A Day at the Lab
What might an undergraduate intern do on a day-to-day basis? Well, it certainly differs by field, and differs still by individual lab and project–so here’s a look at what I do as a mechanical engineer working in Sumita Pennathur’s lab separating particles using microfluidics.
Some activities that I find myself doing often are:
- making solutions
- use syringe pumps
- taking long exposure images
- analyzing images with Matlab
Making a Solution (How to Use an Eppendorf Pipette)
- Set the pipette to the correct volume, attach pipette tip.
- Depress the top button to about halfway, insert pipette into substance.
- Release the button and take it out of substance.
- Insert pipette into desired location and depress the button all the way down.
- Discard the pipette tip in a waste bin and shake up your solution.
How to Use Syringe Pumps
- Insert infuse syringe and refill syringe
- Set diameter of syringe (26.7 mm)
- Set infuse rate (mL/hr)
- Set refill rate (mL/hr)
- Press run
Taking Long Exposure Images (How to Use Andor Solis)
- Using bright field, position your subject in the desired location relative to the camera
- Make sure that the camera is focused
- In the “Setup Acquisition” menu “Setup Camera” tab, change exposure time and number of accumulations (Example: In the “Setup Acquisition” menu “Auto-Save” tab set your file stem and save location
- Click “Video” to see your subject in real time
- Click “Take Signal” to capture the image
Analyzing Images with Matlab
- Have your images organized and labeled well
- Create code to run through each image (for loops)
- Create code to extract the data you want (in my case, equilibrium distances)
- Plot your data
- Understand that you will experience errors
This has been a journey through a day in my lab. Note that labs differ greatly. Although you probably won’t use syringe pumps or Andor Solis, it’s likely that at some point in your lab career you will make solutions and do some form of programming to analyze your data. Regardless, you will learn a lot of new skills in lab that you might not learn in class.