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Two organic chemistry students created a laboratory anomaly that has happened only once before in 25 years at Cornell—and never in 13 years at Harvard. Students in chemistry professor Addison Ault’s class were doing their final experiment, creating a photochromic compound that maintains its light brown/yellow color in the dark but turns deep blue when exposed to sunlight.

Ault has used the experiment at Cornell and at Harvard Summer School. The normal result is several crystals. Four years ago Cornell student Heather Parham ’98 isolated her product as a single crystal weighing more than 800 milligrams—more than a 4-carat diamond. Ault thought that was a once-in-a-lifetime event until it happened again in March. Twice.

Graham Pumphrey, a sophomore from Newton, Kan., and Rhonda Reisdorff, a junior from Billings, Mont., each isolated their product as a single crystal. Pumphrey’s weighed 891 mg; Reisdorff’s weighed 864 mg. The Journal of Chemical Education plans to publish news of the experiment in an upcoming issue.

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