Nowadays I don’t do much in the lab, but I write the grants that will, with luck, bring money in so my students can do neat stuff! But mostly in my lab, we measure hormones in spit and pee. We do this with enzyme immunoassays. This is a fancy way of saying we put a known amount of substances into the pee or spit, in order to detect the unknown amount of hormone.
I have also hired a clinician or sonographer to do ultrasounds of women’s uteruses before, and then I take measurements from the pictures.
@ffioncrossland It depends on which lab I am working in: computer or rock lab.
If it’s the computer lab, then I’m trying to programme a computer. This may seem like a lot of work and sometimes it makes my brain ache because I’m not particularly good at it, but when it does work, it actually makes life a lot easier. I can programme the computer to do a lot of hard calculations for many things at once.
If I’m in the rock lab then I’m either studying large samples of rocks or what’s known as thin sections. These are really thin slivers of rock which have been cut with a machine and then mounted onto a glass slide for me to look at using a microscope. From the thin sections we can look at what minerals the rock is made of, and from their size, shape and way they fit together, we can work out how the rocks were made, maybe even at roughly what depth within the Earth they were formed. If we find two minerals in a rock which shouldn’t normally be found together, this can also tell us something about the history of the rock, i.e. that it has been ‘recycled’ as it has been erupted to the surface then buried within the Earth then erupted to the surface again. I’ve seen this on a sample of rock from South Africa which we looked at under a scanning electron microscope (@Jamie can tell you about this microscope) – the rocks in that area are thought to be some of the oldest in existence.
I have to say though @ffioncrossland that most of my time is NOT spent in a lab. A lot of the science I’m doing right now here on the Caribbean island of Montserrat is outdoors on the volcano 🙂