An upside-down arch

I have the feeling that a lot of research projects follow this familiar pattern, where the investigator starts with a burning question and lofty ambitions; solving a problem that’s never been examined before, potentially reaching a breakthrough that other scholars will cite for years and maybe even change the trajectory of your area of study. But then as you actually start working, you run in to all of these obstacles; how to do this, how to do that, whether you can collect enough data, whether all of your methods are correct, whether your background information and assumptions are correct. Every step you take forwards, it seems like you get further away from an answer because of all of these unforseen problems and difficult questions you come across. You start out high, then your spirits start flagging once you realize how hard what you’re doing is, until something finally clicks and you maybe end up with some sort of meaningful result. It’s like descending into a valley and trying to come up the other side; it’s like looking at an upside-down arch.

[Read more…]

Third of Week of Being an Ion Thermochemist

The first week of lab, we did our annual cleaning as well as inventory. The following week, we were taught the different uses for mass spectrometers and their purposes. Emphasis was put on learning the theory behind the applications we undertake. Specifically, in relation to estimating chemical properties of a given compound. This week in lab,  I spent time learning how to find certain reference compounds that could be  a match for a specific analyte. Once I had established a list of possible references, I made dimers of each reference with the analyte in question. Afterwards, we ran the dimer solution through the ion trap mass spectrometer in order to analyze ability of each reference to dimerize with the analyte. I’m hoping to collect a list of viable references for each analyte in question in order to experimentally estimate the analyte’s chemical properties.

DBH to Height

I’ve spent the last week making regressions for different data in R. Actually using R and manipulating data is quite easy. The hard part is trying to get good data. There are multiple years of data entered by multiple people at different times and in different ways. The result is a bit of a nightmare when it comes to using the data (and I have, in fact, had nightmares about it). There are some trees that have a diameter at breast height( DBH) but are only a foot high, there are some trees that have the same ID number as a different tree, and there are some trees that have simply gone missing. A big part of this summer will be finding if the funky data are from something being lost in conversion from PDF to Excel, or if there were errors recording data in the field.

[Read more…]

Greetings from Dar Es Salaam!

Hello again!

I has been a while since my last post, but things are finally starting to get interesting on the Kidogo Kidogo cell phone project. I arrived in Dar Sunday night, and after spending Monday acquiring a phone and internet, getting my bearings, etc., I met with our connection at REPOA, the data collection organization that will be implementing our surveys, yesterday and was surprised and encouraged to find out that our baseline survey had already been translated to Swahili and was ready to be uploaded to our tablets for use in the field.

[Read more…]