In the last months, some of our clients have expressed their interest (though maybe concern would be more appropriate) about where the names of the projects come from. Those readers who are already our clients know that every project we start is identified, unless the client provides one, by a code name.

Is this really necessary? Is this just a childish measure, the effort of people with too much time to spare or a security measure? Well, let’s talk about it a little.

Imagine a classical project, where the work is directed to the synthesis of active compounds on receptor ABC1. Obviously, you can name the project exactly with that name: Project ABC1. But that name provides the competence or any other innocent spectator information about the aim of the project. [The same can be said about a project intended to prepare an standard used in in-vitro assays. If you are preparing product XYZ28283, which is active on receptor LMN3, then you are giving away information about your work]. To avoid this, a simple solution would be using a number to identify the project. We would be talking then about project 473383, for example. No, wait, or was it 473338? 473833? These numbers look all the same anyway.

The use of code names is therefore an additional security measure intended to protect confidential information, while allowing all partners involved to talk easily about the project. A suitable code name must be, if possible, completely random. For example, during the Second World War, the United States started a project aimed to develop the first atomic bomb. They named the project ‘Manhattan’, a simple word that had no apparent relation with the development of nuclear weapons. If some of you are affectionate to reading spies novels, a good example is offered in ‘The Hunt for Red October’ by Tom Clancy, where the CIA assigns random code names to operations and agents using a computer. The hero of the story, Jack Ryan, becomes Magi, and the whole operation is named Mandoline.

Once you are committed to using code names, you may as well have some fun. Honestly, the following lines can be a bit embarrassing. In some way, we will nake part of our soul here, unveiling our hopes, hobbies and phobias. And maybe you will discover the type of freaks we are.

There are wonderful, infinite possibilities when looking for project names. Mythology is one of the most obvious sources. Those greek, roman, nordic or hindu mythologies are full of pretty, sonorous names that are very good for our purposes. You can have Zeus and Ares, or if you prefer the latin equivalents, Jupiter and Mars. You can use Odin and Thor. Or Khali and Vishnu. You can even use connected names for related projects. If you have finished Odin but the work is extended into two other projects, well, then use Thor and Baldur (two sons of Odin). Another advantage of this system is that you can learn something about mythology while working in chemistry, which is quite useful if you like crosswords. Just the Greek mythology will provide you with a hundred names, which in our case is enough for a year’s work. Explore the Wikipedia!

Other good family of names can be taken from the classical fantasy novels. The best example is, of course, ‘The Lord of the Rings’. Tolkien created many funny names that can be used without problems: Hobbit, Elf, Dwarf, Ent… Obviously, none of these names have the most remote relation to any type of chemistry, so safety added. You can use also any mythical creature or beast, such as Troll, Medusa, Dragon, Minotaur, and so on. Science Fiction in its many forms can provide more names. A good opportunity to start reading!

More good sources for names come from the hobbies of the chemistry team. Comics, for example: Spiderman, Superman, Hulk, Iron Man, Wolverine, Batman… The list is very long. You can use these names to your advantage while having a laugh. Names of musicians: Mozart, Beethoven, Vivaldi… This can start the healthy fashion of CD lending.

Note that we are talking where the names can be taken from, but not how they are linked to the project. This part relies mainly in your imagination and inventive.