Traveling today, so not much time for a full-scale post. But I wanted to toss out a question to my fellow medicinal chemists instead. I was talking with some colleagues the other day, including a couple of people who’d been around for a while, and we were discussing what things med-chemists used to spend more time on versus what they do now. It’s a lot easier for people with longer histories, which means the people with longer histories than mine can outdo my stories pretty easily as well. In my own case, running chromatography columns more-or-less by hand used to take up a real percentage of my lab time, virtually all of which has been freed up over the years by automated systems. Running TLC plates (analytical ones) was a constant feature of organic synthesis, now (and for some time) largely wiped out by walkup LC/MS machines.
These are well-known changes. But another hit me the other day: I used to move around a lot more four-liter solvent jugs. Hexane, ethyl acetate, dichloromethane – I’ve pulled a lot of brown glass out of the cabinets under my hood over the years, and poured a lot of solvent out of those jugs into columns, Erlenmeyers, and sep funnels. But the last two buildings I’ve worked in have had solvent distribution plumbing, so all of these (and more) are on tap. If you’d shown such a system to me in graduate school, I’d have watched in disbelief at the thought of such luxury (although the automated chromatography, and especially the disposable pre-packed columns that come with it, would have staggered me even more). But I had barely noticed the passing (for the most part) of solvent jugs from my lab life until a couple of days ago.
So let’s here from people who’ve been at it for all lengths of time – what’s changed for you? Maybe a few more things than you’ve noticed!