40-week writing streak – week 40 as a PhD student

PhD Life

Ladies, Gentleman, Machines and Others, you are about to bear witness to an act of discipline as I have never been less motivated to write. It is Sunday, and all I want to do is relax and watch videos on YouTube, with the possibility of chocolate. However, all I have is a coffee and a 40-week writing streak that I am not going to break.

I spent two days this week photographing sliced lettuce in a glasshouse. I know what you’re thinking, and yes, it is the bleeding edge of science. I am in the glass house because that is where the lighting chamber happens to be; probably because they had run out of other places to dump it.

I am looking at how the colour of the lettuce changes over time, and for that, you need everything to be perfectly constant. If the lighting changes slightly, and I am not vigilant, I could interpret this as a change in colour of the lettuce and therefore find a type 1 error, which, for the non-statistical, is where you see a significant result where there isn’t one – a false positive.

To account for this potential drama, I have included reference standards for each image; form this standard I can adjust the image and normalise if there is a problem. For the first 30 samples, I collected there is a problem. There is a hole in the top of the lighting chamber, and I didn’t realise it for quite some time. The effect of this hole, is the images taken when it was not covered are five percent lighter.

This could have a significant impact on the results so I will have to adjust the lighting levels in post for these images. In fact, I will normalise all the images, but these will need the most adjusting, lucky for me I have learnt to program and the one-thousand-plus images I have taken will all be adjusted and analysed automatically, what a time to be alive!

I spent another two gloriously dull days milling dried rocket samples (the plant, a.k.a Arugula in the USA) so that they can be analysed. The essence of this procedure is putting the plant into the top of the grinder, which is kind of like a desktop wood chipper and collecting the resulting homogenised plant matter.

Repeat the grinding procedure for well over 200 samples, and you have yourself one mindless, monotonous task to be completed by any anonymous flesh. I still have a couple of hours worth to do with these samples, and then there are the samples of lettuce that I have just collected which will need to go through the same process: beautiful!

I’ll be honest with you dear reader; I cannot remember what I did with the other day this week. If I were not so lethargic, I might be more distressed by this issue. Anyway, it is time for me to get on with some work (boooo), so I shall leave it here this week, I hope you all have a pleasant week!

Published by Louis

Spend less than you earn, Invest the surplus, avoid debt. Eat food, not too much, mostly plants

4 thoughts on “40-week writing streak – week 40 as a PhD student

  1. This is just wonderful. I love seeing other disciplines taking on writing. it should be an everyman sport! My cardiologist, BTW, is a graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop. Yes, he chose medicine over prose, but he still writes often. It’s part of who he is! It is part of you, too. Thanks for checking out my blog, too, BTW. http://www.thewritershed.com


  2. I have never read something that made the observation of browning lettuce sound so interesting. Your sarcastic yet technical way of description reminds me of Andy Weir’s character, Mark Watney, in his book The Martian. Have you had a chance to read it?


  3. I am way behind in my writing, but enjoyed this very much. I remember in collage many years ago when I had to do a plant population study, looking for variants, etc. It was more interesting perhaps, but it seemed to take forever and a day. Thank you kindly.


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