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A Taste of Graduate School, Testing pH Effects, and a Mount Hood Adventure

What a week!  There was never a dull moment this week.  I got my first taste of a graduate school experience on Monday when my Principal Investigator asked me to prepare a presentation of the work that I have done over the past few weeks and present it in front of him and another research group.  It wasn't a formal presentation but rather a casual presentation meant to inform everyone of my progress and create an environment where ideas about how to move forward could be discussed.  It was a great experience and took away a lot of anxiety about presenting in front of research groups.  I now have confidence that I will be able to present findings and progress to research groups.  I actually had fun and was excited to listen to other's ideas and get some input by those who knew a great deal about certain areas of my research.

After Monday's meeting and presentation I had a bunch of new ideas to test out.  The first idea that I tested was that of the effects of ions on particle aggregation.  There were two ways to test this idea; both by changing the sample pH and by adding an ionic solution to the sample.  I decided to first try changing the pH of the sample.  It has been previously shown in other papers that lowering a sample's pH will cause considerable particle aggregation.  By adding a small amount of acid to a few samples, testing a range of sample pH conditions, I obtained the same result.  While I knew I was most likely going to get this same result, it was important to make sure my methods were correct.  Next, with some help from an high school intern, I tested the effects of ions on particle aggregation by adding a solution of artificial ocean water to samples of water from a local creek.  Upon testing using DLS, no conclusive results were obatined.  Unfortunately, it's hard to say if the lack of particle aggregation is indicative of the type of particles present or the level of ionic effect added by the ocean water. 

Lastly, I made some comparisons between DLS and FlowCAM results.  Using principal component analysis I was able to find the variables in a water sample that were causing the greatest variance in the measurements.  I was trying to see if any correlation existed between particle sizes observed in DLS measurements and the resulting principal component obtained from FlowCAM data.  While the significance of a discovered correlation may be hard to qualify, it may be a great indicator that organisms and/or particle aggregates in the 1 micrometer and greater size range either have a dependence upon or produce particles in the 1 to 1000 nanometer size range.  The results are not yet in, but I am very excited to analyze the data and hopefully see a trend.

On Saturday CMOP organized a trip to Mount Hood.  A few of the interns, including myself, participated in the trip.  I am glad I went!  Our trip leader, Ethan, took us on a great trail up to an elevation of about 6,500 ft (~2000 m) on Mount Hood.  We were able to hike a bit on a glacier and take a shot at skiing down it on our boots.  Sometimes the skiing part turned into sledding or even faceplanting!  It was a ton of fun.  After an exhaustive hike Ethan brought us to see a waterfall.  The "short" walk to the waterfall involved hiking over a log jam and some rock climbing (which quickly turned into falling off the rocks into a freezing stream below!).  The view of the waterfall after passing all the obstacles was amazing.  It was probably one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen.  The trip was the best outdoor activity I have done since I arrived here and will definitely be a day that I will always remember.