Friday, February 02, 2007

What do scientists actually DO?

I realize that there are only about 3 non-scientists who actually read this blog. On the off chance than more of you wander by and wonder, “What do these boffins do all day?”, here is my statistically insignificant answer.

Job title: Technical officer
Institution: Research School of Earth Science, Australian National University

My day on Thursday, February 2, 2007:

7:30 Lock up bicycle. Drop bag in office, head to ICP-MS lab, turn on laser, check pumps and chillers, and fill cold trap with liquid N2.

7:40 Clean ablation cell and tubing, mount tuning glasses, clean and change cones, fire up ICP.

8:15 Take spare electrostatic lenses out of drying oven (cleaned on Wednesday).

8:20-8:40 get changed into work clothes, check email.

8:40-9:00 Tune laser ICPMS.

9:00-10:30 Talk to user (a petrology professor), load sample, discuss analysis, edit analytical method, do some test analyses, refine method, get routine analysis underway.

10:30-10:50 Reassemble spare ICP-MS lenses.

10:50-11:00 Update SHRIMP sample documentation.

11:00-11:20 School forum. Monthly meeting in which the director and/or business manager tell the entire staff what slings and arrows of outrageous fortune the university administration has chosen for us to endure.

11:20-12:30 SHRIMP sample preparation. Mostly polishing, labeling, and cleaning mounts made earlier in the week.

12:30-1:30 Lunch.

1:30-3:15 More sample preparation. See 14C guru in hall, discuss possible participation in upcoming mass spectrometry workshop. Liaise with rock crushing lab supervisor about a number of samples in various states of preparation.

3:15-3:45 Work on Astrophysical Journal comment.

3:45-4:00 Find papers needed for comment, email files home to self, get changed, ride home.

For those nose-to-the-grindstone students and academics wondering why I piss off so early, the answer is that the Union got cheesed off at me for working extra hours, and the university didn’t want to pay me overtime, so I stopped.

What is your day like? Anyone- even the grad students- are welcome to memify this question, but the people about whom I am particularly curious are:
Sabine (who can hopefully talk about her old job now)


Jul said...

Too much technical mumbo-jumbo and acronym usage for us mere mortals to follow here... can't you dumb it down a bit?

C W Magee said...

7:30-9 Get the upstairs lab running.

9-10:30 Get the researcher in the upstairs lab running at same speed as instrumentation.

10:30-11:20 paperwork and nap- er, meeting.

11:20-3:15 prepare minerals for age determination measurements (and eat lunch).

3:15-4:00 Diss other researchers.

One of these days I could do a post on why ELA-ICP-MS is the clumsiest acronym in the world. In the process I suppose I could explain how it works.

Chris R said...

Your question is answered

guthrie said...

What does the ELA stand for in the acronym?
(I could google it but what is the point in that?)

Anyway, like most jobs like this, it looks fairly normal, lots of boring routine stuff.

Anyone bored enough to hear about my day?

James Annan said...

Hey I'm not anonymous, and I'm not planning to leave my current job, so I'm not telling the world how much of a slacker I am :-)

C W Magee said...

James, I'm not anonymous either. Specifically, the ex-director of the school outed me to my boss in the middle of the lab. But that's neither here nor there.

One of these days, I'll get a modeller to explain to me what they do in language I understand. Perhaps another time...

Sure, go ahead. I should point out, however, that routine is not always boring. And vice versa. ELA stands for Excimer Laser Ablation, and is used by self-important laser snobs to differentiate themselves from the solid state hoi polloi.

guthrie said...

With the answer about the laser, that means that your analysis thingy basically works by zapping a sample with a laser, funneling the material that comes off it into an ICP, and then into an MS.

I must point out that I am a "materials technologist" at a small to medium sized, badly run company in Scotland that makes furnace insulation out of carbon. Its good stuff, and we sell it all over the world.

8:45- 15 mins late due to heavy frost on car and busy roads.
8:50 in shoes and labcoat and mask, go adn see if anything has happened over the weekend, and check the things I am supposed to check, like how the material properties have been over the weekend. eg density, any problems at moulding, etc.
9:00 stop and chat to someone.
9:05 back in lab, talk to colleuge about the bloke we have coming in later in teh day to talk about how the trials went for reducing the pollution we put down the drain.

9:30 collect some samples for monthly ICP analysis.
9:45 read over an old report or two.
10:00 see about getting purchase order numbers for things.
10:10-11:00 Cant remember.
11:00- 11:45- discussion with colleuge and visitor about the moulding station pollution reduction project, and what stage it is at.
11:45-12:30- see maintenance about stuff.
12:30 to 1:00- lunch.
1:00 to 1:30- replace some insulation on retort burners, bin the old stuff.
1:30 to 4:45- cannot recall. I know I did some work, I just don't remember what. Its very annoying.

Anyone else get the kind of mission creep that occurs when you are the only qualified person within reach, and find yourself getting lumbered with things that need to get done?
Its how I ended up being in charge of disposal of our special waste, and checking the insulation on our retort burners. Despite them not being truly within my area of responsibility.

C W Magee said...

More meme linkage:
Transient Reporter

If anyone else chooses to give it a go, feel free to comment.