The trial period of research
This last week saw me testing out the new compounds we got - 2,4-DNT and 1,3-dinitrobenzene. I started the runs with the slowest combinations - the lowest pH and temperature. By the end of the week, neither of the compounds had shown any sign of a reaction - when I did my calibration curves on Thursday and Friday, the concentrations hadn't really changed at all. So, on Friday, I tested the 1,3-dinitrobenzene in the theoretically fastest run, the highest pH and temperature to see how it would do. And it did nothing. So, like nitrobenzene, it apparently only wants to hydrolyze on its own, very very slow, timescale, if it decides to at all. So there goes that experiment. I'm going to see if the other compound reacts better next week. As it has a methyl group, it might be better at reacting... But this is what research is all about, right? Figuring out what might work and what wouldn't work. Oh, and the reason that I only looked at these on Thursday and Friday is because the HPLC was acting up again, so we backflushed the guard column again, and I changed it on Friday, after my runs. I'm thinking that we might need to look into what else needs maintenance on it next week, and maybe spend some time trying to make it work better.
The daily routine was once again broken up by a field trip - our last one this summer - that took us to OHSU's main campus for a tour of the graduate labs there. Even though I've lived in Portland all of my life, I've never really had much cause to go up to the OHSU campus on the hill, and it was a lot of fun to be able to walk around on all of their sky bridges, and get to see what sort of graduate research is being done up there. A bit more medically related, but that's to be expected when you're placed next to a hospital. A lot of fun, and a really good experience, since we were also introduced to the head of the Center for Diversity and Multicultural Affairs, an office that is apparently also just sort of an advisorial center, so that connection might prove very useful in the future.
Finally, the week ended with another lunch session, this time a discussion with some of CMOP's grad students about what life is like as a graduate student, what sort of paths you can follow to get there, and any other tidbits they wanted to add. It was nice to get to hear things explained from people who are actually in grad school and have recently gone through the application process and know what we're going through and can offer some advice. We also got a tour of their labs, which was great, because I don't really leave my lab and so it was really cool to get to see what sort of equipment and issues the other labs are working with.
But, I guess my lesson for this week is that research is something you can tentatively plan for, but you never really know what pitfalls are coming your way.