Posted by: thediygeochemist | March 15, 2011

as the lab turns

Part of what I am supposed to be doing with my research is troubleshooting a new methodology (let’s call it Method B). This was originally developed by a researcher at another institution; however, she didn’t notice/realize/care that her measurements also included Factor X. I am trying to tweak it so that we can measure both the measurement she cared about as well as Factor X. I should add that in order to measure both of these I’ve had to add an extra step–let’s call these B1 and B2.

I’ve used Method B on its own and it seems to work all right. However, in order to verify Method B as an actual, usable method, I am trying to do a side-by-side comparison with the tried-and-true method, Method A. I only have one piece of analytical equipment, so this usually means running Method A first, then Method B, and comparing the results.

At least that’s how it works in theory.

In practice, several times my measurements of A have turned out just fine, but then B hasn’t worked. Or I do A and step B1 just fine, but then B2 doesn’t work. Yesterday I got smart (or so I thought) and decided to do B first; that way, I figured, if it didn’t work, I wouldn’t go through all the hassle of measuring A. Both B1 and B2 worked just fine, but then–you guessed it–A didn’t work at all. *sigh*

The worst part about all this is that running both methodologies in one day consumes a minimum of 8 hours–assuming the analytical equipment doesn’t break down (I usually put an hour or so into getting it to work right). Some days so many things go wrong that I can spend 12-13 hours in lab.

I’ve been tweaking Method B for…hmmm…8 or 9 months now. Last week I asked my advisor if the new methodology was really worth it. Method A is a bit of a pain, and Method B would be easier if we could get it to work, but…

It’s hard not to feel discouraged.


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