Question: whats the most disgusting, scariest and dangerous thing you have ever done in your work?

  1. Disgusting – used a chemical called thioanisole. Stinks. Seriously like a volcano farted. The kind of smell that you can smell inside your head the day after. Completely lost my appetite for 24 hours and had to shower twice.

    Scariest – during my PhD I did a chemical reaction inside a sealed tube. So this was a glass tube, about 15 centimeters long. I had to get a gas in there so I cooled down one end to -78 degrees C, and the gas condensed to a liquid there. The gas was totally flammable and would easily explode if I lit it. To seal the tube, I took it to a guy who melted the glass at the other end of the tube with an oxyacetylene torch. So the liquid was sitting in a coolant at -78 and a few centimeters away was this 3000 degree torch. Watching that happen, then carrying the sealed tube back to my lab and putting it behind a blast shield not knowing if at any moment it was going to explode – that was a nuts day. The reaction worked though.

    Dangerous – used grams of sodium cyanide – poison. Can give off hydrogen cyanide gas. Lethal. Smells of almonds. You think “Oooh, almonds – oh NO”


  2. Dangerous – using radioactive atoms. If this particular atom gets inside your body (through a cut or by accidentally swallowing it) then it can do a lot of damage to your cells, and possibly cause cancer or death. So you have to be very careful. There are a lot of other chemicals we use that can be dangerous too (most of them could cause cancer), so you have to wear gloves and be careful about what you touch.

    So this is also the scary bit. It’s a bit worrying that I might be doing damage to my cells now that won’t be obvious until later on.

    Disgusting – There are some bad smells in a Lab. Chemicals, bacteria, experiments. And I’ve seen some pretty gross looking things growing in our petri dishes and bottles of liquid.


  3. I chose my particular area of chemistry, to avoid disgusting, scary and dangerous things! 🙂

    After cleaning the poo from a baby’s bum, there is very little that can be more disgusting. I didn’t mind because it was my son’s bum when he was a baby.

    Today, I attended a workshop on improving experiments in biology labs. One of the experiments involved looking at tiny worms under a microscope. Well, not too bad, except that you might consider I avoided biology all through high school and university. These worms are fed on E. Coli bacteria — yes the sort of bacteria what is commonly found on poo and cause all that food poisoning in Europe a few weeks back. Then we had to use tiny needles to pick up the worms and transfer then from one dish to another. Remember all this is done looking though a microscope. I found that scary as I was afraid of flicking a tiny worm covered with poo bacteria off the dish and onto my face.

    OK call me a whimp, but that was scary for me.

    One of the most dangerous things — but most fun too — was to go to a police firing range and shot a revolver and a semiautomatic pistol. This was related to a project on gunshot residue particules. It was heaps of fun. Dangereous? Well this was with my old glasses, and I could hardly see the target. I still have no idea whether I was shooting the target or the side walls.



  1. Disgusting – Nothing really stands out.

    Scariest – Applying first aid to my supervisor after he got concentrated nitric acid in his eye despite wearing safety glasses! We didn’t know how much got in and I had to flush out his eye with water while waiting for the medic to arrive. No one else had a first aid certificate!

    Dangerous – I was once in a room that was filling with cyanide gas and I didn’t know because even though it smells like almonds, I could not smell it and I wasn’t wearing a gas monitor to tell me that I was in danger. I am one the people who can’t smell it and I’m only here today because someone walking past did smell it and yanked me out of there into the fresh air.