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Our anatomy professor, Dr. Smith, has been telling Carly and me about all of the crazy things he did in organic chemistry lab for as long as I can remember. One time, he told us that he accidentally lit his lab book on fire.  (But don’t worry, he “only lost about 60 or 70 pages of it,” as he said with a laugh).  Yesterday, he was telling us about how he kept shaking his Grignard reaction flask until it spewed up and covered the ceiling in solution.  After laughing about Dr. Smith’s crazy lab stories, Carly and I were talking about how nothing that interesting ever happens in our labs.  And then, well, last night’s lab happened.

Last night in lab, we were producing adipic acid from cyclohexanone while using potassium permanganate as the solvent.  (Sounds fun, right?!)  Carly and I were following the procedure step-by-step, just as we were instructed to do.  For some reason, neither of our reaction flasks heated up to 30 degrees Celsius; however, as we were told, we continued with the procedure and put our flasks on our hotplates.  The temperature rose to 75, and then Carly took hers off the hotplate.  I was a little wary to take mine off, but I did.  I set it down, stepped back, and then the solution started bubbling and rising.  Carly and I were literally cowarding in the corner of the lab, fearing an explosion or something.  Then, the solution bubbled out over the flask, covering the glass and surrounding table in a brown, gooey mess.  About five to ten seconds later – I kid you not – Carly’s solution did the exact same thing.

I could not stop laughing about what I had just seen.  And I imagine that everyone else in lab who had seen the incident couldn’t stop laughing either.  It took forever to clean up, and there are still some brown stains in our flasks.  (I promise we’ll clean them better next week…) 

But don’t worry.  If you ever take organic chem 2 at Fontbonne University – which I know is at the very top of your bucket list – you won’t be producing adipic acid by using cyclohexanone and potassium permanganate.  As soon as that incident occurred, Professor Ritter said that she’d never do that lab again.  So I’m sorry Carly and I had to take all of the fun away from you.  But I’m not going to lie – we had a great time doing so. 


Another week of school down. And boy, it was quite a week! Yesterday, I had my third anatomy test of the semester; I’m thinking (and hoping!) that it went relatively well. And next week will be quite a week, too, with an anatomy lab practical on Wednesday and my first organic chemistry test on Thursday.

“Is that the life of a biology major?” you may ask me. Well, yes and no. This year, I’m in 200- and 300-level biology and chemistry classes. So, that does mean that I have a few more tests than I did last year. However, I think I’m definitely beginning to enjoy biology and the biological world more and more as I continue to get down to the “nitty gritty” of it all.

Take, for instance, sphingolipids. Before the semester began, I would have had no idea what these cool little guys could do. Now, I describe them, give you their moleculer structure, and list off a few of their functions. The same goes for anatomical structures. Before this semester, I never would’ve guessed that there were so many distinct muscles and bones in the body because I really didn’t even know about all of the specific functions that those organs provide. Now that I’m into the study of anatomy and physiology, however, I’m much more appreciative of the human body.

Sure, all of the studying gets tough at times. There are times that I wonder, “Why am I doing this?!” But, I’ve been working on a lab project for General Biology I with Dr. Homsi and my friend and lab partner, Dillon. It’s so cool to get into the lab and finally put all of the things I’ve learned about cis- and trans- isomers and sphingolipids and anatomical structure together (that is, if they all fit together in a certain experiment…).

So, how have sphingolipids changed my life? In short, they’ve made my life more challenging, exciting, and fulfilling. And they’ve made me appreciate the simplicity of General Biology I a whole lot more!!!


Students writing for Real Life at Fontbonne are paid a small fee for each post by the university.