I wish I had taken a picture of the studio!!
One of the most important jobs as a scientist is being able to communicate what you do to the people around you. Even if it’s just your mum, one day, someone without a background in your particular field of science will ask you what you do. The trick is to be able to communicate what is typically a quite complex scientific idea in simple terms.
One of my favourite things about contributing to this blog is that I get to “practice” communicating scientific ideas very simply. I am actually getting quite good (if I do say so myself), at telling people about what I am studying in my PhD.
I got an excellent chance to “practice” my science communication last week, when I was asked by the host of a community radio program called “Biodegradio” to come into their studio and record an interview on what I am studying. I was quite nervous heading into the studio, but quickly relaxed and actually had a lot of fun chatting to Alison about my work. Continue reading
Well, the answer depends on what we mean by the “origin of life”. One could say that it all started 13.8 billion years ago with the birth of the universe – the “shock and awe” process we call the Big Bang. The impetus that kick-started the processes which led to primitive life-forms may have come from the seeding of our planet with molecules such as amino acids on asteroids, comets, stardust, or other cosmic bodies crashing into our young planet. Perhaps, the jolt to bring inanimate abiotic molecules together to form the precursors to biological molecules could have come from lighting strikes. This process of prebiotic synthesis was first experimentally tested back in 1952 by a graduate student Stanley Miller.
The now famous Miller-Urey experiment was an impressive attempt to show that it was possible to synthesis life’s building blocks by simulating conditions of the early Earth. With nothing more than hydrogen, water, methane and ammonia, Miller was able prepare a concoction of amino acids – the building blocks of everything alive on Earth. Continue reading
gonna need some oil on that
Every professional has a workhorse: something that makes life easier and better and they couldn’t live without. For Jamie Oliver-it’s a flagon of olive oil. For Jesus: sandals. For england’s cricket team: it’s the feeling you get when you lose. For the experimental petrologist among us, that thing is the laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer, or for short, the catchy acronym LAICPMS.
When people want to see what I do for a job, I normally show them the laser. Then I realize that its either off-its then just an inanimate object; or it’s on-and obnoxiously noisy and awful. However, the details are cool. Let me take you on a journey through light and space… Continue reading
Today I spent my day being an I.T. person.
As soon as I arrived at work this morning I was asked to help one of our lab techs with a computer issue she had been having. I then helped another student install some complicated software (although not entirely successfully), then fixed up some software issues of my own.
I’ve always been my family’s go-to person for tech issues because I systematically find the problem and fix it, even though I don’t really know what I’m doing. Somehow, being a scientist makes me a good tech person (or at least a reasonable substitute).
The final hurdle today came when I went to download some data, but wasn’t able to get the website to work. It had worked in the past – I’ve downloaded many datasets from it before – but since Christmas, something hasn’t been working properly. I contacted the site administrators and they assured me everything was working from their end.
It was then that I slipped into subconscious science mode to fix the problem. Continue reading
Akademik Shokalskiy stuck after weather conditions changed and sea ice closed down behind the vessel.
I just stumbled over a detailed media report about the Russian Akademik Shokalskiy that recently had to be rescued out of Antarctica’s sea ice, and have been reminded about our excursion to the continent.
Although I do agree that a lot went wrong on their expedition, and human failures played an important role, it has also be admitted that you simply can’t change the A-factor and you need to adapt to it as much as possible.
The A-factor simply stands for the Antarctic-factor and is a common saying under Antarctic expeditioners as the climate is so unpredictable and weather conditions can change quickly. Continue reading
For ever 5,000 words you receive a squishy Lego block: stress release or for the more angry, a harmless projectile.
Sometimes it feels impossible to wade through all the email that floods in to your inbox everyday; the journal alerts, department emails, university emails, human resources updates etc., etc. I’m sure a lot of you, like myself, hit delete before reading half of them. Well a couple of months ago, as I hunched over my desk, glaring at the empty screen wondering why I couldn’t will Chapter 4 of my thesis to write itself, an email appeared advertising a THESIS BOOTCAMP being put on by the wonderful folks at the Research Skills Training Unit. If I’m honest I was probably procrastinating and reading anything that meant I could put off writing.
However…participating in the Thesis Bootcamp was a pivotal moment in my PhD. Perhaps THE moment when I realised I was actually going to finish. I will always remember looking up at the end of that weekend to see that the light at the end of the tunnel had gone from a faint glow, to one burning so bright it singed my eyebrows. I have always admitted to writing very slowly. If I manage 500 decent words in a day then I am ecstatic, but in truth it’s usually less. During the bootcamp, between 5pm on Friday and 7pm on Sunday I typed over 10,000 words, going from 500 words a day to 500 words an hour. And that was the average of the 24 participants. Several people wrote over 20,000 words. So how did we do it?
By Kate H
Have you ever had data trapped in a graph with no means of accessing the sweet, juicy points yourself? The solution you need is WEBPLOTDIGITIZER:
This is a really rad web program in which you drag and drop the graph of illusive and/or aggravating properties into an interactive window, where you simply coordinate the axes and select the desired data points, or trend line to be generated into an x-y (or other coordinate system) csv file !
If you weren’t already convinced, then follow as I extract useful but obscured information from an informative graph. Barney Stinsons ‘Ewok Line’, pictured below, can be digitised and the entire data set accessed. Continue reading