Life · Science

An end to the experiments

This time last week I was excited. I collected the last two pieces of data. I copied all of the data onto memory sticks (two, in case I somehow lost one). I went around the lab, tidying up, switching things off and shutting things down.

There’s the disc, sitting in theย cryostat. The experiment is done and it’s still in one piece.


I turned on the heater that warms my experiment up. Normally I run my experiment at cryogenic temperatures, well below freezing. I had allowed it to come back up, almost to room temperature because I was nearly finished. I wanted to turn off the turbo pump, which keeps my experiment under a low vacuum, but if it was too cold then the blades inside the pump would freeze up when I turned it off, which could break it.

So I waited around until everything was definitely warm enough. Then I switched off the heater, then the turbo pump. Then the roughing pump (that gets things down to vacuum but not as good a a vacuum as the turbo pump). I switched off everything else and unplugged everything. I opened the cryostat – the vacuum tank that I keep cold and that contains the main parts of my experiment.

I took it out of the cryostat and packaged it up. The experiment is done and I’m in one piece. If anything, this is more impressive.


I took out the sapphire disc I had been testing and I carefully packaged it up, along with the other sapphire discs that I’ve been running experiments on for a little over a year. I closed the tank back up and left a note on it for the next user.

I carried my things out of the lab and upstairs to my office. By this point it was 16:45. The experimental work for my PhD was now complete. Technically that meant it was time to start analysing my data but I decided to give myself the rest of the day off.

The analysis is going to take a while. I’m part way through but it’s a big job. Writing my thesis is going to take even longer. It’s exciting though, to be this close to completing a project like this. I’m looking forward to doing something a little bit different for a while, and to seeing what the results will tell us.


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