Week 4 began much the same as last week, I spent the first couple of days sorting through the piles of data we’d accumulated so far, and then spent a good deal of time trying to work out what on earth was going on with the results that were just refusing to make sense. After some deliberation, it was found that these anomalous results were in fact following some sort of trend… just not the one we were expecting (in a few of the samples the presence of 5-HIAA had all but disappeared upon acidification).
From picking out a couple of these mystery samples, I began working on some separate tests to decipher why they were doing what they were doing. These tests involved altering the pH and studying the affect this change had on the concentration of analyte. Before the testing could begin, I had the unfortunate task of altering the pH of each urine aliquot using HCL to give a range of acidities to test the degradation against. After painstakingly pipetting the acid into the samples drop-by-drop and creating a rainbow of pH indicator sticks, I’d finally perfected a suitable range ready to analyse.
When the results from the HPLC came through, it became clear that the oddities weren’t a result of me doing something wrong the entire time (thankfully), but were in fact an important discovery regarding the stability of 5-HIAA (the whole point of the project). Due to the immense importance of these findings regarding the collection of patient’s urine, I got to work frantically searching the Internet in hopes of an answer as to why the 5-HIAA was disappearing. A few (pretty old) papers contained some round about information which proved some-what useful in the reasoning behind the disappearance, and when pieced together with some more recent research we decided that we still had a lot more work to do regarding this find.
When I wasn’t working on the project, my time was taken up with continuing my lab report and ‘harassing’ staff members with millions questions about various aspects of the project.
My fourth week (like all the others) has passed in a blur, and I’m finding it hard to believe that I’ve already been here for a month! I feel as if I’m really getting to grips with the everyday goings-on in the department, and amid actually remembering everyone’s names, (finally) not getting lost and being trusted to independently run the equipment for the project without the fear of breaking it; I feel like the placement has provided me with invaluable experience which I am looking forward to applying to my studies during my final year at Kent.