Its always great when someone wants to talk to you about your research. Its even better when its also a chance to engage the general public. I had such a opportunity a few months ago when myself and my colleague Carol Lang were invited to speck on Elly Fiorentini’s drive time show! So there were were cup of tea in one hand, clutching micromorphology slides and blocks in the other. I had no idea what to expect as neither of us had ever been involved in anything like this before. After a lovely chat with the producer we were up for our half hour slot! I’m not sure who was more nervous me or Carol, but Elly soon put us both at ease and it was easy to forget about the microphones that were looming in front of us! As Elly was a pro it was easy to get into the rhythm of chatting to her about our respective PhD projects and having both the micromorphology block and the thin section close at hand were a great help in explaining what I was actually using to conduct my research! It was also very funny when she dropped one of the resin blocks! Not to worry they are very hard to break!
There is a little room in Stirling University that I have come to know as my second home. Every four weeks or so I make the journey from York to Stirling to use their very new and very exciting SEM-EDX (Scanning Electron Microscope – Energy Dispersive X-ray) on my micromorph slides. Micromorphology is a very visual science and most materials are identified using only their optical properties and morphology (hence the name), however some are optically very similar and some (I have to confess) are almost impossible to identify with any certainty. To remedy this the SEM-EDX is used. This machine basically fires x-rays at the sample, this excites the electrons in the atoms of the sample, the electrons are then fired out of the atom and the remaining electrons move to fill any energy gaps. The SEM-EDX measures the electron movement and from this can calculate which elements are present and can also quantify them! Very clever science. Its really exciting watching all of the elements come up on screen helping identify the different soil components!
Its also great to get out of the usual office and spend some intensive time on my PhD project and also an opportunity to meet other researchers and catch up on all of those little jobs that have been building up over the last three weeks! And you can also enjoy the pretty Stirling weather!
Rainbow over the SEM
Atmospheric Wallace Monument