Four Fab Lab New Year’s Resolutions to live by in 2019

Now that the smoke of the new year’s fireworks has cleared, the time has come again for lists and lists of new year’s resolutions. So I’ve decided to make up my own set of rules to follow. Ladies, gentlemen and all the rest of you chemists, here is my very doable list of new year’s chromatography resolutions for the laboratory!

I regularly use the blog to talk about resolution in chromatography . But this time, I’d like to discuss resolutions for chromatography instead. There is no better way to start 2019 than by listing a few feasible commitments. So I’ve compiled a list of four simple resolutions that our chromatography team will try to abide to throughout the year. I find the pledges to be general enough to be relevant to any chemist or even any scientist who is interested in improving their laboratory environment in 2019.

So here we go! No offense to the music group or to the British royal family, but the following is really about as fabulous as a four can get:

  1. Maintain a good mixture of two elements: humor and hard work

A bucket of good humor to get through unavoidable letdowns and highlight all the many successes is fundamental to achieving good chromatography work. We have to break the laughometer this year, so that we could complete demanding tasks without getting any gray hairs. We read, we think, we discuss, we experiment and we learn from mistakes. The mixture of backgrounds and expertise in our team will helps us to continue delivering innovation in chromatography in 2019.

  1. Keep the chemistry in the lab

A lot of my previous posts refer to my mind wandering off to chemistry while going about my daily routine. Whether at the movies, supermarket, washing dishes or hiking, I am often reminded of chromatography one way or another. I think this is fine, as I can’t and don’t want to switch my brain off. But I have to work on toning it down a little bit. It might be slightly excessive to label our water canisters at home with H2O or to spend hours at the dinner table discussing liquor distillations with my brother-in-law.

  1. Keep yourself and your colleagues safe

This is a pretty important chromatography resolution. When I was a graduate student, we had an accidental chemical spill outside of the fume hood in the laboratory. It took the whole staff and many hours of cleaning till we felt safe enough in the space to continue working.  Although accidents could always happen, minimizing the risk and reaction time is essential to enjoying a safe working environment. Easy-to-use equipment with modern safety features and careful planning to reduce time spent in the lab are some ways I will try to keep myself and my colleagues safe this year.

  1. Keep your experiments green

Scientists often leave large environmental footprints after their work. It is high time to give the attention this issue deserves when it comes to the environmental impact of the chromatography process. This is my most stringent and most lengthy chromatography resolution, but it is certainly worth a read if you are interested in green chromatography.

To help create a greener chromatography space, I will try to plan my experiments carefully to avoid use of unnecessary samples or to perform needles re-runs. I will work on reducing resource consumption throughout the entire workflow. Importantly, the most toxic part of a chromatography run is the mobile phase. For example, acetonitrile is one of the most popular solvents in HPLC. Despite its favourable chemical properties, the chemical is rather toxic. I will try to use alternative non-toxic solvents such as ethanol, ethylacetate or even water whenever possible.

To reduce energy consumption, I will try to decrease use of the fume hood cabinet in any way possible. Fume hoods are notorious for the amount of energy they require to operate. I could try to reduce my time under the hood by working with less volatile compounds. Alternatively, I could try using equipment with inherent protection that abolishes the need for fume hood use.

Lastly, I will take utmost care of my samples and my apparatus. Extending the lifetime of equipment is essential for reducing the resources used in producing spare parts or whole new instruments. Safeguarding the sample so each experiment is performed without unnecessary repetitions is also key to accomplishing an eco-friendly chromatography process.

Now let’s see how many of these chromatography resolutions I keep throughout 2019. Stick around, follow the blog, keep your fingers crossed and see for yourself if I manage. Until then, Happy New Year and let 2019 bring you the purest of separations and the highest peaks of joy!

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