Archive for February 2011
I recently had to replace a high pressure gage on the regulator for our helium tanks. The helium tanks are the carrier gas for our GC/MS system. (For a crash course in Gas Chromatography and Mass Spectrometry, check out Wikipedia here and here). The whole system had been giving us fits for several months now. We would install a new tank of helium (99.999% pure to be precise) and in about 2 weeks, the tank would be almost completely empty. We weren’t running a heavy load on the instrument so there had to be a leak somewhere. I finally solved the mystery recently and it gave me some new realizations about the process of solving problems.
When I first started working with GC/MS, I honestly thought that this was a normal pace to go through gas. Having no previous experience with this instrument, and having to teach myself the majority of this stuff at the beginning, I thought it might be reasonable. To make matters worse, I didn’t have to go through my advisor to order new tanks, I could just call the people up and they’d send us new tanks. I finally made mention of how rapidly it seemed we were going through gas, and my advisor piped up and said, “Yeah, that’s not normal.” So off I went to try and figure out why we were going through so much helium. Read the rest of this entry »
Sharing an office while in grad school is an inevitable fact. Unless you are one of the few that has an office to themselves, or no one else in your lab, then you will be spending a lot of your time in an environment with other people. Close quarters with anybody can become a frustrating experience, but it doesn’t have to be. A little respect and courtesy will go a long way towards making your office space a healthy and successful atmosphere.
Grad school is the land of a thousand papers. You will be reading for what seems like eons. You have to read to learn; there’s no way around it. You will be surrounded by scientific articles and pretty soon they’re going to be getting out of hand. Organization will be key to reigning in this literary beast. Knowing where your papers are and how to get a hold of the information they have, and quickly, will be essential to your future success. Spending some time now will help you avoid wasting even more time in the future.
Communication is key in this digital age. We are able to stay in touch with everyone we meet through email, phones, twitter, and facebook. We constantly know when someone is trying to get a hold of us and our attention. This sounds like a great thing, until you put it into practice. What really ends up happening is that you get a bunch of spam you don’t want, voicemails that pile up, six million tweets a second and you now know way too much about your friends. All of these ways to interact with other people are available for the very high price of your time and attention.