Archive for June 29th, 2019

Summer research from an undergraduate perspective

June 29th, 2019

Wooster, OH – While Dr. Pollock was away at a business meeting for the Council on Undergraduate Research, Team Geochemistry was hard at work in the Wooster X-ray lab. Here’s what they thought about last week:

This week, team geochemistry was left without Dr. Pollock for a few days, but that didn’t stop them from getting lots done! Layali and Kendra have been hard at work processing the results from last week’s full XRF run. They compared the results of standards and the accuracy of a few different programs to make sure the instrument is calibrated correctly. They are hoping to understand why their previous run gave some surprising results. 

Layali looking through some trace element data.

Hannah has been continuing to prepare her samples, working hard to polish volcanic glass that she will send off to Oberlin College for analysis using a scanning electron microscope (SEM-EDS). She has also been taking pictures of and looking at thin sections of her samples, hoping to understand more about their composition.

Hannah viewing the photos she took of her thin sections.

This week marks the halfway point of the team’s project. Having spent the majority of that time living on campus, the team has some insights on what it’s like to be here during the summer and what it’s like working on their project:

We all agree that it is much different than being on campus during the academic year – there are far fewer students around and much less to do on campus. It can get a little boring being here because it’s easy to fall in to a routine – go to work, eat, watch TV, sleep, and then wake up to do it again. We have found it necessary to find activities to break up this cycle, including hikes at a nearby park, excursions for bubble tea and Sheetz, board games, and movie nights. We have become great friends over these few weeks and have found that doing things together outside of work makes living on campus much more fun. It is best to have a car on campus (or to befriend someone who has a car) so that you can get out and find things to do. However, it is also quite easy to walk downtown to go to some shops or restaurants, so even without a car, there is a lot to do.

Simply working on this project is also something that is very different for all of us. We aren’t used to working 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. Being stuck in the lab can be really tiring, so we have found that taking breaks to play games or to take a walk around campus really help us stay awake and productive. We are learning lots of new skills, meaning it’s very important to stay focused and attentive so that we can get the most out of this wonderful experience. We can’t believe that we are halfway through our time here this summer!