Hello again everyone,
I don’t know about you, but I think science is really cool. I have always felt this way, but back in the day, as a small kid running around getting dirty, I naively thought it was easy, too. I would watch my science teacher, or Bill Nye the Science Guy on TV, run perfect experiments over and over again; the volcano always exploded and made a mess. While watching these awesome experiments, I would think: “Hey, that was really cool! I want to blow up volcanoes too. Maybe I should be a scientist.” They made it look easy, all their ingredients and materials were always right next to them, ready to go. As you learn and grow, you find out that science is not simply blowing up a volcano with baking soda. In reality, someone had to get all those materials and someone had to decide what materials were actually necessary and retrievable. Unfortunately for science, this is usually not as easy as going on Amazon and getting your 2 day prime shipping.
The first couple weeks of my internship were spent researching my project, and learning how to run the instruments. After the research and learning instrumentation, came the design of the experiment, or DOE. This is my current stage. The DOE is essentially what you’re going to do, and what factors or controls affect the experiment. This is where Bill Nye has the one-up on us, even once we know everything, procuring the materials may not be easy, and may cause changes in the original or projected plan. My previous research experience while an undergraduate only gave me minimal experience with experimental preparation. I had input in planning, but the material set up, and how to actually test our hypothesis, was designed by my professor. This time, I am much more a part of the decisions, planning, and gathering of the materials, and I’m learning just how many decisions go into the simplest experiments.
For every control variable, there are anywhere from around 2, to an infinite number of basic factors that could influence the output. To add to that, there are potentially dozens of control variables for every test, so, there are more than a few factors and parameters to consider when setting up an experiment. Making the decisions and finding the materials is tough. Where do you get this material? How do you cut these wafers? How long will it take to get this tool? These are just a few issues that could arise when setting up the tests.
We are now nearly done with the DOE and finalizing all the materials, so hopefully we get into the lab soon, which was the part I was so excited for as a kid. Although I won’t be blowing up a volcano, it will be very satisfying to see an experiment hopefully succeed, that I played such an integral part in designing and bringing to fruition. It has been a great learning experience seeing how tough it is to get these things going from scratch, but that will only make the final product more satisfying.