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STEM Education Poetry

For the Record

“The product in flask: data, quotes, looks;
The time that each task, new or rote, took;
Stoich calcs and dilutions;
Key findings; conclusions; 
Next questions to ask… all in notebook.”

The 11 April 2021 limerick returned to one of my favorite themes, the chemistry lab notebook, which I’ve explored a few times in this space before!    

“The product in flask: data, quotes, looks; /
The time that each task, new or rote, took…”

In this particular poem, it was fun to build towards “notebook” as the final rhyme, then shape the remainder of the limerick around it.  This required some stretching of vocabulary, at times, but within reason, as is ideally clear by taking one line at a time.  

A chemist would record information about “the product in flask: data, quotes, looks.”  What is the product’s mass? Its melting point?  What statements would the chemist wish to record about the experiment?  What does the product look like?       

Another common record included in the notebook would be “the time that each task, new or rote, took.”  Each step in an experimental procedure is either a new attempt or a repeated (“rote”) one; further, it’s useful to know how long certain steps (heating under reflux, stirring, etc.) can take.  

“Stoich calcs and dilutions; /
Key findings; conclusions…” 

The “A” rhymes in this limerick (with its AABBA form) all build on “notebook,” while the “B” rhymes are a bit less forced.  The phrase “stoich calcs and dilutions” refers to the lab-focused mathematics completed in a lab notebook (theoretical yield and other stoichiometric calculations, M1V1 = M2V2, etc.).  Perhaps the most obvious things to highlight in a lab notebook are the “key findings [and] conclusions” from a given procedure.    

“Next questions to ask… all in notebook.”

The final line of the poem highlights the self-perpetuating nature of scientific research: what “next questions” do the conclusions of a given experiment invite?  Those creative reflections are also an important part of a procedural record.