Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Five Ls

Today's day started a bit later and breakfast was not as crowded. Our class is one of the earliest classes, so we left the dining room at about 8:45 to make it to the lab at 9. We were early, and we got our own lab coats and protective eye wear. Then, we split into four groups among the four mentors. I am part of the Nitrogen group with Dr. Subir as my mentor.

Lab: First, half the class got a demonstration from the Michael the mentor. Then we switched with the other half of the class for a lab safety lecture from Aaron. After we split up into our groups which split into smaller groups. My lab partners are Zach, who is from New Jersey, and Vlad, who is from Romania. The mentors said that the point of the lab was just to learn how to use the program MicroLab, which measures temperature, time, and all sorts of measurements. Both of my partners were hard and efficient workers. The lab consisted of finding the freezing point of glacial acetic acid (it smelled like really strong vinegar)by putting a tube of it in another tube of water, and that tube was in a beaker of ice-water slurry. First we calibrated MicroLab's thermocouple using a thermometer and ice, room temperature, and warm water. The program crashed, but luckily it was right before our first trial. For trials one through three, we did not stir the acetic acid, and our first trial showed a really impressive supercooling curve. For trials four through six, we each took turns stirring the acetic acid. We finished about ten minutes early, so we did another trial to show a student who was late.

Lunch: Professor Avila arranged for the class to eat with some graduate students and ask them questions about chemistry. It was about two or three people for every graduate student, but I got lucky because I was the only one paired up with my graduate student. Teresa said she was entering her fourth year as a graduate student and she organic chemistry with a little bit of biology, which I was really interested in. She told me that she enjoyed attending a smaller university after high school because all the faculty in her department knew her and supported her, whereas she only sees her adviser once a month at Columbia. She told me that science was a good choice because the university gives you a stipend, so it's kind of like getting paid to go to school. Afterward, she told me about her latest research project. She said that she was working with cancer cells and a protein linked to many mental health conditions. She said that hopefully she would find out how to prevent that protein decreasing to prevent those diseases from occurring. When I went down to her lab, she gave a tour of her lab. She feeds the brain cancer cells with some nutrient broth (it looked a lot like Hawaiian Punch). Then, she showed some of her samples under the microscope. I really enjoyed talking to her, because biochemistry is something I am interested in as a possible major.

Lecture: After lunch, we met in our lab groups again and discussed the data and some questions. Then, Professor Gerard Parkin came in to give us lecture. Before that, Professor Avila, being the jokester he is, told us to take notes on a short biography of Professor Parkin, so we could bombard him with specifics about his life. It was pretty funny, but Professor Parkin did not seem fazed at all. His lecture was a bit difficult to grasp because I didn't know what he was talking about until the end. But then, he did a magic trick, so that fixed that.

Lousy Weather and Mrs. Lilhanand: After the lecture, we were allowed to leave class about five minutes early. We had been in the building the whole day, so I was really surprised to see these dark gray clouds and big gusts of wind. It wasn't unbearably hot anymore, and I knew that meant one thing -- a storm was a-brewin'. Now, I've been on the East Coast before, and I did check the weather this morning and it said that there would be thunderstorms. I'm not a big fan of thunderstorms, I'm actually pretty terrified of them. I was getting more scared by the minute while waiting for our daily meeting with Mrs. Lilhanand. All of did see and hear the lightning and thunder, but thankfully Jessica protected me. We went inside because it was starting to sprinkle, and then it poured. Julie finally got Mrs. Lilhanand to be a contributor to our blog! After, we ate dinner, and I went back to my room to write down the procedure for tomorrow's lab. I fell accidentally fell asleep for about two hours, and I just finished summarizing the procedure. I think it's best that I go to sleep now. Goodnight!

1 comment:

Don Gosney said...


First, let me make this clear: I have the highest respect and regard for Ms. Lilhanand and think you and the rest of the ILC team are so VERY lucky to have her on board with us. That being said, I think she's got you all buffaloed about contributing to the blog. When you see it in print, that's when you can boast about it. Here it is at 2:20 in the AM and I'm seeing nothing from her.

Now her blog from three days ago was amazing but just how long should she be allowed to live off of those laurels? How much slack would any of you be cut if you were to say that you posted a good one several days ago?

I suggest you all sweet talk her and entice her into writing another blog posting. She does a wonderful job and she can only enhance your site with her prose.

Sounds like you had an interesting first lab. You got to learn just a little and try out some cool equipment all the while learning some basic lab safety. A good start.

By the way, acetic acid is what gives vinegar it's taste and smell so you weren't far off in your description.

I'm curious. I know that Jessica can do just about anything but exactly what did she do to protect you from the thunder and lightning? Does she have some superhero powers she's been hiding from me? I always thought her smile and sparkling eyes were disarming but I didn't think that thunder and lightning would be cowed by them

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