What Have We Learned?

I have had an amazing time this summer working in my research lab and gaining experience both in the technical aspects of conducting research and data analysis as well as the way a research lab is run and how projects are pursued. At the end of the research period the time came to ask the age old question, what did we learn? What sort of conclusions can be drawn from the data we gathered? As a refresher, my research was focused on making a comparison of two solvent cleaning techniques on samples of 10 year old oil paint films. One method uses straight solvent applied to the paint via a cotton swab while the other method uses a gelled form of the solvent applied to the paint via a cotton tissue. The hypothesis was that the gel-solvent method would be less invasive and more efficient than the straight solvent method.  Based on the the trends we saw once the data had been analyzed, I am pleased that the results seem to be congruent with what we expected to see, though more thorough research with more solvents and perhaps more accurate samples is needed to state definitively whether the gelled-solvent method is less invasive but as effective as the straight solvent method.

When testing samples with 1-methoxy-2-propanol solvent, it was seen that samples which were treated with the straight solvent showed signal from the solvent at a greater depth in the paint film than was observed from samples treated with the gelled-solvent technique. There was also less overall signal produced by the samples treated with the gelled-solvent which could suggest that less of the solvent was left behind after treatment. Measurements were also made on samples using isopropanol as the solvent. While the same trends in the data were observed between the samples treated with straight isopropanol and those treated with the gelled form, the signal from the gelled isopropanol was very low and therefore less conclusive than with the methoxypropanol. The less invasive nature of the gelled-solvent technique would be a great benefit to the conservation community where minimizing the effects of solvents on the surface being treated is a major concern in many cases.

In addition to learning more about the two solvent treatments and their effects on paint films, conducting this experiment confirmed the validity of applying the type of single-sided NMR techniques that we use to measure the data that we needed to make estimates about the physical state of the paint films. The methods used for data analysis were refined over the course of the summer which will be a benefit to the lab as the same measurement techniques are used for other projects in the future.

I was able to learn so much this summer, not only about my particular project, but about the process of research in general. I had a fabulous experience in my lab working along side my lab mates and I am so grateful to the Charles Center and other contributing parties for making this summer a possibility for me. I look forward to continuing to pursue this project during the regular school year and using the information I gained this summer to refine the research methods and measurement techniques we use.


  1. Sntrackenberg says:

    I think the research you did this summer on the solvents seems really interesting, especially comparing a gel based solvent and a straight solvent. Are you going to expand upon what you learned this summer in the future, or are you planning on moving on to new projects? If you are expanding upon this project, what will you be looking at and are there even more solvent types that can be explored? Finally, are there any other benefits or complications with the gel solvent as opposed to the straight solvent?

  2. Denise Lee says:

    It seems like you obtained a lot of information over the summer. Are you planning on using other solvent samples?