For those of you who didn’t have the privilege of watching me grow up, I was perhaps a little particular about a few things... For example, colored pencils, crayons, and markers and purchased in a certain order in their box - is it really SO difficult to understand that they NEED to go back in the box in that same order?!
(Insert: whispering from the sidelines...)
Hmm... Well... I've just been informed that is actually quite unusual and that it is in fact quite a treat just to be able to get said coloring devices back in a (probably mangled) box at all... hmm...
But come on people! Do YOU switch seats at the dinner table every night? Or change up what bed you sleep in? EXACTLY!
Although, I probably did overreact a few times when someone (gasp!) didn't replace they're crayon in the exact same place they took it from. And yes, I'm talking that big 'ole box of 96 crayons with the built in sharpener in the back...
And did I notice? HELL YES!
Not that I'm holding a grudge or anything...
So now that we've had a HUGE tangent on (how I'm insane) crayons, you're probably wondering where this is going. (And why the hell it's tagged in the "Research" category!?! What can I say, slow day in lab today...)
Well, it can all be summed up with a single picture:
Ok, how about now:
Ok, so what you're looking at is a little flow cell (the whole thing is slightly smaller than my palm) and in the center is a two-tiered well. The first one (i.e. the indented silver ring) is where and o-ring on the top half fits to seal off the whole thing into a hollow chamber (you can see the screw holes where the halves attach).
The second tier of the well (i.e. the black circle) is actually indented farther and has been filled with powdered activated carbon. PAC - think, black flour that doesn't rub out, and oh, by the way is statically charged so it will unpredictable FLEE to every surface possible and does very exciting things when you try to get it wet...
This may seem terribly unexciting to all of you, but this is an absolutely BEAUTIFUL carbon cake - ergo, I'm PSYCHED about it! We were originally trying to build the carbon cake by sealing the two halves of the flow cell and then using a syringe to inject a carbon slurry (yummy) into the hollow. The problem with this was, we had no idea what the cake actually looked like - when we opened it after the experiment, it was often irregular - and the carbon may have been all stirred up during the experiment.
So the experiment involves flowing a contaminated solution through the flow cell and the contaminant compound would adsorb to the activated carbon so that clean water would be on the output side of the flow cell. The idea was to created a model of a fixed-bed reactor, which meant that the carbon cake needed to stay a little compacted cylinder in order to be able to apply the mathematical theories to model the data. Kinda sorta? Having the carbon un-cake and float all around willy-nilly would kind of screw everything up...
So yeah! By making the cake this way, we have a better chance of keeping our fixed-bed. Much more exciting now, right?!
Huh... still just me? (FYI? I sent one of these photos to my undergrad research assistant, who's away for the summer, and he said that it's amazing and that he "didn't even realize why [I] sent [him] a photo of the empty piece.. then [he] realized the cake was so perfectly formed that [he] didn't see it" - HA!)
It really is perfectly formed though... One more look from another angle... :)
Having worked in a few different labs, with a lot of different people, I'm realizing that I'm a little more meticulous than a lot of them. Part of it may be the fact that my first research job was working with tuberculous bacterium (and the second with human blood samples), so it was really important that everything be sterile, cleaned, sealed, etc. Matter of life or death, really...
While my current research is a little less sensitive, I'm still very, very careful about everything. Lab techniques and etiquette that seem to be common sense to me, I find that I actually have to say out loud and teach others who are new to the lab.
Maybe this is what made me PhD-ready? Or, as ready as anyone could be when they sign their life away...
Weighing chemicals to the accuracy of 0.0001 g and an EXTREMELY detailed experimental procedure write-up is all rooted in my early need to keep my crayons in order. Go figure!
Disclaimer: I am in no way a "neat freak" - I have the same clutter that everyone else does. Mine's just alphabetized and color coordinated.