Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Why Must Everything be at the 11th Hour?

As my advisor says, if it wasn't for deadlines, nothing would get done.

My labmate and I attempted a run of experiments last Tuesday afternoon, and just as we were all set to go - we could not get a useable signal out of one of the sensors. Although of course the other sensor, which was just fixed, and the rest of the equipment in general, is working beautifully, finally. I did some troubleshooting, and for some reason the sensor was just broken.

This was terrible because the labmate I am working with is leaving in four days.

I sent it back immeditaely for recalibration, (it arrived in CA the next day) and called them to see what the problem was. Because that sensor is over two years old, they have to upgrade the firmware and then recalibrate, and will send it out early next week. I asked if it could be faster without the upgrade, and they said they don't use the old firmware anymore so they have to upgrade. I asked if there was another sensor on the shelf they could send immediately, and the only one they had was not quite the right kind.

I thought it would take me longer to figure out how to use the not-quite-right kind than to wait for the correct one, and the not-quite-right one was $499, so I didn't order it.


And all this time, I am trying to finish the mango project. These experiments would have finished it.

I talked with my advisor about what the expectations are to finish the mango project. What we want is:

1) 100 parts manufactured
2) Data from all sensors and all equipment for all those parts
3) Good control of parameters from all machines
4) Data from inspection of all those parts
5) Functional testing results from all those parts

Since we were stuck waiting for the broken sensor to be fixed, in the meantime I thought about using some sensors I already had on hand, to modify things and get the equipment to work and make those 100 parts. But even if I did the work to do that, and we made 100 parts, we wouldn't satisfy point #2. So I'd just have to make 100 more parts, which didn't seem worth it.

So the plan now is to wait for the sensor to come back, install it quickly, and try at least a short run of 10 or 20 parts with the automated system before my labmate leaves.

But why is it that no matter how much you plan, no matter how far in advance you know about deadlines (the labmate has had the plane ticket booked for a month), you still come down to the wire to get things done? Is it my fault, or does the universe just work this way? Is it the same reason that most PhD students get 70% of their work done in the last 30% of their PhD?

I'm saying that the lab gremlins always conspire to delay progress until the last moment.

Crossing fingers.

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