Wednesday, June 25, 2014

When the temperature was ridiculous.

Some days, weeks, and even entire months science doesn't go according to the nice and neat plan.  I tend to share some of the exciting and fun things that happen around here, but not all days are quite so joyful.

Instruments break.  Clean labs break.  Meters for measuring pH break.  Sometimes they all decide to break at the same time.  Welcome to May and June of 2014 in the Baxter lab!

This is the reading on the thermometer in the clean lab today (Photo credit to my labmate Jamie Kendall!)..... read that right.  It's 95 degrees (Fahrenheit) in the clean lab. The clean lab is supposed to be at a tightly controlled 68 to 70 degrees F in order for chemistry to continue!  Luckily, I could spend the day paper writing and crossing my fingers that the new air conditioner gets installed on the roof via crane soon!

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Lab Shoe Reminder

When working in the clean lab, I have a special pair of shoes that are only worn in that lab.  It keeps me from tracking dirt in from the outside and also keeps my feet nice and safe from any acid that might spill.  Most of us who work in the lab use rubberized garden clogs, which also have an added style bonus! ;-)

Earlier this week, I was happily working along in the clean lab dissolving garnet.  At some point I looked down at my clean lab shoes and realized..."GASP! I have a hole!"  The time has come for my shoes to remind me that I have been a PhD student for three years now.  I ordered new shoes, which arrived today.  I think it shows clearly just how far I've already come as a PhD student....

If all goes well...this pair will last me through the rest of my PhD!  I've walked many miles in those shoes and they've seen a lot of come new science adventures and new shoes!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Time flies and research inches along but graduation only creeps closer.

I freely admit it...I have totally neglected the blog over the past academic year.  My excuse would be that "things have been crazy, unsettled, and really hectic around here," but the longer I am in graduate school the more I realize that anyone in academia probably claims the same excuse.

In the same format as several of my most recent posts, here is a partial summary of highlights from the past two semesters in no particular order:

  • This month I become my adviser's most senior graduate student.  The labmate ahead of me defends her dissertation at the end of June and will be headed off to new science adventures. That puts my adviser back to three graduate students for this coming year.
  • I applied for and was granted a Graduate Research Grant from the Geological Society of America to work on a comparative study of detrital garnet ages versus detrital zircon and monazite ages from modern sediments in the southern Appalachian mountains.  This study will be either the second or third chapter of my dissertation!  In addition, I was recognized as one of 10 (out of 774 total applicants) awarded an Outstanding Mention for exceptional merit in conception and presentation of my grant application.  There's a chance that I may be attending the GSA fall meeting in Vancouver.
  • I completed two more classes.  I finally got to take a tectonics seminar and an isotope geochemistry course.  It's about time for an official isotopes course since I call myself an isotope geochemist..don't you think?!  Only two more courses to go during the remainder of my PhD.
  • I am currently writing my first, first-author paper, which will also be the first completed chapter of my dissertation.  I presented part of the research that the paper is based on at the AGU fall meeting in San Francisco last December.
  • During April and May I worked on a collaborative research project with Drs. Lenka and David Baratoux.  They came to Boston University as visiting scientists to date garnet from West African rocks as a part of the WAXI program (West African Exploration Initiative).  It is pretty exciting to be working on rocks that are being studied for the very first time!  I have been involved as an adviser for experiment planning, as a lab assistant as they learned the techniques for garnet geochronology here at BU, and as the lab tech for completing the clean-up work now that they have returned home.
The coming months should include work on preliminary data for a new grant application, completion of my first-author paper on garnet from the Jack Hills, and lots and lots of sample preparation for upcoming projects.  I'm also hoping to write a step-by-step methodology as I work in the lab this summer.  The plan is to include portions of that guide as blog posts illustrating what a day in the life of an isotope geochemist looks like.

In other news, I have been working on a brand new personal, academic website.  You can now find my personal page at  Right now it is fairly basic and includes my professional background and current work, but soon I hope to add lab pictures, lesson plans, and more. I'm always open to suggestions for website improvements as I move towards graduation and job hunting in the next few years!