strange ice

January 17, 2008 at 5:35 pm | | EDSELs, everyday science, grad life

edsel.jpgToday, I became the senior graduate student in my lab. Which is scary, because who do I go to when I have questions?!?! The new students joining the lab tend to come to me with a lot of questions. I’m sure the other senior lab members get a lot of questions, too; and it’s fun to watch the now-second years get all the same questions that they asked me when they joined. I really like helping people with science questions, and I want the new members of the lab to benefit from me just as much as I benefited from my seniors when I joined. But then there are those other questions…

This EDSEL goes for the Best Question from a New Lab Member of 2007. Runner-up is “What is the phone number here in lab?” My answer: “Um, it’s written right there on the phone.” The winner goes to this conversation:

Post Doc: I just got a package that had ice in it to keep the sample cold. What do I do with the ice?

Sam: You can put ice in the sink. It’s just water, so it’s OK to go down the drain.

PD: But it’s strange ice.

Sam: What do you mean, “strange”? Is it dry ice?

PD: I dunno.

Sam: You know, dry ice: solid carbon dioxide?

PD: I dunno.

Sam: Hrumph. Is it smoking?

PD: Yes.

Sam: That’s dry ice. Just leave it in the box and it will sublime.


Now, the post doc isn’t from the US, so maybe he couldn’t remember the word for dry ice. But I thought the “frozen CO2” description would help. I guess not. I’d ask him to post his side of the story, but he’s no longer in the lab.

“Post Doc,” if you’re reading this: Congrats! You won an EDSEL.


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  1. Ha! Glad the runner-up didn’t win…I was guilty of asking that question several times.

    Comment by psi*psi — January 17, 2008 #

  2. Water ice cooling a chemical shipment is chemical waste – by law. If you discharge to sewer without permit you are liable for up to a $10,000/occurance-day EPA fine. Dry Ice cooling a chemical shipment is chemical waste – by law. If you discharge to air (visible plume!!!) without permit you are liable for up to a $10,000/occurance-day EPA fine.

    Run hazardous chemical waste through undergrads for bioremediation. You might need an HHS ruling about qualified undergrads vs. diversity+full scholarship admissions.

    Comment by Uncle Al — January 18, 2008 #

  3. running waste through undergrads: love it!

    Comment by sam — January 18, 2008 #

  4. not funny. i’m a foreign postdoc and i didn’t know what dry ice was either.

    sometimes it’s easy to take for granted things you have in your own country.

    i should make a list of stupid questions americans asked me… but americans who tend to be around me love to assume it’s those “other americans” who would ask “obvious” things… stuff like how long does it take to drive here from england type of question. The truth is, no, all sorts of educated americans ask these questions ( that are obvious from our viewpoint)…

    Comment by foreign postdoc — March 3, 2008 #

  5. i would be very surprized if france is devoid of dry ice…

    Comment by sam — March 3, 2008 #

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