6 January, 2003
Today in the lab I learned how to lyophilize. The process of lyophilization consists of finding out how much water a sample contains by removing all of the water in the sample. First, a scientist chooses a sample. Maggie Amsler, one of the research team members and I chose holly leaves from one of the shrubs outside of the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics Building. Now, in order to figure out how much water is in a sample, we had to know how much the beaker we collected the leaves in weighed. So, we weighed the beaker. Next, we placed our holly leaves in the beaker and weighed the beaker again, to get the difference between an empty beaker and a beaker full of holly leaves. When measurements have been recorded, the sample is put into a freezer at -80 degrees Celsius. When the sample has had enough time to freeze, it is taken out and connected to the lyophilizer. The lyophilizer is a scientific tool used to dehydrate samples. We left the holly in the lyophilizer for 24 hours, took it out, and then weighed it again. The weight of the beaker with the holly leaves in it was less than it was before we put it into the lyophilizer. We compared our figures. There had been a significant amount of water in the holly leaves. To be sure we had completely dehydrated the holly leaves, we placed them back into the lyophilizer for several more hours and weighed them again. There was no difference this time, so we had fully dehydrated the holly leaves.
I need to know ahead of time what the scientists will need for me to do to help them in the lab in Antarctica because their time there is limited. If I know how to help them in the lab before I go, they will not need to take time away from their experiments to train me. Lyophilization is a process that I will be doing in Antarctica so I was trained on how to do it in the lab at UAB. Of course, I won't be dehydrating holly leaves in Antarctica. The scientists will have samples they have collected from the sea that they will want me to lyophilize.
If any of the teachers reading my journal entries use the GLOBE program, this is the same process that is used in the soil sample protocols. By completing those protocols, the process of lyophilization can be simulated for your students.
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