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A Glimpse Into the Nanometer/Micrometer World - Measuring Particle Size

I never thought I would enjoy reading so many scientific papers.  Over the weekend and throughout the week I familiarized myself with my main project, which is focused on particleomics.  I never knew the impacts particles can have on the environment and the ways they can be indicators of the health/state of the environment.  It was interesting to read how particles are characterized and the methods used to detect and define them.  Even more exciting is that I was able to actually use some of those methods.

I got a chance to work with dynamic light scattering (DLS) and collect some data on particles.  I made solutions and mixtures of nanometer sized latex beads and used DLS to analyze them.  I found that sometimes, even when two different sized beads were present, the DLS reported only one size.  By diluting the solutions, eventually both sizes were reported.  I also tested tap water for particles and made multiple dilutions of 60nm and 21nm sized beads to see if concentration had any effect on the reported particle diameter.  I found that concentration doesn't have much of an effect, so long as the solution contains particles of all the same size (which is somewhat rare in most environmental situations).  It was a great excersive to familiarize myself with the equipment and measurement methods.

I was also able to learn how to use software for reporting scientific results.  The software is called IGOR Pro.  It took a few hours to get a hang of, but after going through some tutorials I was able to sort data and reproduce some statistical anlyses done by last year's interns.  It sounds dorky, but I actually got excited when I was able to produce graphs that looked as though they came right out of a scientific journal.  Knowing how to use this software will be useful for my upcoming senior year and will be a great addition to my resume. 

This past weekend I was able to go back into Portland and visit Powell's bookstore.  That place is huge!  I also discovered there's a Powell's technical bookstore with books on everything to do with science and engineering.  I was extremely excited when I found books on chemical engineering, chemistry, and, one of my favorite chemistry related topics, fireworks.  Aside from Powell's I also discovered that getting off the light rail at the Washington Park TriMet station you will not only find a zoo but an arboretum as well.  They have redwoods and sequoias.  I felt like an ant standing next to such giant trees.