Monday, October 27, 2008

Back to the lab again, yo

Hellz yezz! Finally I've got the opportunity to go back to the lab and do some honest experimental work rather than just write about it. I've got most of this week available to do just that, and if stuff goes approximately as planned, the week's worth of experiments will land enough data to warrant a manuscript to be submitted to a rather cool journal in my field. We got one manuscript back from another cool journal a little while ago where the reviewers dissed our work and (big giveaway as to who the reviewers might be) told us to look up two papers by D. Ouchebag et al. wherein the authors used the same technique yielding different results. Which would've been perfectly cool if it wasn't for the fact that the way D. Ouchebag et al. used the technique and analyzed the results is flat out wrong with respect to the conclusions they draw, and we've got the data to prove it. Moreover, many of the papers out there describe their systems based on a Bambi-esque naïvetee with respect to the inner workings of that pesky subject known as thermodynamics. Only we need MORE data to really drive the point home and submit an article to a "methods" type journal. That way, we can reference this procedure in later manuscripts, by which time this will hopefully be accepted and thus be accepted as truth.

The levels of frustration evident in the preceding paragraph may have distorted the fact that we've got a really kewl methodology going using this type of technique, which actually provides the data others have claimed to observe for a long time now using an approach which objectively speaking can be described as "lacking".

There; how's that?

In an effort to get to this point however, I've gotta pitch in and do labwork with my very own hands - something I don't mind in the least. Having hands-on experience with something also aids in other aspects of the job, like advising students and setting deadlines. There is something to be said for the person setting deadlines having recent experience with actual labwork, rather than just remembering how kick-ass one used to be as a grad student a bunch of years ago, and then shortening an already underestimated time frame by assuming that "computers are so much faster today that doing the experiments must be five times quicker." Having a realistic idea of time consumption for a particular kind of research helps in assigning realistic time frames for lab work.

Kinda' started off on the wrong foot today though. The very first thing I wanted to do was to turn my old labcoat to the cleaner and get a new one. In theory, this ain't no big thang, except that the biggest size of the replacement labcoats the department stockroom carries misses my size by a lot. Put differently; unless them labcoats were made of spandex, there's no way I'd be able to get one on. Second, after spending some time gettin' back into the swing of things, we discovered that the system we had chosen as a "standard" displayed some markedly non-standard behavior. Third, there was some kind of software-fluke which screwed me out of half the collected data set for one run.

I'm kinda' tryin' to make all the rookie mistakes on the first day, so as to ensure smooth sailing in the days to come...I hope...

No comments: