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MIT student blogger Sam M. '07

Summerteeth by Sam M. '07

Are you afraid of the dark reaction?

DID YOU KNOW? Michael Stipe played an ice cream man on one episode of “The Adventures of Pete and Pete.”

Happy Groundhog Day!

Wow, thanks for all your responses to the lynn/lonn/line poll. My high school math teacher’s name was Lynn, so I guess I’ve just been indoctrinated to call it “lynn.” I didn’t even really consider putting “el en ex” as a choice, although I guess I’ve called it that sometimes too, for absolute clarity. It was just really weird getting here and hearing it called “lonn” though, although I guess that actually makes a lot more sense than “lynn.”

I seem to remember we called all operators that way–“sin,” “cos” (“cohs,” not “cahs”), “tan”. Then you get to the hyperbolics and it’s “sinch,” “cosh” and “tanch” (?). I had always hoped we’d need to take the inverse hyperbolic cosecant of something so I’d have a reason to say “arccsch,” which should sound approximately like an elderly cat expelling a large hairball from its throat, but I never got that opportunity.

I had a friend named Lynn and I called her Lynnie, and sometimes I joked that Lynnie is number one! Because ln e = 1 and all.

This is why I called her Lynnie:

Lynn: “Oh, hi, yeah? I’m Lynn. What’s your name?”
Sam: “Oh, nice to meet you. My name’s Sam.”
Lynn: “SPAM? SPAM? Did you say your name is SPAM?”
Sam: “No, I said that…”
Lynn: “Ha ha ha ha ha! That’s super funny, yeah! I’m going to call you Spam all the time now! Ha ha ha, SPAMMY! Ha ha ha! Oh, man Spammy, I’m really hungry, not gonna lie. Make me dinner, Spammy.”

And that is my superhero origin story.

Anyway, I had a really, really frightening nightmare last night. Read on if you dare.

So as Melis and Bryan have demonstrated, there are a lot of awesome UROP experiences to be had at MIT. I mean, come on–he grows ears out of the backs of lab mice! How cool is that?

However, not every single UROP in the history of MIT involves freaky genetic engineering or turkey carcasses or stuff like that. I had one in the summer of 2004 I had a UROP with a professor in the chemistry department that involved just synthesizing a known, but not thoroughly explored chemical compound and then getting to perform any reactions with that compound that I wanted. I had like 5 paragraphs written about some of the more colorful events of this UROP, but it turned into a little too much complaining, so I will just describe it thusly: I was totally incompetent at chemistry, the graduate students were seemingly always busy, the professor spent 15 minutes at a group meeting lecturing (while slightly inebriated) about how “react” was not an intransitive verb, I spilled benzene on myself a lot and often worked on apparatuses with a high risk of implosion, and was told by my supposed graduate student mentor, through bloodshot eyes, after he showed up five hours late for work one day (this man works with uranium), that “Alcohol is bad for you.”

To summarize: one day in June 2004 I was knocked off my bike by a car and broke two bones in my wrist, and I would not even put that among the five least enjoyable days I had that summer.

But it’s a good thing, you know? Because I got to look into the lives of some chemistry graduate students and I got to get a feel for what kinds of work chemists are expected to do, and as a result I realized that there is no way in Hell that I would ever want to be a chemist. I’m sure that there are some people out there who really like being chemists, and it may have even been a very nice UROP experience if I had possessed a little more organic synthesis knowledge going in, but ultimately this UROP taught me that me and chemistry are like ice cream and an onion. One week after tendering my resignation, I had already found another UROP in my beloved turkey alchemy lab, and a semester later I stopped by the Office of Academic Services to pick up a change of major form for my phoenix-like rebirth as a chemical engineer.

But all that was not even the nightmare.

So I was walking around my old lab upstairs for some reason, just doing some chemistry and hoping that nobody saw me, because the grad students in that lab were really scary. This is actually based on an actual happening, when I went into lab at 3 AM just to dry some compound because it was the only time I could be sure that the professor wouldn’t be there to see me. Not that he’s a bad professor or anything, but after I quit I think he decided that we’re not really on speaking terms anymore. You think he’d be happy that I wasn’t around to break his expensive glassware anymore, but apparently not. I digress.

Oh no! I looked over and saw that the meanest, scariest grad student in the lab was across the hall, and he might see me, and, I don’t know, be mean to me. I guess there’s not really much he could have done to me, but at this point it was like those dreams where you’re being chased by some large jungle cat and can’t get away fast enough. I realized that it was, in fact, a Thursday afternoon and time for group meeting! Since everybody in the lab was late for group meeting every week, the professor would undoubtedly come up to lab to collect his grad students… and catch me doing stuff! And having to see this professor was really, like, the worst thing I could ever possibly imagine. He might try to titrate me or something. So I ran–I ran so fast that I somehow got into the library of the Green Building, which would require flying, but whatever. But I was so lost that I actually ended up right outside the professor’s office. Uh oh. I was too petrified to even think about looking around the corner… and then he jumped around it, wearing a blue Hawaiian shirt, with an evil gleam in his eye.

Yeah, so I woke up screaming. I woke up screaming because I saw a chemistry professor in my dream. No, really. No. Really.

It took me a minute to get my bearings, but I eventually stumbled over to the fridge and got some apple juice, reminded myself that I would never see that dumb old lab again, and laid back down to sleep with visions of turkey carcasses dancing in my head.

Happy Groundhog Day!

9 responses to “Summerteeth”

  1. Kristin R. says:

    So what’s it like being the coolest person in the world? No, really. No. Really.

  2. S says:

    “He might try to titrate me or something.”

    Is there a kind of copyright on this sentence or may I have some fun with it? wink

    There maybe one unanswered question: are you acid or basic?

    (Have a nice nightmare!)

  3. Mike says:

    Hey. I have a question for you. Is it wrong to get my 4 month-old niece this stuffed animal: http://www.giantmicrobes.com/venereals/pox.html and then tell her parents that it’s a stuffed snake? If it is, I was thinking of just getting her this cute little puffball: http://www.giantmicrobes.com/health/commoncold.html

    What do you think?

  4. Sam says:

    Kristin / thekeri — Sometimes it can be a burden, yes. No, seriously, I think I’d at least have to be third or fourth behind Diana Eng, Alton Brown, and the mountain climbing guy who got his hand crushed under a boulder so he sawed off his own arm with a swiss army knife.

    Sebastien — I would hope that my friends would afree that I am most assuredly basic. Feel free to use that line royalty-free anywhere you want, although I almost cut it out of the blog before you posted (believe it or not, I actually do edit).

    Mike — I think the rhinovirus is a little bit cuter, not gonna lie. You could say it’s a sea urchin or something. The [censored for content] one could actually plausibly be a snake, although I guess that might be kind of the point. I think mononucleosis would actually be a good compromise between the two.

  5. thekeri says:

    As I ask you the same thing that Kristin did.

  6. Mollie says:

    I have mono!

    …the mono Giant Microbe, that is.

  7. Melis says:

    I must say, I think I have found a new hobby: collecting GIANTmicrobes. They are so nuddly (nerdy+cuddly).

    Sorry to hear about your horrifying UROP experience, but you did learn that you don’t want to do course 5, so it was a totally worthwhile experience. Yes, I feel personally obliged to defend UROPs at all cost….

  8. John says:

    The topic of Groundhog Day reminded me of the commercials for the Pennsylvania Lottery in which a stuffed groundhog says, “I’m Gus, Pennsylvania’s SECOND famous groundhog,” and then the screen reads “ONLY IN PENNSYLVANIA” (which is funny, because I live in New Jersey, and I feel like I am spying on Pennsylavnia and stealing all of its secrets).

  9. Masha says:

    That is the most AWESOMEST dream. Ever. No really. No. Really.

    I was laughing really hard. yes. did you have anything weird to eat before you went to sleep that night? maybe too much caffeine?

    smile