Monday, March 23, 2009


The cheesy title is an attempt on my part to get a boy-band song out of my head... I found these old mix-tapes I made off the radio when I was about 13 and I was listening to one in my car - never ever ever again! I've had this cheesy song in my head since about Friday...

So anyway A few months ago (I think it was around November last year) my supervisor asked if I was going to be using a certain piece of lab equipment soon - there was a colleague who ad a visiting student and blah blah blah and basically it would be lent to another lab until February.

When I got back from fieldwork we sat down and worked out a lab protocol for working with the data from said piece of equipment (he typed, I dictated and later I added in pictures and screenshots with arrows and stuff) and we sent it off to said visiting researcher.

Said researcher freaked out as it turned out there was a box she was supposed to click and she hadn't clicked it and so all her readings were saved in the wrong format. My supervisor made sympathetic noises and forwarded me her email saying "can we help?" and I sent back some suggestions which she seemed to ignore or maybe didn't receive or something.

So a few weeks ago I got an email from this person asking me to take a bunch of reference readings so that she could test whether or not the conversion she tried is actually working or not. I agreed as it's stuff I do often and I can take measurements in my sleep and so I went upstairs to get the stuff out of its case to find that she'd totally dismantled the wires to connect the machine to its power supply. I freaked out, supervisor promised to get it fixed and I sent said visiting researcher a mildly strained email saying that as she had screwed up the power supply she was going to have to wait. She agreed somewhat grudgingly.

So anyway today I was in the lab when my supervisor appeared with the repaired equipment and I figured I'd take the measurements quickly because it has been bugging me for a few weeks now and I would really like to have it done, so I took it all out to find: she'd messed up the sandpaper (which is very important as we use it to clean off surfaces), she'd tangled the wires horribly, adjusted the probe so I couldn't use it without doing some readjustment with pliers and she's totally destroyed a reference sample. These things cost about R2000 each (fortunately I had had the R5000 one with me so she didn't have a chance to destroy it) and it looked like she'd dunked it in water, dropped it, used it as an ashtray... I don't even know, but I've never seen any piece of equipment treated so badly. If I was to guess what happened it would be that she left it in its case in a pocket and washed her clothes.

Te fact that it happens doesn't bother me, stuff goes wrong, if I had R10 for every time my flash-drive has gone through the washing machine, or I've found damp money in my pockets... well lets just say I wouldn't need to study! The fact is, after changing the electronics without asking first, she damaged a really expensive piece of equipment and then calmly packed it back in the box and returned it as if nothing had happened!

I mean seriously, my degree is based off readings from a piece of equipment just like that and I have been known to sleep with it under my bed when we had visiting students in case anything went wrong, and I have every right to use it. So now I've been mean and nasty and laid down the law - nobody else touches that thing until I graduate, then they can drop it in seawater for all I care!


po said...

You have my sympathy, some people are like equipment terrorists in my lab, bent on destruction.

sarah said...

we went dancing on saturday night and i had `once... twice... threeeee times a laaaady` stuck in my head. and so i sang it loudly over all the dance songs

not cool, sarah. not cool at all.