So today was interesting. I got my first look at our new data, but for some reason we have 6 peaks, and should only have 5. So now the rest of the day is spent trying to figure out where this mysterious 6th peak came from.
The good news is I'm learning all kinds of tricks and tips and things about the NMR. The bad news is I'm learning them by screwing up and have Dr. Schreiner and Dr. Marchetti go "Oh, if you did this it would be a lot faster" or "Did you check to see if...?". Hopefully by the end of the day I will have a set of data that I can look at and say okay this peak is water and this peak is ethanol and this peak is blah blah blah so that the next time I get a funky set of results I can use this set as a reference and say for certain I know this, this and this.
I go to lunch and suddenly everyone needs to talk to me.
I'm off for July 4th weekend after today, but it's looking like I might have to stay late as I been kicked off the NMR
So the tube we needed arrived yesterday. Great! I can finally run some samples and get usable data. Or not. The tube was too short. That's okay. We did some creative fixing and cut the cap so it fits now. Awesome! I'm all set to run experiments overnight. And I tried. I really did. Until the electric went out right at the end of the first experiment. Which resets the computer and the NMR. So I come in this morning to no data and another day of making more samples to add to the backlog.
Oh and the electric going out also cut off the air conditioning. Which may or may not be fixed now. But it could always be worse. I could be the one at home with three sick kids like my advisor.
The tube we need for the NMR hasn't arrived yet, so I still can't run any samples. The samples are building up; I have 8 samples ready and waiting. We're really hoping that without the interaction, each experiment will take much less time.
Now for something that has nothing to do with research, I have decided that to just go ahead and take the GRE (like the SATs, but for graduate school) in two weeks. My life until then will be nothing but flashcards and study books. Why do I do this to myself?
I walk in this morning and there are just bells ringing everywhere. Repeatedly. For 15 minutes. Is it an alarm? Should I do something? What does it all mean?
I'm so confused.
We discovered that the chemical (TMU) we put into each sample to act as a standard when we run our experiments on the NMR is reacting with our samples. So all the data I've collected so far will have to be redone. Luckily I have enough of almost all of the samples that I haven't added TMU to so that I don't have to redo the entire process, just the 14 hour overnight experiment.
The good news is because I didn't have to stay and wait for everyone else to be done on the NMR for the day, I was able to leave an hour early, which is really awesome because I have tomorrow off and am going home for the weekend.
And the part we need to redo the experiments should be in by Monday, so I can start doing the reruns when I get back.
Today was a relaxed day. I spent the morning redoing an ethanol curve so I know just how badly the beef project is going. I have no data from last night because I forgot a step in the setup, but on the other hand the NMR is still working so it's not a total loss.
We had an awesome talk from a previous RMC Chemistry SURF student who is now an assistant professor at Meredith College. It made me realize I really have to work harder on my post-college plans.
Which brings me to the best part of my day. I checked my mailbox after lunch to discover my mom had written me a letter. It made me really happy. I opened the envelope and unfolded the letter to find a completely blank piece of paper and my new insurance card. No "I love you. Hope you're having a great summer." or even "Here's your new insurance card" Completely blank.
I have real, live, usable data. On both projects. And I've pretty much gotten my method down to where I don't have to spends 7 hours distilling each sample.
There was a bit of excitement this morning when the NMR gave us a little scare by deciding it really didn't want to do anything. It got it's second wind after lunch, however, and it back to working as it usually does.
I made a trip to the library after lunch for a single book and somehow managed to return with 7. I'm still not quite sure how that happened.
I was so close, less than an hour away from running my first NMR of the summer, but it just wasn't meant to be. This time, nearby construction ruptured the main gas line and the entire building was evacuated. Even though we knew it was coming, looking up to see a firefighter in full gear was a little intimidating. I was only able to grab my keys and phone before he made me leave and followed me all the way down the hallway to the far stairs. Of course my apartment was evacuated as well, so my roommates and I spent the next 4 hours wandering around Ashland. Luckily I was able to grab my wallet before they cleared the building. At least it wasn't ridiculously hot out, since we pretty much spent the rest of the day outside. We took a walk (the long way) around campus to Ashland Coffe and Tea, which just so happens to be closed on Mondays, so we continued right on to 7-11. Oh thank heaven for 7-11.
The campus at this time received the all clear to re-enter all buildings except for the apartments. Yet for some reason, all the buildings on campus were still locked. After wasting another hour, we decided we were hungry so we walked to Pepicelli's and got dinner. It's a lot farther to walk than you think it is.
Here's a good picture of Michelle and Mary Megan and a not so good picture of Rachel ignore us. Michelle's directing the SURF play "The Complete History of the Americas (Abridged)" while Bethany is working in Dr. Schreiner's lab doing some type of inorganic chemistry and Rachel, an official RMC alumna, is finishing up an ice chemistry project with Dr. Michelsen before going on to grad school.
Nothing much happened today. Started another beef fermentation (without blending). I have never been so happy to not have to use a blender. Used a refractometer to determine how much sugar is present in our high fructose corn syrup solution - which is 66% HFCS. Knowing the concentration of the solution allows us to add it to our honey in our own little "adulteration".
The refractometer is really cool. You put a drop of your sample on one end and it measures the sugar content by how much the light bends as it passes through the sample. To see this at home, put a straw in a glass of water and then in a glass of sugar water and you'll see the straw "bends" much more in the sugar water.
Today I learned that the GC (gas chromotograph) has a reason for shutting down when it does, which in this case was to avoid an explosion. After fixing the problem, I spent the rest of the morning running samples to create a calibration curve which I will use later in the summer to compare my samples to and tell just how much alcohol I have managed to create. The goal here is greater than 90% ethanol in a sample.
So some friends and I went to see Thor last night. About 30 minutes in, the sound cuts out. We decided sound really wasn't important, so we watched the rest of the movie with sound effects provided by some little boys and snarky comments by everyone in the theater. You know, I think it was actually better without sound. And shirts. Even though there was only one shirtless scene. Oh, well. They have to save something for The Avengers.
Today continued the adventures of the two woman moving crew as Dr. Marchetti and I not only rearranged pretty much everything moveable in the lab, but fixed the old fridge that has been hobbling along on three legs for at least the past two years. I also managed to distill my last remaining beef sample from the school year.
On the honey project I attempted to distill high fructose corn syrup (which went much better after I plugged it in 2 hours after I turned it on), while also baking it in the oven. Let me just say caramelized sugar smells much better than burnt fermented meat.
I also discovered that you must be 21 to purchase brewer's yeast in Virginia.
Hi! My name is Katie Daisey and I'm SURFing this summer at Randolph-Macon College in landlocked Ashland, VA. This is my second year participating in the Schaperio Undergraduate Research Foundation program (or SURF) and I'm excited to get another chance to spend the summer doing great research and hanging out with some of my friends rather than fight the beach traffic and work a mindless summer waitress job at home.
I've been working on my project all year so let me get you caught up.
Previous research here in the Marchetti lab has used SNIF-NMR to tell the difference between various alcohols, like the geographic origin of wines or hard liquors. This technique can be used on anything that can be fermented into an alcohol.
This past school year, I've been attempting to ferment beef with the hope of being able to distinguish between grass-fed beef and conventionally-raised beef, which I'll being continuing this summer. I'll also be finishing up the honey project which distinguishes between different types of single source honey, clover honey, and high fructose corn syrup. We're also hoping to get started on a new project using the same SNIF-NMR technique to look at different types of fruit juices and whether you can identify what fruits were used to make a juice and how much (and what type) of sweetener has been added.