Besides the perks of being able to go out into the community and collect air samples while telling passing audiences of our research, Chinanu and I have the opportunity to work with cutting edge technology.
Though versions of Gas Chromatographs and Mass Spectrometers have been around for a while, we were required to work with newer versions by Agilent Technologies. Learning how to use the analytical software MassHunter in and out was maybe the most challenging part of our internship. Before we used the program, basic features that we would need were demonstrated to us, and a sample that we collected was even ran through the system in order to show us how to view the compounds and what standard we should use in deciding which compounds were truly in the sample or not.
I mainly had trouble remembering how to follow the steps that were shown in opening up the NIST Library, the library that contained known compounds saved to the computer. It also took me a while to understand how the database “matched” a compound in its library to a compound found in our sample, which made it a bit harder for us to find good constraints in determining if a matched compound was truly in our sample and to record it. Upon our first meeting with Dr. Gentner, he made it one of our objectives to find out what many of the constraints, such as Probability, Match, and R-Match, were defined as to make it easier.
Near the end of August, Chinanu and I were far more acquainted with the program and knew how to do things in the program that were once a challenge, such as subtracting background noise from a samples peaks.