This summer, it seemed like my research was mostly about discovering what didn’t work. At times, this was pretty discouraging, but it also led to a lot of creative ideas and experimentation. And isn’t that what research should fundamentally be about? Since I will be continuing my honors research on this project, I hope to come up with some new directions for my research to go.
The big success of the summer was the 10-minute synthesis of the gold nanoparticles, which worked exactly as desctibed in the research paper (in most cases). I had thought that producing the nanoparticles would be the most difficult part, but that was not the case. I was able to produce the thiol-protected nanoparticles, but getting them to coat the capillary column was extremely challenging. One of the challenges of chemical reactions like these is that there are so many different variables. Often, only one or two solvent combinations will work, so the tricky part is finding those particular solvents out of the hundreds available.
Despite the frustrations, I also really enjoyed the innovative aspect of analytical chemistry. Often, we had to improvise on the mechanical systems we used to run the solutions through the capillary tubes. Usually, we would have a concept or a final product in mind, then had to MacGyver our way there. Also, part of the fun of chemistry is that you never know what you’re going to get from reactions. The ongoing joke in our lab was that I should go into lava lamp production because of the cool results I got. The solutions varied in color from maroon to deep purple with silvery-metallic bubbles. Although most of those cool results were not what I was expecting (or trying to get), it was still quite entertaining.
So, although my research experiences this summer were not quite as productive as I would have liked, I still learned a lot, and had a great time. I tried out a lot of new techniques and reactions, and got VERY skilled at diluting reagents. Hopefully this school year, I will be able to solve some of the problems that I had this summer.