I’ve been in Sweden for an entire month now which is pretty hard to believe. But this past week, I realized that I’ve more or less settled into a routine. A month ago, even just a few weeks ago, everything was new and confusing and exciting. Just all around strange! But gradually without my noticing, everything has just started to feel… normal.
For instance, I have plans for a picnic with some lab mates tomorrow, so I spent this morning going grocery shopping and then making a gorgeous pasta salad. Then I spent the evening doing chores around my apartment and watching movies. Weekend adventures are great— but sometimes its nice to have just a regular day!
I’m excited about this week’s blog entry because the time has finally come- chemistry talk!!! Don’t worry, I won’t go TOOOO into detail.
Warning: Science ahead!!!
After having a whole week off at lab, I had a lot of work to catch up on. I needed to run some tests on 9 different samples, but before I could do those tests, I needed to make up some solutions of sodium hydroxide (NaOH) and hydrochloric acid (HCl). I’ve worked with these solutions plenty of times, but I’ve never had to make them myself. I never knew how much work went into something that seemed so simple!
The procedure I followed told me I had to make the solutions and then use the NaOH as a standard to find the exact concentration of the HCl. It didn’t seem that hard, I just had to mix them and monitor until I got a pH reading of 7 while keeping track of the volume of each solution I used. But as I was doing this, I kept getting inconsistent results! I was frustrated that I seemed to be messing up something so basic.
After talking with my professor, he loaned me a couple of textbooks to look through and see if I could find any explanation for what might be going on. And as a matter of fact… I did! It turned out to be a couple of things. Firstly, I was using the micropipette (a volume delivery tool) incorrectly.
Secondly, I hadn’t made the NaOH solution right. But pages in the textbook told me the proper way to do both of these things! As I kept reading, I also found that NaOH does not work as a good primary standard for determining concentration and in fact has to be standardized against something more analytically precise such as sodium hydrogen phthalate. What started as a seemingly simple preparation turned into a monster of a task, but the important thing is that now I know how to do it properly!
When I discussed these points with my professor, he actually seemed quite impressed with me! I’ve been asked to draft up some instructions for micropipette use we can post so other people don’t make the same mistakes I did, and I’ve also been asked to adjust the procedure I’ve been following as I go along. He said I made a good step of progress for our research group which made me feel pretty damn great!
The process of standardizing the NaOH was quite slow, but I got some neat looking graphs out of it.
Now that I at last have a good standardized solution of NaOH, I can standardize the HCl next week and finally run my actual tests on my samples! All the extra work I had to do will be worth having more accurate data.
I hope you enjoyed all the science talk! It’s now time for me to be getting to bed— I’ve got a picnic to get to in the morning!