A LOT of Oysters
Ugh! I am soooo exhausted! This past week I've been working with one of my fellow lab rats on this absolutely awesome experiment. The experiment required the use of something called synchrotron radiation, a name given to x-rays or light produced by electrons circulating in a storage ring at nearly the speed of light. The storage ring is called an accelerator; the accelerator needed to generate this type of radiation is huge--HUGE! (Here endth the science lecture for the day! ) Getting beam time, as it is called, is not easy. There is a very looooooong waiting list; the process can take months. Fortunately, we were able to piggy back on someone else's time, but it meant we were on call for weeks. It also meant that once we got the call we had to drop everything, make our samples and then essentially move into the building that houses the beam until we'd completed our data collecting. Thirty. Six. Continuous. Hours. Ugh!
The data collection went great. The data analysis, um, not so great. It was a question to us from our boss about the analysis that sparked the idea for this page, and it was a recent newsletter by Anna Aspnes about quoteblendz that led to the actual page design.
I'm trying to get better about getting the whole story on the actual page, but sheesh! That's hard when you tell long stories! Anyway, I think I succeeded in getting it all here. It's long (I know, I know--you're shocked! Shocked!), so don't feel like you need to suffer through it all!
"I do research science. The nature of my job is that I spend a great deal of time shucking oysters, metaphorically speaking, looking for those elusive scientific pearls. And this remark? This is what I told Le Grand Fromage when he asked how the data analysis of our latest experiment was going. Even though I said it, I don’t believe it. Not really. I think life is full of the most beautiful pearls, although you may have to shuck a pile of oysters to find one!
The story is this...
Recently, I’ve been working with J on a new project. He had a novel and exciting idea that required the use of SSRL beam time, and he needed some help with the experimental execution. Getting beam time is hard; there is a lengthy wait list and securing time can take months, but we were very lucky in that we were able to piggy back on someone else's experiment (it's good to have low friends in high places!). Together J and I spent weeks perfecting the sample prep, and then we waited...and waited...and waited, waited for the call, the call that told us we had beam time. We were on call for weeks! When we finally got the notification that we could do our experiment, we were told we had less than two days to pull our samples together, and that we would have only 48 hours in which to collect our data. We dropped everything, got our samples made, and then we packed up a couple of ice chests and some sleeping bags and headed for the accelerator. 36 straight hours later, we'd collected all of our data, and after getting some much-need rest, eating a decent meal and putting on some clean clothes (never underestimate the power of clean underwear!) we started to work on the data analysis, and we found...nothing. Nothing, nought, cipher, zero, zip, nonentity, null set, nix, shutout, bugger-all, goose egg, sweet Fanny Adams. Sigh. It was about this time that Fearless Leader emerged from his lair and asked, “Oh! Are you analyzing your data? How’s it going?”
I turned to him and sent him a withering glare, several choice but career-ending retorts on the tip of my tongue. Instead, what I said was a line from an old Counting Crows song, "It's all a lot of oysters but no pearls!"
I didn’t think it was that funny, but apparently, that was the right thing to say! (We all need to get out more, but I digress...) “So, what’s your next move?” asked Head Honcho.
The trick with research, I think, is very similar to the trick with life: know when it’s time to let go, move on, try something new.
If I can’t find any pearls where I am, then maybe it’s time to pick up my little shovel and pail and head to a different part of the beach!
Find My Way Overlays No. 02
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| Date: Sat July 16, 2011
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