• Question: sarah, what chemical did you make which ha never been made before?

    Asked by baabaablacksheep to Sarah on 24 Jun 2011.
    • Photo: Sarah Thomas

      Sarah Thomas answered on 24 Jun 2011:

      I made 2,2,5,5, tetramethylpyrrolin-1-oxyl-hydrazide.

      I’m going to call it TMPOH for short!

      TMPOH is a spin label. And I have been using to study some of the biochemical mechanisms involved in the growth of cancer.

      I use a machine called an NMR which is basically the same idea as an MRI/CAT scan. Except I don’t put people in it, I put the molecules in it that I want to study. This is something you will learn about in chemistry later, but all electrons have a spin on them. When you put them in a magnet (the magnet I use is the size of a small elephant, it’s huge!!), all the spins of all the electrons is a molecule line up in the same direction. Then we turn the magnet off, and the spins go back to normal. This shift is measured and it’s how we figure out the structure of molecules that we don’t know. This is reall hard to measure as you can imagine!

      But I can attach the spin label onto the molecule I want to study. The spin label has a single unpaired electron on it and somehow this causes the rate of the spins going back to normal to slow down and this makes it easier to measure!

      This is really complicated but I hope I explained it ok 🙂