Reflecting back upon these last few months, I have definitely acquired a much larger sense of what my future may consist of depending on which path I decide to take—research, pharmaceuticals, education, government organization work. Each has its struggle, each has its confrontations, and each has a different output with the same goal in mind – changing the world for the better. While it may be cliché, it proposes a kind of determination that can be applied to different fields that makes it worthwhile to pursue.
To give you a little exposition of how I have come to this analysis, let me recall the research I have been digging into over the past couple of weeks. Towards the beginning of July, I set out to prepare shale and serpentine solutions and analyze their decomposition when placed in acid digestion chemicals: sodium citrate, sodium acetate, and DI water (all at pH 3). While it was clear to the naked eye that sodium citrate was the strongest at digesting shale and serpentine, the samples underwent the ICP process where the elements in the solution were categorized in order of dominant elements. While the results are still underway, I learned the difficulties of running machinery. The ICP was a very fragile machine, as many are, that required a specific temperature to run, certain amount of airflow running through the vents, enough two percent nitric acid to rinse the solutions, and the proper set up.
Another project I began was a brand new experiment of capturing carbon dioxide from lime kiln dust (LKD) and cement kiln dust (CKD). While it has a strong tie to the rest of the projects ongoing in Professor Park’s group, this research was specified towards understanding the material composition. Michele (an Italian student researching for his Masters) and I began to analyze the CKD and LKD in the TGA, BET, Carbon Analyzer, and Pore Size Analyzer. The Carbon Analyzer was used to determine the inorganic carbon material in the solution.
Rereading my past reports, I know that transformations have occurred in my thinking, learning, and absorbing process. I have definitely learned to motivate myself to do research, step foot into the curious experimental procedures, and determine what procedures are appropriate for our current project. I have also learned that a lot of the lab work may be team work, but not as much as I had thought…While one person was running the TGA, the other was setting up the samples for experiment. It was a quicker method to complete all the tasks necessary to proceed.
I have learned to ask the right questions to better understand the current research topics of interest, but I have ways to go. That is the beauty of the science field—always more to learn! Now I can confidently say, that each project was tied to carbon capture and storage through creation of mineral carbonation through calcium carbonates or magnesium carbonates. My PI wanted to look more into the strength and volatility of the magnesium carbonate, which has not been done yet! She also allowed me to look into these characteristics, reaction conditions, and behaviors of CKD and LKD for the same purpose. The more understanding facts that are discovered in these materials, the deeper in we can investigate the proper methods to limit CO2 emissions and decrease the ozone layer.
In coordination to transformation about the STEM fields and education, I have learned that it is up to the individual to absorb/reflect as much as they desire. Some interns working in the lab would come 3 times a week, and did not feel enlightened as much as I did. This is because STEM is a learning process over extensive periods of time. It is the day after day, week after week, that one starts noting changes in the chemical reactions, running samples after samples, fixing what is broken, and gaining a new sense for the lab and its environment. Being absent for one day may have left one out of initiating an experiment, or even bouncing back ideas from other scientists entering the lab randomly.
While my time in Mudd 390 was pretty limited to the summer, I am hoping on extending my stay in the lab for Fall 2014. While it may be a hard transition with courses and extracurricular activities, I am looking forward to beginning my own personal experiment and undergoing literary research and the physical chemical reactions with some guidance. To publish a paper under my name by junior year would be the most ideal case!