Three weeks ‘til the end of term but the excitement just continues at Imperial! My room has reached peak mess now, to the point where a jam-packed surprise awaits me inside every drawer. On the up side there have been some days of actual proper, real sunshine, so I’ve had time to brush off my tennis finesse (by which I mean trying not to catch the ball when it is hit to me because I think it’s gone out…. ahhh).

I realise I’ve not actually explained what thrilling lab cycle I am currently in the middle of (not that much sarcasm by the way, it actually is pretty exciting). Before this week, my partner and I were analysing data from the U.S.A’s first ever space station—Skylab. We were given graphs of emission spectra from different parts of the sun and a data booklet, and told to work out the temperature and composition of the sun. This involved much pencil-and-ruler style precision line drawing and deep thoughts about the photons and things bouncing around and how on-(or rather off, aha) Earth you are supposed to see the surface of the sun anyway, through all that atmosphere. Our results seemed realistic, in that they revealed the bizarre fact that the sun heats up as you get further away from its surface, as I’ve mentioned in a previous blog.

Now that’s um, lovely and all, you are probably thinking, but not exactly the thrilling edge-of-our-seat ride that you hinted at. Well, steady yourselves as my sister would say, because you have yet to hear about what I am doing this week. To continue the spectroscopy theme, we are now doing REAL SPECTROSCOPY. With real UV light things that spark and smoke and that you have to file down the electrodes for and dab Lithium on them and wear purple disposable gloves and go in a real dark room and splish about with film developer and fixer and things.  So far my only film looks like this:

compressed hello photos
Real spectroscopy! You can hold it in your hand!

This isn’t great because there are meant to be three visible spectra displayed, and so far there is only one, which we are fairly sure is carbon. The point of the experiment is to be able to measure the emission spectra of Lithium, but since the aforementioned UV-lamp-exciting-spark-thing runs on carbon, you also take the spectra of pure carbon so you can eliminate those emission lines. Mercury is then superposed on top of the Lithium line for calibration, making three spectral lines in all.

I’m not too sure yet what happened to the other two— I think we may have moved the film too much when they were being exposed so that they missed it… Hopefully we’ll have better luck/ability to estimate position of photographic films tomorrow!

The lab report only has to be written on one of the parts of the experiment this time, so there is slight pressure off (as long as I keep my lab book up to date, of course.) It is all soberly written in blue ink this time too, as apparently pink is too frivolous for what is meant to be a legal document. Sigh.

In other news, I have applied to an internship at last! Last term the thought of writing CVs and covering letters and researching was hugely terrifying, but really it’s not so bad once you get down to it. Imperial offers research internships too in different research groups, if you know what area you are interested in, and apply early enough.

a spoonful
A spoonful of sugar helps the internships go down… I was researching as a team with Alex by the way, not that one needs to excuse writing cheerful post-its to one’s self.

I already had to write a practice CV for a professional skills course this year, and I made an appointment with Imperial careers service to help me polish it up a bit, so now we’ll just have to wait and see! If this doesn’t pan out, I have several volunteering things lined up. Everyone needs free science writing, right? I won’t wish the summer on too fast though… not with all the exams lurking in between then and now…Hmm. Maybe I should go and stare at some solid state.

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