Summary Post

I have learned so much over the course of my summer research project! My project was based around learning a skill, rather than answering a research question, so I am not in a position to elaborate on any groundbreaking conclusions, unfortunately. I became as much of a crystallographer as I could have hoped. At first, it seemed like an impossible task to mount crystals, but after 8 weeks, I could mount and run 10 unit cells in a day. By the end of my research, I had helped my lab (as well as three others) find unit cells, solve structures, and produce crystallographic information files for important chemical compounds. Some we were familiar with, and others were entirely new to research literature. I worked on 21 structures, with 2/3 of them being from our own lab. I also spent a week of my research proofing .cif files with a website called checkcif.iucr.org. There were about a dozen structures that needed to be proofed for any errors before being published, and I spent the majority of that week going through alert messages and doing my best to either fix them, or be able to explain why they cannot be fixed. It was a great deal of focus on a piece of the x-ray crystallographer’s tool kit that I would not have become adept at otherwise. The last portion of my research was a transition from being the student into being the teacher. I spent some of my time explaining (or attempting to explain) to a peer in my lab the techniques that are needed to use the x-ray diffractometer. I also tried to explain what to look for in SHELXLE to help solve disordered structures. This role reversal was part of a friendly trade because that peer took time away from his work to teach me about the pure chemistry that goes on in a lab. Crystallography requires chemistry knowledge, but wet chemistry is a whole different ball game!

Overall, I am very happy with how far I have come with developing this skill set. I think it opens up the door to either continue working in the chemistry department, where I would hone my skills and expand my skill set to include the wet chemistry of growing crystals. It also gives me an avenue to move my research to learn solid state physics, since that uses similar principles to x-ray crystallography to explore electrical, magnetic, or optical properties of materials. I am thankful for this opportunity to learn so much outside of the classroom.