25th Jan – 12th Feb 2010

OK second attempt – I just managed to delete everything I wrote for this post.  It’s been ages since I’ve written a post…two weeks ago I was to down about work to write about it and last week went by so fast.  Things are getting better with work, not necessarily the actual work but definitely my ways of dealing with it.  Science can be slow progress and as someone who likes quick results it’s been really frustrating.  My carefully-decided-upon glassware came, and was the wrong size and had to go back, and came again, and was still the wrong size!  And when I do finally get the right stuff it has to go to the university glassblower to be altered and then be cleaned and soaked so there are no residues on the glass that could affect my experiments.  Then the GC-MS equipment I’m learning how to use is presenting me with a long line of problems I have to learn how to fix.  Scientific equipment is not like using a washing machine or a dishwasher, there are far more variables that need to be considered.  My samples, for example, are all in salt water.  Saltwater in a system is not a desirable thing; as soon as the water evaporates it’s going to leave crystals that could block up the system.  But to remove the salt before analysis would cause many more problems – it would be time-consuming and could also cause the removal of the compounds I’m interested in studying so affecting my results.  Which leaves me here, with a blocked valve that I need to learn how to clean.  I know it will all come together in the end but I’m just desperate to see some results.  Especially as my desk is right next to Mike who can run a model in 10 minutes and get reams of data (however useful or useless it may be!). 

Whilst I’m waiting to get various things fixed and sorted this week I’m thinking about the experiments I’m going to carry out when I do get everything up and running.  And there’s a lot to think about.  There are lots of variables that could affect seaweed physiology and so emissions including temperature, light, dissolved nutrients and CO2 concentration in the water, the effects of seaweed farming (disease, overcrowding, pest control), different species, interactions with pathogens and grazers…I’m got plenty of things to think about.

As an aside from work my seaweed and I took a little trip down to the John Innes Centre a couple of weeks ago where we took part in an event called ‘Soapbox Science’ where we had 4 minute slots to talk to groups of 12/13 year olds about science as a career.  Not sure I converted any of them to the joys of science (apart from maybe the boy who seemed convinced I was brewing some sort of swamp monster in my flask) but it certainly made me think about my justifications for my research and the time I’m spending on it.  If I can explain myself to a group of sceptical school children I think I can explain myself to anyone! 

Anyway, I’m going back to sorting out the papers I’ve read now.  In an attempt to think about my actual thesis I looked through a couple of finished theses this morning and the thought that I’ll produce something that big and impressive in three years time is both scary and exciting…better get writing…

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