Category Archives: Let’s Talk Science

Lessons from the Field 3: Looking on the Brighter Side

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I was thinking about just skipping this week’s blog post because I’ve been in the sourest mood this week. Many things have gone wrong and it seems that every day there’s been a new problem. As such, my first attempt to write this post became a whiny, complaining mess which in my opinion was not very fun to read, and I feared that I would deter some younger readers from the idea of field work. Because, yes, field work is messy and complicated. When things go wrong, they really go wrong and require a lot of tireless improvisation. But field work is also an exciting and rewarding experience. I would have never learned as much as I have these past few weeks by simply staying in a lab all summer. I’ve met so many cool people, learned plenty of lessons from the field campaign veterans and got not only a really unique and hands-on experience in the field of instrument development, but also a crash course on the awesome science we’re studying here at the PROPHET site.

And besides, important lessons seem to arise from difficult times. So here is the third installment of my Lessons from the Field series! This time, hopefully, with a more positive twist. Continue reading Lessons from the Field 3: Looking on the Brighter Side

Lessons from the Field 2: Becoming MacGyver

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The field is tough. This whole blog post could probably be summarized by that one sentence. In fact, I might as well stop here. But I won’t. Because I’m mostly stress writing at this point. But anyway, if you haven’t done field work, take my word for it, while it can be a very rewarding adventure, it can also be a giant pain in the ass. (Or, in my case, both at the same time!)

Somehow I’ve managed to survive until now. We’ve reached the half way point of the field campaign and we have some preliminary data, I suppose. But, we also came out here with a brand new, never tested, homemade instrument (designed and built within a year, might I add). Therefore, even when all this is over, there is still tons of work to be done in order to characterize the data, figure out our sensitivity to certain species and, well, figure out what the data we managed to get really means. Nevertheless, I guess by anyone’s standards, we’re actually doing pretty good. After all, at least half of our instrument is working (!!), but I digress. Continue reading Lessons from the Field 2: Becoming MacGyver

Lessons from the Field: Science-ing across the US

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…Sorry, I just really wanted to use that title.

Anyway! Hello my Internet friends! I come to you from the land called Michigan while doing some field work with my research lab. I can tell you it’s been quite an adventure for several reasons (which I have conveniently listed in bullet points).

  • For one, this is my first official field experience as a grad student…so just about everything could be considered an adventure at this point.
  • Second, this field experience required me to drive from Pasadena, CA to Pellston, MI in an 18 foot truck…which considering I’ve never driven anything more than a small car… well… it was interesting to say the least.
  • Third, this is the very first time our instrument has ever been out in the field and considering we only had it working three days before we left… well, let’s just say that the troubleshooting might have to be a bit more creative than usual…
  • And fourth, not only did said brand new (and stupidly expensive) instrument had to survive both a 3.5 day road trip on the back of a truck driven by two inexperienced truck drivers, but it also had to be carefully hoisted 100+ feet up in the air by some rope and a simple pulley system in order to be placed in its current position on the research tower…

Let me say again…it’s been quite an adventure. Continue reading Lessons from the Field: Science-ing across the US

Plants and Their Role in the Atmosphere

I finally did it! Here is another science post discussing the role of plant emissions (specifically isoprene) have on our air quality and climate. Admittedly, this is a very brief summary, as isoprene chemistry is currently a hot research topic and there were simply too many avenues to discuss on a simple introductory post. However, I still hope you enjoy this intermission post as I prepare to head off to Michigan for my research trip. Again, my presence on the interwebs, especially this week, will be kind of spotty. Nevertheless, if you have any related questions, I will be very happy to answer them once I have internet! Enjoy!

biopact_isoprene_photosynthesisTypically, when the atmosphere is mentioned, it’s usually in the context of air quality and/or climate change. The former tends to focus on the emissions and subsequent transformations of air pollution that may be hazardous to human health. The latter, on the other hand, focuses on how greenhouse gases and atmospheric aerosols affect the radiative forcing of our planet. However, regardless of which one is being referring to, both are influenced by a complex interplay of an assortment of reactive compounds found within our atmosphere. Continue reading Plants and Their Role in the Atmosphere

First Year Thoughts, Summer Adventures & Future Blog Updates???

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Oh hi there… Uhm… Crap. Can you give me a moment?

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Sorry. Okay. I’m good now.

Well, hello there! The quarter has officially ended in terms of classes! Yay! So, despite the fact that research is, of course, never ending, I can officially say I survived my first academic year of grad school! 😀

I can say without hesitation that this year has been soooo intense. I have gone through so many emotional rollercoasters and have learned so much about myself as a person. And this was just year one… I have like…five more to go? Craaaap. But I definitely don’t regret my decision to attend grad school (yet), and I don’t feel like quitting anymore. So, that’s promising, I guess. Continue reading First Year Thoughts, Summer Adventures & Future Blog Updates???

The Flavors of Chemistry

hands with atom modelA few weeks ago, I was having a conversation with a friend about how the general public sees chemists. We came up with the conclusion that most people generally default to three main assumptions:

  1. Chemist = Pharmacist
  2. Chemist = Drug Dealer (Thanks, Breaking Bad…)
  3. Chemist = Someone in a lab coat and goggles manically laughing as colorful, toxic liquids boil in front of them (AKA: Mad Scientist)

Though the last assumption brings a smile to my face and granted, a good number of chemists become pharmacists, these assumptions only cover a minute fraction of what a chemist actually is. In fact, the field of chemistry is actually very diverse, and the scientists trained in understanding the basic concepts have a surplus of different career opportunities spread across most STEM disciplines.

Continue reading The Flavors of Chemistry

Lessons from Packing for Field Research

recently-updated140-650x840So two weekends ago, I had to help a couple lab members get ready for their research field campaign. It was quite a learning experience, if I do say so myself, especially because I will have to be doing the same for my field work in a few short months. Anyway, because I found the experience so humorous and insightful, I thought I’d share the lessons I’ve learned with those who are or are planning to be in disciplines that do a lot of field work. Continue reading Lessons from Packing for Field Research