Monday, May 23, 2016

Where in the World is Graham Lau?

I've been travelling and doing so much lately that I haven't been keeping up with my blog. Last week, I traveled to Washington D.C. to compete in the Season 3 national final of the Famelab USA science communication competition. I didn't win the competition, but it was so much fun and I learned a lot more about sharing my passion for science and knowledge with other people. Here's a pic of me on the stage during my final talk, titled "This Thing is Older Than Your Mom":

I took a much needed stop back in Pennsylvania to see friends and family after that. It was refreshing to hit up the ol' stomping grounds again. Here's a pic of my little sister, Kelsey, and I, along with my long time buddies Nick Ison and Ben Doyle:

Sadly, I only had one day back in Boulder after all that travel before leaving on my next trip, a stop to the Canadian Light Source in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. The Canadian Light Source (CLS) is a synchrotron particle accelerator where researchers can use the x-rays produced for a wide range of scientific endeavors.

A panorama looking down at the ring of the CLS synchrotron
My lab mates, Jena Johnson and Julie Cosmidis, and I use the Canadian Light Source to do something called STXM. STXM stands for Scanning Transmission X-ray Microscopy. The technique allows us to use x-rays to produce nanoscale to microscale images of our samples and to collect spectroscopic information about the materials. For instance, we're using STXM to figure out what kinds of sulfur and carbon molecules are in our samples and how those sulfur and carbon molecules are related. I'm currently sitting in a lab at CLS preparing more samples for our last evening of experimentation and data collection. 

A scanning transmission x-ray microscope at CLS

Tomorrow, it's back to Boulder for a good week of rest and catching up on work before I head off on the next adventure: the University Rover Challenge (URC). The URC is a three-day robotics competition held in the desert of Utah, where undergraduate university teams compete against one another with robotic rovers that they've designed and built (usually over the course of an entire year). The event takes place in Utah to simulate a robotics competition on Mars. The teams will use their rovers to look for signs of life, to assist astronauts in their work, to perform maintenance or servicing tasks, and to scout out terrain in the desert environment. I've been to the URC many times, serving as a volunteer and Director of Logistics. I always learn a lot about robotics and have a great time seeing these teams in action, but I also love the back-breaking work and camping out in the desert. Here's a picture from the Cornell Mars Rover team, showing off their Ares rover from last year's competition:

Hopefully, after I return from the URC, I'll have some serious time to get deeper into writing up my dissertation. It's scary to say it, but I'm looking to wrap up my Ph.D. program late this year, so there's a lot of work ahead making all of that happen. However, sometime in June I'll be coming back and writing posts about all of these adventures I've been on and sharing the best photos and videos, so stay tuned!

Ad Astra Per Aspera!

Enjoying A Clean Shave and a Haircut at The Rook and Raven Pub in Saskatoon (no, I'm not shaving off my beard. But I am enjoying a fun drink made with Kraken rum, cola, Guinness, and hibiscus syrup. Yum!)

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