Life as an Experimenter - Day Two

Today I’m continuing my series on the life of an experimenter. Today is the longest day, since we have beam time for all 24 hours. And after the setbacks of yesterday, we feel compelled to use it to the utmost bit. Read on for more tantalizing glimpses of the grit behind the glamor of the rock-star-like lifestyle of an experimental physicist. Today had a very different feel. Things were working, and that meant a lot of down time waiting for data to collect. Despite the excitement of data coming in, I was a little bored at points. Lots of internet use. Thursday 6/17 7:15am - Alarm goes off. 6.5 hours of sleep? Up quickly, and eat and shower. Run into a couple of my housemates that I normally don’t. I don’t feel to tired. Which is good, because I don’t usually do caffeine, if I had to now, it might well mess me up. 7:50 - Out of the house. Taking my car, since my bike isn’t working. 8:05 - At the F1 station. Matt is there, awake, looking not too much worse for ware. Ryan comes in right behind me. I have to get a parking permit, which CHESS kindly provides for visiting researchers. Since my car isn’t registered on campus, I qualify as a visiting researcher. 8:10 - Matt briefs us on the progress of the night. Some good data was taken, and we’ve switched from the helium to a liquid nitrogen (LN) cooling. He lays out the set of experiments we should try to run today. Obvious that he needs sleep. 8:45- Matt goes home. Ryan and myself are on our own. Start a data run. 9-10 - All the staff are checking in on us. After the problems of yesterday, they want to make sure everything is running smoothly. Which it is. 10:30 - Data running smoothly. When everything goes well, for this particularly type of data set, there’s not much to be done while it’s coming in. Put on the Greece vs. Nigeria world cup game, streaming on my laptop. 11:30 - Data run finished. Load up a new crystal smooth as can be. Start another data set. Everything working like a charm. 12:30pm - Lunch break. Much more relaxed today. 2:00 - Data run done. Switching to a different type of data run 2:15 - New run starts. Smooth sailing so far. 2:30 - Put on Mexico vs. France world cup game. 3:30 - Attempting to start a new run. Took us three or four tries to find a new crystal that was good. Run good to go. 4:15 - We’re trying to run at 80K, but we’re having problems with temperature stability. We talk to Ulrich, and he thinks that we’ve got a partial ice plug in the LN line, reducing the LN we can draw through. We can either waste two hours having it replaced, or run with it as it is. No guarantee that it won’t get worse. We decide to run with it, we’ve lost too much beam time already. Our lowest temperature seems to be \~90K. 5:15 - Data run finishes. New crystal mounted. New data run started. 6:30- Data run finishes. Two attempts before we get a good crystal. Data flowing smoothly. 7:10 - Matt returns. There is much rejoicing. 8:00- Trying room temperature data taking. Matt wants us to learn all the tricks this run, it seems. Having trouble getting good crystals. 10:00- Room temperature data giving us a few interesting results. Trying a full run, but we’re going to kill the crystal long before that. X rays will kill proteins (that’s why we avoid them, ourselves). Faster at room temperature than at 100K. 10:45 - Dinner from the stuff I packed this morning. I do love microwaved leftovers. No rush, though. All three of us are in the lab, and Ryan and Matt can handle whatever comes. 11:25 - Lots of trouble getting good crystals (4 or 5 attempts?). 220K is a hard temperature. Finally gave up and went to 240K. 11:55 - Ryan goes home. He’ll be back around 6 tomorrow. I’m sticking it out for a while. Interesting data coming in around 240K. If we’re skilled and lucky, we’ll get something around 220K also. Friday 6/18 12:20am - Potentially exciting results! 12:45 - Reproducible potentially exciting results! 1:15 - My brain can’t do simple calculations right now, but we’re changing temperatures and trying out another look for our result at 240K. I hope it’s there! 1:20 - Morale lower. Possibly the effect is from a perfectly reasonable explainable thing. What a great hour though! 1:45 - Data inconclusive but leaning towards no. Heading home. Leave Matt all by his lonesome. 1:55 - Home. Sleep time. Alarm set for 9.

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By Jesse