Okay, so it’s not a real alchemist’s quarters. Nonetheless, I was chuffed to find antique chemical apparatus when visiting the medieval quarters of Prague Castle.
Trinity College’s Chemistry Department, site of the invention of cyanoacrylate adhesives, still resides in the neo-gothic Clement Hall. During our time there in the early 2000s, the Harry-Potter-esque design combined with the “magical” reactions we ran made it easy to view the building as precisely the place real-world wizards would work.
One of Trinity College’s oldest buildings (Clement Hall, home to the Chemistry Department where I got my bachelor’s) is across from one of its newest (Raether Library and IT Center). From inside the modern surfaces and behind the modern windows, Clement looks even more Hogwartsian than it does typically.
Approaching the summer solstice, the start of fall-semester classes and their attendant labs seems far away, but a new class of St. Lawrence first-year students will be here before I know it.
This was one of the light sources students were interrogating: a sodium lamp, like the ones used in street lights (at least in the twentieth century—LED street lamps are becoming increasingly dominant now.)
After spending my entire adult life as a laboratory scientist, the web of gas lines and vacuum pumps and electrical cable seems normal. I do understand, rationally, that all of this looks overwhelming. There’s so much purpose and productivity behind the network, however, that it’s worth the sophistication.
The new steeple on Gunnison Memorial Chapel is installed (remember when it arrived?) and beginning to react with the atmosphere around it. This chemistry, in which copper metal transfers electrons to non-metal atoms from the air to become an ion, is called “reduction-oxidation” chemistry—abbreviated “redox.” Seeing this reaction happen on such a large scale, and produce such an awesome array of colors, is a treat.
Johnson Hall of Science is an unusually green building—particularly for one filled with hoods and hazardous chemicals. It also happens to have a truly surreal geometry that messes with your head a bit, if you let it. The ceilings have been sloped to better reflect daylight, reducing the need for electric lighting. The result is this Alice-in-Wonderland-esque lab space.
When you’re working with an ultra-high vacuum chamber, there’s no “popping down to the hardware store for a spare part.” Over the years, spares and replacements and antiquated equivalents and almost-still-good parts tend to accumulate in the cabinets of a physics lab. Cabinets start to look like set dressing in a sci-fi movie.
UC Berkeley’s College of Chemistry is truly massive, occupying five interlinked buildings in a massive complex (with tendrils reaching out to half a dozen other buildings.) Even the courtyard at the center of the complex actually functions as the roof for two more floors of subterranean lab and office spaces (including my own.) From an aerial photography context, I suppose you could call this my self-portrait.
This is another photograph from a lab in the Charles Harris Group at UC Berkeley. I previously photographed this effusion cell apparatus from an orthogonal orientation, but I also found this shot at its long axis intriguing. The sense of complexity and purpose, but also the sense of aesthetic minimalism, always attracts me to physics apparatuses.
The labs of the Energy Biosciences Building (which, incidentally, looks quite pretty from the outside, as well) are brand new. Just weeks after the lab opened, the desks are already cluttered with equipment. I particularly liked the orange glass dividers running down the desks.
This is the imposing Latimer Hall in UC Berkeley’s College of Chemistry. On this stormy afternoon, the sky and the bare tree and the building itself all took on this similar cast, but with such radically different textures and shapes. If you look carefully, the cracks and stains under each balcony level begin to resemble the geometry of the tree.