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New Learning Experiences: NSF Site Visit and Swing Dancing (Week 2)

This week has gone by really fast and I am sure that the 8 more weeks I have here will be gone before I know it. My project has really picked up this past week. The computers in the lab had expired licenses of LabVIEW, so I couldn’t work on making the program for the beginning of the week, which was quite frustrating because all of the data that was processed using LabVIEW SignalExpress couldn’t be analyzed to the needed extent without having the normal LabVIEW software. Due to this inconvenience, it allowed me some time to compare some of the data that I retrieved from the µFCM (micro flow cytometer) with data from the FlowCAM. The FlowCAM outputs 46 different parameters for each particle that it detects. An intern from last summer had narrowed down these parameters a bit to try to focus on the ones that were most important, but after being narrowed, there were still 21 parameters to consider. Some of these parameters aren’t relevant to what I am doing with the µFCM, but a lot of them could still be useful in some aspect that is still unknown. The voltage readings from the µFCM are unknown in the fact that nobody knows what they correspond to and having 21 different parameters to compare is too much with that many unknowns. After some discussion, the main parameters that I am going to focus on right now are diameter (ESD) and aspect ratio. I dedicated some time to trying to find a correlation between the numbers from the µFCM and the FlowCAM, but there wasn’t much to compare since I didn’t have the data from each iteration from the µFCM. All the data that I had from the µFCM was just overall measurements for the entire signal (mean, max, min, standard deviation, and variance) instead of measurements for each iteration of data (or every second). With the guidance of Joe Needoba and Tawnya Peterson, I came up with a timeline for my project and after that was completed, it gave me a much better sense of organization and vision of what I need to do each week in order to finish on time. By the end of the week, Jim Mohan, the tech support go-to person at CMOP, finally had the time (he had been really busy preparing for the NSF site visit) to properly reinstall LabVIEW on all of the computers in the lab. This was great in that I could start to make the program that will analyze the voltages from the µFCM. After some trial and error with the program and researching different VI templates I was able to run a program that actually did some of the things that I needed it to do. This was a really promising sign and was cool to see the data actually running through the program. This is just the beginning, however, and there is still a lot to add and refine. Joe Needoba was also very helpful with this as he has a good understanding of what needed to be connected where on the program.
This Thursday and Friday, CMOP had its NSF site visit where representatives from the National Science Foundation comes and review CMOP as a whole including its research initiatives and education/outreach progress. On Thursday, everyone listened to the research presentations and overall CMOP initiatives/goals. It was a long day lasting from 8am to 6pm, and some had to stay even later to answer questions from the NSF. I really enjoyed the presentation on Plankton Blooms by Tawnya Peterson and was intrigued by the fact that phytoplankton can get infections and when the phytoplankton blooms, there is a corresponding increase in infections. Also, the spores from the sporangia of the infectious agents can provide nutrients for zooplankton. The interns along with some graduate students had the opportunity to have lunch with the site visit team and discuss what our research was for the summer and also hear their own respective backgrounds.
To end the week on a fun note, Melissa Gilbert took some of the interns swing dancing in Portland. She has been swing dancing for about 5 years now and goes swing dancing 2, sometimes 3 times a week. I am definitely not a dancer in any way, shape, or form, but it was fun to get away for a bit and it gave me a chance to talk to the other interns that I haven’t really had a chance to meet with yet. There were a lot of really good swing dancers there, so it was also fun just to watch them. This has been a good week and now I can take a breather and enjoy the weekend.