Field of Science

Clerical Chemistry

I want to lay claim to a new field; clerical chemistry. Unfortunately, I can't because millions before me seem to have already exploited it and sucked it dry. In one sentence, clerical chemistry is the art and science of lists. Lists which may not indicate anything. Lists which may aspire to but never reach a Voila! conclusion. And lists that are included for no reason except to clutter up powerpoint presentations.

Case in point. A med chem colleague who gave a presentation today about her efforts to develop a new molecule for some receptor (what else). Admirable that she synthesized 175 molecules without having any idea of what they were doing, but does she have to list all her 170 failed molecules on every slide? Not only does it make the head spin, but it deprives one of any inkling of rational drug design. No offense here, but sure, you may have even synthesized 1075 molecules separately, but please give us the bottom line. We admire your heroic efforts sincerely even without you listing all of them till our eyes water. Plus, we waited for the SAR for about 30 minutes, and in the end, the SAR was something which any one of us may have guessed.

Med chem presentations like this one really put me off. I dread it when someone has SAR in the title. Of course, SAR is the heart of med chem, but what we want is a tidy little package that gives us the details. You may have really synthesized every molecule out there with all possible permutations and combinations including one with Uglium, but we already know that, and we really don't care about every single possibility that did not work.

And did I mention that this was a practice talk for a job interview in pharma? Best of luck to her.


  1. Sounds to me like an effort to compensate for no real data: look how much I did!

    Unfortunately, I've been guilty of this. If you have no luck, might as well show them that you worked hard. Too bad nobody really cares.

  2. Well, we do care that you did all the work! But this woman was just trying to put on a performance without real rational results. If I were her, yes, I should be proud of the work I did, but I should also try to bring some logic to all that data, which he did not.


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