10 ways you know you’re a true chemist

You’ve Been in Chemistry Lab Too Long

1. You look all the way down food ingredient lists, looking for things you know the structure of.
2. When you look at the ingredients list, you curse them for not using the proper name.
3. You refer to cooking operations by their lab versions (filtering off the pasta, refluxing the stew).
4. You get a certain satisfaction when you casually tip some compound onto the scale and it comes out as exactly the amount you wanted. Well, within experimental error.
5. You use the term “within experimental error” with regularity.
6. You can identify certain chemicals by smell, at a very low level.
7. Conversely, there are whole classes of chemicals you cannot smell at all that provoke an animated response from your (non-lab) family and friends.
8. You have a separate set of clothing for work not because it is nicer/more professional but because you don’t want your home clothes to have a series of small holes in them.
9. There are about 2 degrees of separation between you and every other chemist in your immediate geographical location.
10. When you say you are bringing some work home with you, your family are immediately concerned for their safety.

Excellent list from the Chemical Space blog


  1. Jillian

    I love these little lists. I definitely do at least half of these things. I love the face you get from your family when you describe the things that may happen in a lab. The worried for their own safety always seems to come up!

  2. Jo

    Another oldie but goodie – you wash your hands *before* you go to the toilet.

  3. Robert Slinn

    Brilliant. How about using the above phrases as lyrics in a song ‘The Oldest Swinger in the Lab’ to the same tune as that sung by Fred Wedlock.

    When you…… etc :grin:


  4. David Bradley

    We could also probably mention using solvent instead of soap and water ;-)

  5. Attila

    Excellent list. I recognised these symptoms, too.
    (?) 11. Partial immunity is developed against the pain caused by hot surfaces (flask etc.)

  6. David Bradley

    @Attila That hot surfaces one also applies to cooks and waiting staff (who are culinary chemists and kitchen lab technicians after all)

  7. Tim Johnson

    I have at one point experienced all these.

    “you wash your hands *before* you go to the toilet.”
    a vital and hard learned lesson!