Friday, September 11, 2009

The Daily Grind

Lab experiments are fickle creatures. They are similar to cooking recipes in the fact that you have ingredients and instructions. But the similarities stop there. In cooking, if you make a small error, things usually turn out okay. Add a bit more salt, mix in a bit of mince meat and a questionable Neapolitana becomes your average Bolognaise. Lab experiments are not so forgiving. They're demonically vengeful and benignly indifferent to the desires of the humble and ill-prepared scientist. If something small goes wrong, expect the scientific equivalent of Akuma's Instant Hell Murder.

These days I'm trying to perform extractions from rice leaves. This involves grinding each individual leaf with a sterile mortar and pestle. The process takes around 8 hours per day and must be repeated, with the results plotted on a graph. I wouldn't normally mind such hard work if the fruits of labour were justly rewarded. But scientific inquiry has other plans for me, it seems.
My graph looks more like a car crash than a nice bell-curve and it only seems to be getting worse. There are a lot of variables involved, and I have a good idea of why things are going wrong. But the problem is that I won't be able to repeat the experiment until summer next year when the rice flowers bloom again. So if you happen to be in the fields of Suwon next summer, expect to see my ecstatic face, repeating all of the work I've been doing for the past 3 months. This is the reality of academic science these days. Long gone are the times when one added a viscous green liquid to a frothy blue one, and behold! Out popped a white rabbit.

Mmm, maybe I'm getting confused with a magic show.

But there is a bar near my dorm. And in this bar, beer flows freely, snacks are sold cheaply and grad students discuss their woes. Oft times I will trek this way with my trusty sidekick and fellow unlucky scientist, Chen Jing, and we attempt to drown our sorrows in fatty pork ribs and cold $4 per litre draft.

Beer is not the solution, but it helps you to admire the problem.


Anonymous said...

U crack me up!! Too funny! Thank U!!!

Anonymous said...

I was the exact same feeling when I was in the lab.You are so capable person that you will find the way to achive your goal with full of hapiness and rewarding. Cheers!

-Alice in Wonderland-