I’ve heard that smell is the sense that most easily evokes memory. Derek Lowe has an interesting post about smells in the lab. In my less charitable moments I am wont to say that Organikers become Organikers because they smelled too much Toluene in Sophomore Organic. But I, too was surrounded by smells in graduate school that I now miss once in a while. The smell of vacuum pump oil. The acrid smell of concentrated acids, especially the aqua regia we used for cleaning Ostwald Viscometers. The smell of burnt target paper as the laser fried it. The smell of burnt skin as the laser fried you. The smell of phosgene coming up the drains from the fume hoods on the roof . (Just kidding – when you smell cut grass in a chemlab, it’s time to grab your ankles and kiss your butt goodbye. But the drains did often carry unusual odors). One commenter reminded me of TEMED. I really do not miss coming home smelling like a fish market during the year I was using that stuff.
So, for all you non-techies out there, what are the smells of work and school that take you back?
[Update: not being an Organiker I managed to avoid thiols (mercaptans to you old fogies) after sophomore year. However, it was my misfortune to work in a lab two floors down from a lab that did use thiols. Derek’s commenter’s description that some of them smell like “burnt ass” is right on.]
X-posted at TPwithpagenumbers.