So I’ve been in the lab now for a whole week and it’s really odd being back on campus when it is so quiet and I am a graduate. It feels a bit more “real”.
So this is the lab, Lab A28 where most of the soil magic occurs. I didn’t even know this place existed the whole time I have been studying here at Lancaster. Crazy how much of the uni I haven’t actually explored and how much more there is going on outside of the undergrad lifestyle I was used to.
Apparently, the lab has been pretty quiet this week so I haven’t seen many new faces and I have not yet had the chance to ask them about what their projects involve and how they went about approaching such challenging research tasks. After helping with Beth, Freyja managed to land herself a few extra weeks of work in the Lab alongside Sue, a researcher working on a project funded by Defra. It just goes to show how work experience can lead to other opportunities to further your skill set and knowledge base.
I have been staying with a friend, sleeping on their couch, and every night I would return home to the question, ‘so what have you ACTUALLY been doing today?’ It seemed that, after a couple of days I began to give answers that were similar, which was the honest truth. The lab work that is essential to the project is rather repetitive but that’s what I expected after collecting such huge amounts of soil in the field!
Soooooo, here goes. This is what I have been doing
- Soil sieving
- Taking trips to the cool room (and yes, I am secretly scared that I will get trapped in there!)
- Weighing fresh and dry soils
- Testing the pH (using a super cool machine)
- Using a pestle and mortar to grind dry soil. If I’m lucky I get to use the ball grinder that uses ball bearings within a metal case to grind the soil to a fine powder.
My friend claims it’s a lot like what she is doing at the moment and she is busy doing lots of baking and I guess she isn’t wrong!
The soil drying in the ovens.
Prepping soil in the lab is the first time I have been left completely to my own devices working independently for such a long time period and I am loving being able to manage my own time. (By saving up hours during the week, today I could cut my day short and head home after lunch!) It also means that I have been improving my time management as the most effective way to work is by establishing a cycle where you’re not having to wait around and watch soil dry, LITERALLY!
So yea, it didn’t all go swimmingly. I had a bit of a mini disaster when transporting the fresh soils I had weighed and sieved. The ovens in the laboratories are in pretty high demand at the moment and as there are only two in Lab A28 they get booked rather quickly. This meant that I had to move all my prepped samples from one lab to another, (Lab J, to which I am more familiar with as it is the part 2 undergrad lab!) which was bound to end in a catastrophe. After reassuring Freyja that I would be able to make it to lab J with only 1 tray I set off on my journey, only to reach the first obstacle, hit my elbow and wobble the tray I was so ANNOYED with myself, but I had to gather the samples and labels and try to rescue what I could. This taught me that I just have to make the best out of a bad situation and there is generally a way in which things can be explained and resolved. After ringing Beth, she made me feel more at ease with the whole situation but I can assure you I’m hoping it’s a mistake I won’t be making again!!
Anyway, I’m heading home for the weekend to spend the night in a proper bed and get a good lie in!
Amy. . . x