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The Glovebox Sisterhood

Two former lab mates reminisce on how their time shared in the lab helped them bond as friends and set the stage for their careers

When many scientists reflect back on graduate school, they think about the long hours, challenging science, successes and failures, and pots of coffee/fast food that got them through those formative years. Less common is a discussion of the friendships that were born from that time.

Professor Suzanne Bart

For lab mates Suzanne Bart and Tammy Hanna, a sisterhood of sorts formed during their time together at Cornell University that was defined by their sharing an ordinary glovebox they used to handle air- and moisture-sensitive organometallic reagents. The pair reminisce about their experiences in an editorial published in the ACS journals Inorganic Chemistry and Organometallics.

“Long before Tammy became an Assistant Director and Publisher at ACS Publications and Suzanne a Professor at Purdue University and Inorganic Chemistry Associate Editor, we were two college graduates that decided to embark on a Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry,” they write. “Being assigned to the same glovebox was an accident—that’s just how it worked out. But what developed over our time in graduate school was an unbreakable bond (pun intended!) that has lasted through 16 years and counting.”

Dr. Tammy Hanna

In addition to camaraderie, working in the glovebox taught the two how to work as a team, not only sharing equipment and supplies, but how to plan experiments and reaction needs around each other as they worked on separate projects—they learned to trust in each other to stay accountable. They list a few important lessons as taught by their glovebox:

  • Air and water are for people, not organometallics.
  • Some days, things just don’t work. Go back to bed.
  • If you drop it, find it; it hasn’t disappeared. It’s a glovebox—not a black hole.
  • Gloves are stretchy, but everything has a breaking point.

Upon graduation in 2006, Suzanne went on to accept a postdoctoral appointment and landed a position as an Assistant Professor, and is now a Full Professor at Purdue University, focusing on f-block chemistry.

Tammy also went on to a postdoctoral position and began her career in academia, but switched positions in 2011 to become a Managing Editor of two ACS journals, advancing to her current position as an Assistant Director and Publisher, overseeing 24 ACS journals.

“Despite our separate forays into academics and scientific publishing, years later the sisterhood remains,” they point out. “We don’t always talk to each other regularly, but when we get to catch up at ACS national meetings or during our other travels, or make a point to call each other, we always pick up right where we left off. It’s like no time has passed.

“Our conversations have grown more serious with our lives, focusing on our careers, children, and work challenges,” they add. “But we still enjoy reminiscing about the old days and gossiping about what our lab mates are up to. … You might say our glovebox didn’t just allow us to grow scientifically, but helped us cultivate life skills as well.”

Read the full editorial, and comment below to share your experiences, or join the conversation on Twitter at @InorgChem or @Orgmet_ACS.

 

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