Posted by: thediygeochemist | September 8, 2010

the blind leading the blind

Last summer, when I was struggling through field work, I mentioned to Dr. Hand-Waver that sometimes it would be nice to have an extra hand.

“Well,” she said, “I do have all this money. Maybe I can hire one of the new grad students to help out part-time.” We’d both been impressed by one of the prospective students who’d come to visit, so she offered him a partial RA. Rather than having him hanging over my shoulder most of the time, she decided to split my project in two–the main part, and the GC-MS method. She gave the latter to the new guy. [Note–I still haven’t thought of a good name for this dude yet. For now, he’ll just be NewGuy.]

Note that I never managed to master the GC-MS method, despite spending many frustrating days on it. Part of this was due to the @#*%(& machine, which some of my fellow grad students swear is possessed. Bits and pieces of it kept dying and needing replacement (lenses, detector, you name it). I have no doubt that my lack of results was partially my fault, but the fact that the machine kept dying in the middle of things certainly didn’t help.

Despite the fact that I’m hardly an expert at this methodology–first pioneered by my predecessor, A–I’m expected to teach NewGuy how to do it. Note that what we do is radically different from injecting an organic compound into the instrument for identification, which is what everyone else in the department uses the GC-MS for.

I feel like a blinkin’ idiot. I know the theory of the technique backwards and forwards, but the practicum escapes me. Dr. HW has done it before, but she’s currently on sabbatical on the East Coast, and therefore isn’t much help.



  1. if you don’t mind me asking: what kind of GC/MS are you using, and what sort of compounds are you trying to detect?

  2. […] I started training the new guy (who really needs a better […]

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