Saturday, July 16, 2011

On becoming a Regular & Start of laboratory schooling

First of all, I just cycled over to Tutti Frutti and realized I will be a very regular customer for as long as I live here.  The store is only a half a mile away!  PLUS the owners are Indian and I just made friends with the boss's son who was working this evening.  He gave me a $2 Off coupon tonight even though I just spent one, and we chatted until some fresh customers entered the scene and interrupted our conversaysh.  I sat outside on the sidewalk b/c I love the brain freeze and hot weather combination, and I think my bike and I were pretty great advertising for the little shop (either that or the FroYo rush is at 7:30 sharp)--it was empty when I got there, but like 10 people came in after me.  One man asked me what the best flavor was, and I said "Strawberry banana, but also, the peanut butter is crazy good--you can even taste the redskin of the peanut somehow!"
Technically, I live in the city of Bryan and arrive in C.S. 25 secs into my ride

    But aside from frivolous serious topics like FroYo, I realized that I haven't written about what my graduate student work is like at all yet and I wanted to share some pics, which speak 1,000 words, as we all know.  Basically, I'm becoming a bit of a nerd.  No, a total nerd!  I am learning this Chem Lab language from the company I keep for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week.  I hear all of this analytical chemistry talk, which is littered with initialisms for machines and abbreviations for methods, and at least understand what the other grad students and professors are saying (even if can't speak the language yet).  While in the lab, I catch myself hearing what two people are saying and realize that the conversation would be just complete nonsense to other very bright, English speaking people (and sometimes this thought pattern happens when someone is talking directly to me, and that is not so good).
The Kessler lab: site of many interesting (and esoteric!) conversations
 And the view out that window-->
What our 9th-story perch offers us: You can see clear into next week
       Slow though it may be, I am definitely making progress on learning skills necessary to being a bona fide chemical oceanographer.  My awesome advisor, John, keeps me motivated with at least an hour or two one-on-one learning time each day and tasks that I can complete e.g. "Read the first 40 pages of this computer programming manual for important concepts."  He also keeps me looking forward to the bigger picture--exciting plans for research and travel, where I'll use what I'm learning--literally!  

      Ya see, I am learning how to build a machine (really, to arrange and affix a set of instruments that I'm being introduced to simultaneously) into a self-contained box that we'll use to measure the air-sea flux of methane in Alaska and *just found out* California.  I'll be in AK in 3 remote locations for the month of August and then will cruise from San Francisco to San Diego in September!!

      The machine I'm talking about is a one-of-a-kind, lab-built instrument: a Seawater Equilibrator/ Cavity Ring-Down Spectrometer.  Yea, sounds fancy, huh?  If you have a bottle of seawater, this bad boy will  separate out the gases in it and use lasers to measure the amount of methane and spit out some fancy graphs on the monitor screen!
The crate that will house our equilibrator/ CRDS
 We've been placing all these instruments in this shelf, drilling holes in it(when necessary), and screwing and velcroing all these pieces into place. 
Top shelf of our machine:  Home to power supply, pumps, valves, flowmeters, & solid state relays
    Now that most of the pieces are in place on the shelf, I'm learning about electrical circuits.  I knew next to nothing about basic electricity components.  I was thrilled about all that I learned from a lesson from my advisor about the electrical outlet!  No joke.  And for this instrument, I learned how to use wire cutters/strippers, some basics for soldering irons and wiring.   I did the wiring for the Equilibrator pump after watching the while the Air pump was connected. Green means Ground, White means Live, and Black means Common (I think!?)..
First electrical wire I ever cut, crimped, and connected.

Rainbow ribbon waiting to connect other things to the control modules
   Whilst all these cerebral development is going on in this place far from the place I grew up, I stay sane by reminding myself to keep breathing (sometimes I catch myself taking shallow breaths when I'm a bit stressed) and taking comfort in remembering who I am.  I am Don and Rosemary's daughter; I am a friend of _________(fill w/ my name of one of my many close friends from the past 21 years of life) and I think about my dream of living out at sea.
Still a goof!  And still reppin the Seahawks :)

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