The traveling salesman.

What my life has been like the last few months...
What my life has been like the last few months...

[Ed: Due to the impeding end of the hosting organization, there will be some changes in the place where this site is run. I’ll have to manage a migration somehow, please bear with me as I try to make this happen, somehow..]

It’s been a bit of a hiatus, for which you have my sincerest apologies. It’s been a complete nuthouse in terms of travel, with the last one coming this week. The next post, I hope to get a head start on catching up with you readers, but for now, let’s clarify where I’ve been and what I’ve been up to…

What my life has been like the last few months...
What my life has been like the last few months…

First, there’s been The Diamond-II workshop for soft matter, which I’ve attended to help conceptualize the developments and direction of (in particular) I22. My selling point, that the signal-to-backgroud ratio and data quality should be improved, may not have been a very exciting one, but I feel it’s a necessary step now that the laboratory instruments are catching up. Beamlines can no longer afford to throw photons away simply because they have so many of them, instead they should be used as efficiently as possible.

Then, a week and a half after that, there were three more days of USAXS beam time. This time, setting up took only half a day, after which we were ready to do the interleaved USAXS and SAXS/WAXS experiments. We figure we can bring the setup time down to maybe an hour or two in the future, but first there’s a big task on my plate: getting that publication on the USAXS module out! Not an easy task to focus on with all else that’s going on…

Even before that beamtime was completely finished, we needed to rush to Heathrow to catch a flight back to Berlin, to catch the flight back to Heathrow to catch the flight to the US for the big SAS conference in Michigan! Yes, it is ridiculous, but no, the airline did not allow us to skip the idiotic and wasteful LHR-TXL-LHR section of that trip. Administratively impossible: the worst kind of impossible.

The SAS conference was amazing this time, with everyone locked in the same jail hotel, allowing us to interact from early morning to late in the night. Much good SAXSy stuff was discussed, and many hands were shaken with all the excellent SAS people that came out there. More on that in a future post.

After coming back, and having one week to get my affairs in order, I was off for two weeks of holidays. This was spent cruising around the Greek archipelago in a small sailing yacht, which was a very relaxing and a much needed — but still too short — reprieve from the daily, hectic work-life. The idea that we spend 8 hours at work, 8 hours for ourselves and 8 hours asleep per day is a misconception that doesn’t account for breakfast-, lunch-, dinner-, household work- and commuting time, and leaves us exasperated at the end of the day with maybe 30 minutes left for our own relaxation. This is one of the reasons these blog posts have fallen along the wayside, and is one thing that needs to change before it kills us.

Now that we have been back for a week or two, it’s off to Diamond again for another beamtime, this time helping out another group of BAM colleagues with their experiment. The beamtimes aren’t bad, though. They allow me to focus for a few days on one topic only. This is bliss for those of us who are caught up in too many interesting but simultaneous projects at work: the ability to focus and discuss with colleagues and friends about that topic is very relaxing indeed. As an additional cherry on top, half of the time these efforts ends up into a publication, allowing us to justify these research retreats the next time one comes up.

All in all, a researcher’s life is a strenuous exercise, with long spells of hard, seemingly futile work, occasionally punctuated by an unexpected result or finding. With ongoing effort and experience, we may get a little better at finding and recognizing these results, increasing the frequency of these exciting moments. Surrounded with the right people, these journeys into the unknown can be exhilarating and very interesting. However, there will have to be some changes to make this a sustainable effort, and after 13 years in the field, I still haven’t found out exactly how to manage this researcher’s life.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.



This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.