Whether you love or hate research, most people agree that it is challenging. It is part of what brings researchers together. Knowing that other people are struggling and working as hard as you, helps build a strong community. This summer has been full of challenges. My first day seemed like an insurmountable challenge. So did the prospect of digging holes and carrying hundreds of pounds of equipment 15 days straight. Realizing weekends didn’t exist in fieldwork was a bit of a shock, but I was so busy that I barely noticed. I was not one of the strongest people during fieldwork, but I worked just as hard. I think my biggest success was the respect I earned from the PIs. They trusted my work, respected my opinion, and came to me for my TETRIS skills when loading the SUVs. Fieldwork was an amazing experience because I got to know brilliant, well respected PIs in a setting that allowed us to be ourselves. That is one of the reasons why I love geophysics, people will accept you for who you are as long as you do the same for them. There were challenges during fieldwork, but I never felt like I failed because everyone was in it together.
Outside of fieldwork, I’ve found that time management has been the hardest part. There is this immense subject that thousands of people have been working on for years, and I have a summer to learn about it. In my case, I have even less time to work on the research because I spent four weeks in the field. There is no part of me that regrets those four weeks, but it makes my short time in Seattle seem like I’m climbing up a mountain that doesn’t have a summit. I began my internship two weeks after the other IRIS interns and then I spent my first three weeks in the field. After one short week in Seattle, I was back in the field for another week collecting the data I will be analyzing. It felt like no time at all, but five weeks, half of my internship, flew by right before my eyes. It has been a struggle to keep my head down and work without having deadlines loom in my mind. I have always found that stress prevents you from thinking clearly, but it is in my nature to stress about deadlines that I don’t feel prepared for. Although I spoke with my PI everyday during fieldwork, there was not a lot of time to discuss the research I was going to do. It was unreasonable to expect there to be productive research talks after 10-12 hour days in the field. Although the reasons I feel unprepared are justified, I can’t write them down on my AGU abstract. Whether I feel like I’m ready to or not, I’m going to have to write about my research this summer. It is absolutely terrifying.
Another challenge that I am hoping to overcome this week, is wrapping my head around one of the aspects of my research. I will determine the orientation of the seismometers in Matlab, using a structure that was created by my PI Ken Creager. In programming, a structure is an array that organizes data into fields. The structure I am working with, a coral structure, contains information about the seismogram from a specific seismic station. I am still learning about the fields a coral structure contains, and about all of the possible ways to manipulate it. As I have come to expect with programming, the majority of my time has been spent testing and retesting little pieces of code. I am hoping to bring all of the pieces together in the coming week.
Whether you come out of a challenge feeling like a failure or a success depends on how you perceive challenges. This summer, I have chosen to see them as opportunities. So when I start to get overwhelmed, I just think "Challenge shmallenge."
It seems that almost everyone has heard of Mt. St. Helens. When I mention my project to people I get a mixture of responses. From my mother: “Is that the one that had that big explosion? You better be careful Gina.” From locals around the volcano: “You’re watching that one? You should be checking out Rainier, that’s the one getting ready to blow.” When I talk to geophysicists: “So you’re working on iMUSH, then? What part of the project?” iMUSH stands for Imaging Magma Under St. Helens and it has three components. There is an active source component that involves drilling boreholes and setting off explosions within the crust. Another component is a magnetotelluric survey. The last part of the project is the one that I am involved in. It is the passive part of the experiment in which 70 broadband seismometers will be deployed on and around Mt. St. Helens and will stay in place for two years. This part of the experiment will allow imaging at a much greater depth than the short period sensors. A very large component of my summer will be spent doing fieldwork. My first two and a half weeks were spent installing the seismometers. I will also go on service runs to make sure that everything is running smoothly at the sites and to retrieve the flash disks storing the data. We completed the first service run this week in order to prepare for the active source experiment. I will also be utilizing the data we just obtained in order to check the orientation of the sensors. The sensors should be oriented towards true north, but there is error involved in placing them. It is important to check this orientation and then correct for it when analyzing the data.
It's the 5th day of the IRIS intern orientation. It somehow feels much longer and much shorter than that at the same time.