Today was my first day back from the three-day weekend. I am very excited about this semester as you can see from my previous post. I am hoping to making the most out of it.
One of the activities that I will be participating this semester is the OU’s Honors College First Year Research Experience, or FYRE. It is a very interesting program that allows first year undergraduates or honors students participate in actual research projects for credit hours. This is a very nice way for students interested in research because people normally have to wait until their last two years as an undergraduate to have this opportunity. This semester, I will be actively involve in a research project called the Molecular Gastronomy of Coffee under the guidance of Dr. Ronald Halterman and Dr. Steven Foster. I selected this project because I wanted to explore the components of people’s daily coffee run and to be introduced into the topic of analytical chemistry. Although I am currently enrolled in Organic Chemistry II, I hope to apply some of the topics that I’ll be learning this semester into this research.
My first day in the lab was casual and relaxing. Prior to today, I had met my research group that compromised of four other students participating in FYRE, two students from last year’s coffee research group working as our mentors, and two professors overseeing the group. Even though all of us were amicable and I enjoyed being around them, it was overwhelming and intimidating how bright and talent this group was. Because of this, I was fairly insecure and anxious during my interview with Dr. Halterman. However, I really want to be involve in this project because I want a taste of that research experience. More importantly, I want to develop a relationship with professors and older students for guidance and positive influence, something that I didn’t do last semester.
In the lab, I was given a minor orientation of the Stephenson Life Sciences Research Center, especially where the stockroom was and where our research will mostly be. It is fairly big building and one that I do not venture often because it is couple blocks away from the main campus. It is a nice building to have conferences and chat with professors. The actual lab room is a somewhat messy, but that’s understandable given the amount of research happening.
A pet peeve that I really bothers me was having to wear the PPE (personal protective equipment), mostly the glasses. The gloves and the lab coat did not bother me at all, but the glasses did. Many agree that wearing protective eye gear is important, because the eyes are extremely sensitive to anything. However, it really is bothersome to wear glasses that are wider than your face while the bridge of the glasses bothers the nose constantly. I am not sure what is worse though because I have to wear goggles in my Organic Chemistry lab this semester, and those fogged up pretty badly. If I have to say my least favorite aspect of working in a lab, it would not be the lab write-ups, the analyzing data, or the constant repetition of the procedures; my least favorite aspect would be wearing uncomfortable protective eye gear that looks ridiculous. Luckily, there are many things that I need to be aware of when I am working in lab that I forget about how uncomfortable wearing glasses or goggles.
The actual work in the lab was very simple. It did not sound as complicated as it is portrayed in television or movies. Although the procedures were very simple, the whole process took about three hours because I was practically learning the entire process on the job while learning how to be comfortable in a lab setting. Looking back, I did not do much today because our first day was mostly orientation and being used to the procedures of making samples. Despite this, it was fairly tiresome and tedious because of how much I had to do and how long I was doing it. Imagine working in a kitchen for about three hours doing many simple steps that includes pouring, measuring, and observing. Now imagine being very specific with the pouring, measuring, and observing then taking notes about those activities. That gives you a nice detail about what it’s like to work in a lab.
That does not mean there’s nothing good about working a lab. Our group had random conversations about anything, and we practically gossip about the people that work on the same floor as where our research was taking place. I ended up being the first one to break one of the lab equipment, a mere glass pipette. It was somewhat embarrassing, but the mentors laughed and moved on with the lab. In the end, we did not managed to have a sample be analyzed in one of the fancy machines, but all of us did end up making one sample of a type of coffee. This upcoming Thursday, we will be actually using those procedures to make samples that can be analyzed. Since we’ll be familiar with the procedures, it’ll definitely won’t take as long to produce samples as it did today.
That’s all she wrote! I will definitely be making more blog posts regarding this research project and the experiences that I am having. I am looking forward to this project of the awesome people and awesome coffee. What more can you get?