My Path Through Research

The Trials and Triumphs of Doing a PhD

I <3 Straight Lines

I have one love which surpasses my love of graphs, and that is my love of straight lines in graphs!

But why am I bringing this up now?

I am currently in the process of analysing some of the data I have been collecting over the past few weeks. I was looking to monitor the change occurring during degradation of my photographs by calculating the rate of change.

Now, if you look back to your maths classes, you might remember that rate of change can be determined by the gradient (i.e. slope)  of a time-graph (i.e. graph of how a value is changing against time). This is quite easy to analyse if you have a straight line, as the gradient is just a single value. However, if you don’t, you start running into more complicated problems!

So I plotted my data.

To my satisfaction I did get a regularly changing line (i.e. there is some significant effect in what I was measuring), but to my dismay, it was a polynomial (i.e. curve), not a straight line!

You can get a straight line from a polynomial curve by taking a derivative of the equation. However, as my brother wisely pointed out to me, you do lose quite a bit of information in doing that, which is not ideal.

My other option was to find a value which DID change linearly with time. So I converted my data into other monitoring systems, and…tada!!!..I got straight lines!

I am happy that I managed to get my straight lines without a lot of data handling. Of course, the more you work on your data, the more information you lose. However, in this case, the two ways I used where just two different ways of measuring the same thing only using a different standard.

Filed under: Experiments and Methodology, Research Process, , , , , , , , , , , ,

And another paper…

If you follow my twitter feed, or have just looked at the publication list on the right you should already have figured this out. What’s the news? The second paper concerning my PhD work has been accepted!

The paper will be published in the journal Polymer Degradation and Stability. We had submitted the original paper at the end of May. Then this week we received some minor comments which we dealt with, and on Friday we got the final confirmation that it has been accepted for publication.

So far I don’t have a link to the paper, but I will provide this as soon as I do. However, here is a brief overview of what the paper is about:

The title of the paper is ‘Stability of chromogenic colour prints in polluted indoor environments’. In it we have reported work I have been doing on comparing the effects of acetic acid, nitrogen oxides and formaldehyde on the stability of chromogenic prints. The pollutants were chosen as previous work we had done showed that these are the main pollutants found inside archival boxes (you can read that full paper here). We also discuss a way of non-destructively monitoring the degradation of the photographic dyes using a colourimeter (image below). This work builds up on chromatographic work I had done during a research visit to the Universita di Pisa last year.

All in all I am really satisfied. By the end of the second year I will have had two papers published, which fits in quite well with the original plan of publishing three papers throughout the whole PhD (especially considering that as the work is finalised towards the end more work can be published).

If you are not in academia you however might be wondering about why is publishing so important. Having your work published in a well-known journal is a way of showing that the work you are doing is of a certain level. This should hopefully come in useful when I come to write my final thesis as I would already have somewhere to start from. Furthermore, once I submit the thesis, having already published the work in a journal helps me show that the work has reached a certain standard. And of course, any help you can get when it comes to the final submission is always good!

Filed under: Experiments and Methodology, Research Process, , , , , , , , , , ,

Close examinations: Fakes, mistakes and discoveries.

While writing for the UCL Cheltenham Blog I had invited you to go discover the exhibition behind a talk I had attended. The talk was by Ashok Roy, the head of science at the National Gallery. So far I hadn’t gotten round to it. However, following meeting Ashok Roy in person when he came to visit our laboratories last week I got another push to go see the exhibition. So yesterday, as I was in the area for the NOISEmakers workshop I decided to make the time to drop in.

As is quite evident from the exhibition’s title, the exhibition goes through the way scientists contribute to the process of identifying which paintings may be fakes, where mistakes have been made in authorship, and also occasionally identifying a precious painting in what was previously thought to be a lowly copy.

I am obviously very pleased every time the topic of heritage science is brought to the forefront of the public’s mind. This would hopefully make it easier for me to describe what I do, as well as increase the awareness of people to the scientific contribution in heritage and related fields.

As a scientist I would have loved to have seen more science in the exhibition. However, keeping in mind that this is a general exhibit, at least the basic principles of looking at underdrawings, or looking at the support and using cross-sections were evident themes throughout the exhibit. More science was also put into a video running on a loop at the end of the exhibition, where more details could be gone into about the different techniques by explaining while demonstrating the equipment.

I would have appreciated seeing more, but as a still-emerging field in the minds of the public, this was definitely a good start! And if you cannot visit the exhibition yourself, most of the exhibition is also online!

Filed under: Events and Activities, , , , , , , , ,

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