Tuesday, May 02, 2006

At Wits' End

I am cranky and frustrated and PMSing. Aren't you glad you stopped by?

First of all, what the heck is that little wheelchair symbol thing on the comments page?!

We still have helium. The nightmare just won't end. Dr. Hari found some money in some grant account that he has to spend before the semester ends so I had to order 200 more liters. My heart dropped when he told me to order more.

So after I ordered the helium we realized we may not have enough samples to run to use up all that helium. I had an idea for a project involving my collaboration with the medical school. Because I know they are not physicists over there, I sent them a paper that a guy from my lab published awhile back outlining an analogous experiment to the one I had in mind. Because one of the guys in the lab I'm collaborating with makes magnetic nanoparticles, I thought this project would be perfect. Briefly, the previous paper studied the differences in properties of magnetic nanoparticles coated with different chemicals using our signature experiment. I figured if my collaborators coated magnetic nanoparticles with different biological molecules and I performed this signature experiment on them it would be a project absolutely no one else has done. My co-advisor in medicine thought this was a great idea and told me to come over and pick up four samples! Four samples is a physicist's dream. That's roughly four days of experiments, the electronic equivalent of reams of data, and hopefully a publication.

I went over there to pick up my stash, and noticed that the vials were full of white powder, unlike the dark brown or black samples I am accustomed to.

"Um, may I ask exactly what these sample are?"

He looked at me as if I were a moron.

"They are polymer nanoparticles."

For those of you who don't know materials, "polymer" is basically a fancy word for plastic. Is plastic magnetic? No. Thus, can I perform any meaningful measurements upon said materials? Hell no.

Me being the absolute coward that I am did not argue with my co-advisor. I just took the samples and left. I have no freaking clue what to do with them.

That was Thursday. Things have gone further downhill from there. I measured four samples over the weekend for a lab mate of mine who is very sweet but not always very competent with our $300,000 machine. Normally our post doc would do the measurements for her but he was out of town. I was oddly flattered that he asked me to do all the measurements. He apparently thinks I am at least marginally more competent than the other girl. He may now have his doubts. It was pointed out to me today that I screwed up ONE LINE OF COMPUTER CODE and lost a third of the data. I think I'm more upset that it's not even my data so I can't really just shrug it off and say "live and learn". I have to answer to the post doc and my incompetent lab mate who technically should have been doing her own experiments. I'm not trying to push the blame off of me. Maybe I'm just not ready to be responsible for other people's stuff.

And lastly, Professor Hottie's sample. Our experiment measures frequencies at 12 megahertz with a sensitivity of only a few Hertz. That's one part in a million. We usually run a sample twice to make sure nothing is amiss and then talk our results over with our collaborator that provided the sample. I have measured this freaking sample SEVEN TIMES. SEVEN TIMES, and I can't get reproducible results. I'm am terrified I'll have call this guy up and say, "Hello, I'm a retard. And by the way, I totally have the hots for you." I have a theory about what's up with this sample, but when I asked Prof. Hottie after the second time if the measurement should be angle dependent, he said no. I think either he has to be wrong, or I can't tell my rear end from a hole in the ground. Which is also very likely.

And I'm almost out of f*cking truffles.

Faithful readers, if you have read this scientific rant, you are the best family, friends, blog buddies, and lurkers an over emotional female physicist could ask for.


Runner Girl FL said...

Is it sick that I found this hilarious?!?!

Or I’m just as twisted…..

How’s lunch looking? Vietnamese?

brainhell said...

Of course I read it all. The unexpected result is the fertile ground of scientific advance. Think about the inconsistent readings while you shower, while you eat, while you sleep. Think.

Syliva said...

Wow! That makes people complaining about a "bad hair" day look really silly. Hope things go better today. Dear Old Dad, you'd better get to the truffels store! Mom, I think she needs a hug!

Jackie said...

that does suck, but rest assured, you are not a retard. Oh, and the handicap sign (which also bugged me) is there so you can hear the word verification, aparently there are a lot of visually impared people reading blogs....

dancingo4 said...

my oh my. Me reading your scientific ranting would be equal to me writing here about the pmsing and chamber ranting that i could do today. My anger lives in sponsorships and incompetent people. Apparently that problem is freaking global. I have no solution to ease the pain. Truffles would help. Wine is even better.

Scott said...

Yes I made it through, but I can't really offer you any advice, as I have no f'in idea what you are talking about. But at least I know now that polymer is just plastic.

lefty_grrrl said...

Did you know that the scientific name for gorilla is gorilla gorilla gorilla? Go get an Uncle John's Bathroom Reader - it'll cheer you up. And you just might learn some good useless knowledge. And get more chocolate. Lots of chocolate. Isn't there a Godiva at a mall or something?

magnetbabe said...

It's funny because it's totally true. I couldn't make up nerdy fiction better than this b.s.

I guess as a scientist one loses sight of all the improtant knowledge that comes from unexpected results. Thanks for bringing me back to my roots. I'm tired of thinking. Can't I just go get drunk?

The emergency truffles are on the way, and mom gave me verbal hugs tonight.

I installed the necessry hardware to "listen" to the word verification. It creeped me the hell out.

Apparently that problem is freaking global. Amen, sister. That almost made me pee my pants. Thanks fot the call!!

Thanks, but I don't need advice. Just a pair of eyes and some sympathy will suffice. Typical guy!

Wouldn't it be ironic if I used that nugget to kick your butt in Trivial Pursuit? I didn't make it to Godiva. Instead, I pulled out the big guns and got some ice cream.

Scott said...

Oh yeah. I'm still in training.

DearOldDad said...

I feel your pain with that "one line of code" thing. The truffles are in the air - hold on tight!!!

mom said...

the root of your problem is much much deeper than frustrating experiments, overdue truffles,polymer nanoparticles, etc etc. your real frustration is the offense and the pitching of the mn. twins. add on top of that the whole stadium issue..... well who could blame you for being cranky?