My Day Job

This is a discussion on My Day Job within the Off Topic & Humor Discussion forums, part of the The Back Porch category; What's a layperson's description of your day job? Like, what do you do? I have two backgrounds: chemistry and oceanography/climate. I run a stable isotope ...

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    Member Array ChrisATX's Avatar
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    My Day Job

    What's a layperson's description of your day job? Like, what do you do?
    I have two backgrounds: chemistry and oceanography/climate.

    I run a stable isotope lab. We use the stable isotope ratios of natural materials to build paleoclimate records. My job is to go in and investigate 1) how and 2) why different types of climate variability has occurred in the past and 3) evaluate its implications for the present and future.

    My laypersons description of my day job is broken down like this:

    The lion's share of my time is spent performing isotope measurements, diagnosing and repairing instruments, quality controlling data from the instruments. Making hay while the sun shines. These are incredibly sensitive and specialized instruments requiring a lot of training and experience to keep running. It is a full time job unto itself.

    The rest of my time is broken down between generating samples from natural materials (coral skeletons, fossils, etc. etc.), processing and prepping them to run, reading and keeping up with current literature, and interpreting/writing/publishing my own paleoclimate records.

    We also have to collect the sample material. Caving in the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, drilling uplifted fossil corals, etc. These are infrequent trips that are focused bursts of grueling work.
    Last edited by ChrisATX; October 1st, 2013 at 04:46 PM.
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    Senior Member Array CanuckQue's Avatar
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    So, after a drilled sample lands in your lab (say, coral fossil), about how long does it take to 'run' it through whatever analyses you do? From pre-processing to making the graph?
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    Member Array ChrisATX's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CanuckQue View Post
    So, after a drilled sample lands in your lab (say, coral fossil), about how long does it take to 'run' it through whatever analyses you do? From pre-processing to making the graph?
    A fossil coral that is, say, 100 years long (in other words, it grew for 100 years before dying) will typically be sampled at a rate of 1 sample every month (yes, we can go even more high resolution than that, but it's not particularly useful). So 1200 samples. That would take at least 2-3 weeks to microsample using a CNC micromill and dental drill bits (after the core is slabbed and X-rayed for growth bands, which show up much like tree rings do to the naked eye). If the instrument is operating at 100% (a virtual impossibility), I can analyze 40 samples in a day. So, a month of instrument time to do 100 years of these analyses. Factor in instrument downtime and maintenance, other people in the queue and dividing up the time on the instrument (multiple projects always are being worked on in parallel), and you're talking >6 months. And 100 years is a short record. It is a lot of careful, meticulous work that takes a lot of time.

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    Senior Member Array CanuckQue's Avatar
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    How much processing in between the microdrill and putting the sample into the instrument.
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    I think that this should be a PM between the two of you instead of a topic on the forum.
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    Member Array warbirds's Avatar
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    Very interesting work.

    Please try and remain "off topic" when posting in the off topic forum. If we aren't careful people could learn something.
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    Distinguished Member Array DontTreadOnI's Avatar
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    Looks like I found the weird part of DC again.

    Just kidding! But I am curious, why is this directed at CanuckQue?
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    I feel like I'm intruding. I'll leave you guys alone.
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    Senior Member Array CanuckQue's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pgrass101 View Post
    I think that this should be a PM between the two of you instead of a topic on the forum.
    Fair enough.
    Quote Originally Posted by DontTreadOnI View Post
    Just kidding! But I am curious, why is this directed at CanuckQue?
    I'd asked in another thread that got just before it got closed for being too political.
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    Member Array ChrisATX's Avatar
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    Hey sorry, yeah, I don't want this to be a political thread, but I figured there was some interest. From the other thread:

    <--- By the way, real life, actual climate scientist. PM me for proof. If you are interested in asking serious questions/clarification without political rhetoric or argumentum ad hominem, I could play along as time allows.
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    I don't think it is a political thread, it just seemed like the two of you carrying on your own conversation that's all.

    Now that other people have chimed in it doesn't seem so strange. But we could change the thread title to WHAT'S YOUR DAY JOB
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    Member Array ChrisATX's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CanuckQue View Post
    How much processing in between the microdrill and putting the sample into the instrument.
    Depends on the sample type, but for things like corals, continuing the above example, prep involves weighing extremely tiny aliquots, 10-100 millions of a gram, into glass tubes for automatic acid reaction and resulting CO2 purification.

    I'll take some pics of the "bat cave" with the crazy mad scientist instruments.

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    Member Array ChrisATX's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pgrass101 View Post
    I don't think it is a political thread, it just seemed like the two of you carrying on your own conversation that's all.

    Now that other people have chimed in it doesn't seem so strange. But we could change the thread title to WHAT'S YOUR DAY JOB
    And done sir.
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