand.

What I’ve come up with is labicons. Chemicons? I don’t have a perfectly catchy title, so you all will have to make some good suggestions. Anyway, the point is that chemists don’t have a great way to communicate without spelling out all kinds of things. Here are the new abbreviations I’ve thought of,

\/ = Extraction (or extract)

|| = Running a column

[] = Running a TLC

() = Stir/stirbar

C- = Round bottom flask (look sideways) (this one, to be fair, is not much more concise than RBF)

L! = Measuring something (probably liquid)

ooo = reflux/heating in general (get it? It’s the bubbles)

XX = Crystallize/crystallization

I can’t figure out ‘rotovap,’ which seems like the major remaining thing that chemists stereotypically do.

Now, you might be wondering when you would use these silly things, but I think they will really come in handy. For example, imagine you (as a professor) are off at a conference, and you get an email from your student about a problem in the lab. The whole thing could be wrapped up quite quickly:

Student: My rxn didn’t go. ??

Prof: Did you ooo?

Student: Yes. No XX.

Prof: Try \/, EtOAc

Student: Thanks!

Or, for students who are meeting up with friends for a beer after a hard day in the lab, but work in different buildings:

Josh: Ready?

Stu: Got to ||

Josh: OK. I’ll [] till then

Or, for people in the same lab that want to complain about a labmate without being heard:

Stu: I can’t find my C-!

Josh: Check with Terry. He took all my ().

Stu: Argh…

You get the idea. Well, see what you think (and definitely chime in if you figure out how to say rotovap!). In the meantime, I’m off to ooo my lunch…


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