Glasshouse challenge – week 39 as a PhD student.

Note: this was written three months ago, as were all my posts.

As I sit here writing this, it is one of the hottest summers I can remember, and England are about to play Sweden in the world cup; there is a lot of potential for this to be one of those talked about summers for years to come.

I have managed to complete two days of what I am going to call the glasshouse challenge. What is this challenge? Well, for my project I am monitoring how the colour of plants change over time. To monitor the plants I need to take pictures of them, which means I need a lightbox. The lightbox resides in the glasshouses at the university – I haven’t had any time to move it.

I have spent about six hours on each of the two days that I was photographing the plants in 38°C heat. For an Englishman, this is the approximate temperature of hell. Because I was using my phone as a remote trigger for the camera – the lightbox has to be hermetically sealed, so no outside light interferes with the image – I needed a complicated charging/cooling system.

Towards the end of the shoot, my phone would run out of battery, so I needed to charge it. The problem with this is that it overheated! To remedy this, I wrapped some Ice in some tissue paper and laid my phone on top of that; it was a highly sophisticated solution, perhaps It will get published in Nature?

One positive from my time in hell is that I am now able to withstand this relatively mild 30°C heat with ease, whilst my girlfriend won’t even let me near her as I am ‘too hot’. She has been severely crippled by the heat and spends most of her time sleeping on the sofa.

I have spent a lot of time trying to find out what chemicals I need for my experiments and how much they are going to cost me. Provisioning for myself is something I did not expect to have to do at the start of my PhD, partially because of the undergraduate experience, my expectation was that I would turn up to some room and say I need x and they would hand it over.

It turns out; this is not the case, you have to buy absolutely everything yourself as if you are a member of the general public buying research chemicals for personal use. Maybe this is different at different universities, but here it is every man/women (mostly women) for themselves.

For the first time in roughly 15 years, I am excited to watch a game of football. I have not seen this level of shared excitement throughout the nation before, not even during the 2012 Olympics in London.

It really goes to show how popular football is here in the UK and Europe. I realise that most of the readers of this blog are American, and when I say football, In American that would be soccer. American sport is fascinating in many ways. Americans have many unique sports that are almost exclusive to America, American football, basketball, baseball etc. Of course, they are not exclusive to America, but they might as well be as I don’t know any other nation that takes those sports seriously.

Imagine if America competed in sports that the rest of the world did! Due to the size of the population, I imagine they would win most competitions, making the country even more popular. I may write about this subject at some point as it is fascinating.