Monday, September 3, 2012

The Summer Summed up

This summer went by too fast, and now I am already into by second week of my senior year at Juniata College. 

The things I learned and took from my internship at RJ Lee Group were things that I never really thought I would ever gain experience in. There were so many new techniques I learned; that I would have never learned if it weren't for this internship. There were also skills I brought into the internship that I was also to learn how to perform these skills in a different (possibly updated) way that was not the same way I had learned at Juniata. Now being back, I am constantly remembering things from my internship and applying them to my studies.

I think this internship was different from other opportunities because of the amount of work and time that I was allowed to work unsupervised. It was a great feeling to be trusted to work on my own and I don't think I would have found that at many other internships. On the opposite side of that, it was also great that if (or when) I did have question there was never someone far away or too busy to answer them. Everyone at RJ Lee worked well together to accomplished the common goal of getting projects done quickly and done well.

It was a little sad for me to leave the internship at the end of the summer. I had made so many new friends and really felt like I had "a place" at RJ Lee Group. It was really the type of place and work environment that I can hope to work in once I graduate. My favorite part of the internship must have been the work I did in the petrographic light microscopy department because I felt like it was the department that best suited what I had been learning in school. But there was nothing during my internship that I really disliked doing. Actually, I cannot think of any task that I dreaded doing during my time at RJ Lee.

In conclusion, I would like to thank RJ Lee Group and all the people I worked with over the summer for the wonderful opportunity. I would also like to that Juniata alumni Justin Rieter and his wife Holly for allowing me to stay with them this summer and showing me a good time in the Pittsburgh area. Like I said, this summer was unforgettable and I hate that its over but I have to finish up my last year a Juniata.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Past Couple of Weeks

Yes, it has been a few weeks since I have written about what I have being doing in my internship. So here is what has been going on.

During the week of July 16th, I was doing much of the same in the RJ Lee concrete world. There were a couple of major projects that had to get done and which project had priority keep getting switched around. No matter what project it was, the same types of work needed to be completed on them. Cutting the different sample pieces and creating lapped and/or polished sections. Something new that I did begin doing during this week was prepping samples for air void analysis. To prepare these samples, one first must make a lapped section. Then you complete black out the polished side with a marker, and roll on a white powder material that then fills into any air void that may be present within the sample. These samples are then taken to machine that counts the amount of white space there is on a sample. Giving us the proportion of air to concrete, which is an important ratio when concrete is mixed. The tedious part about this prep is coloring all the cracks that are not voids with a maker under a microscope. Which is fun at first but after awhile beware you will start seeing spots.

So, thing went on as normal, and these different preps became very routine and everyday practice. It was interesting to feel like I have settled into a place at RJ Lee in such a short time when remembering how many different things go on there on a daily basis. Just as I was getting into a certain routine, a new and very different project came along. This project would get me out of concrete for the time being. This project was for the PLM department of RJ Lee, PLM standing for Polarized Light Microscopy. In this department, samples are prepped and analysis for different petrographic type studies; many having to deal with finding asbestos minerals in different materials. I was super excited to start work on this project because I would get to use a microscope to identify minerals; even if I am just looking for one main mineral which is chrysotile.

 The image above is a of chrysotile fiber just like the ones I was picking out over the last week.

Chrysotile is a part of the serpentine mineral group; which are known as TO sheet silicates. TO sheet silicates are known to have a 1:1 layer ratio; meaning that there elemental crystallography repeat in a TO:TO:TO pattern alternating the elements that make up the mineral. What makes chrysotile special is that it’s TO dimensions allow for the mineral to form in layers that curve so that roll into hollow, slender fibers. These fibers are flexible compared to the amphibole asbestos forms making it more popular to use in building material because it could be spun or woven. Chrysotile made up 95%  of the asbestos used in America until it was made to phase out starting in 1983 and banned in December 2003. Although it is banned now, there is still plenty of  materials that still contain chrysotile and the other asbestos forms. Due to the fact that asbestos is still found in material today, it possible for RJ Lee to complete a lot of projects that have to do with testing whether or not a product contains asbestos.

Bringing us back to the new project I am getting to work on. In order to prep the samples to be looked at under the microscope they had to be treated with deionized water and dilute hydrochloric acid to get rid of the gypsum and calcite.  This took three days due to the high number of samples. After all the samples went through the process and were dried they could be sieve into coarse and fine grained material. Then I take each of those and look at it under a stereo microscope and being to pick out any of the white chrysotile fibers I see. This process was started at the beginning of this week and will take me into next week most likely. After I get finished sorting the material, another geologist at RJ begins to do a point count with a petrographic microscope on the sample to find the fibers that could not be picked out by me.

This project, which I got finished picking through today (Aug. 6th) was a little bit more challenging to me than the other projects I have worked on thus far at RJ Lee. I can 100% say that I really working on this project. I was able to develop new skills while still getting to use the geology skills I have learned about at Juniata. It was also nice to be able to work with other geologist and hear their opinions about not only this project but working at RJ in general. At JC this past year, I learned how much I like working with a microscope and identifying minerals in thin section in order to identify how a certain rock body was formed. This project I have be working on over the past week was so exciting for me because I learned that people (geologists) in a industry setting are using the same basic skills that I spent so much time and effort learning this past year. It was just kind of reassuring to me that those skills I have so much fun doing could be very useful to me in my future. 

These skills are ones I learned in my mineralogy, petrography, petrology classes, and also my research at Juniata. These classes also taught me how to make and have the thin sections skills that have helped me in concrete world at RJ too. So I just wanted to put a quick note in here how thankful I am to the Juniata College geology staff for setting me up so well to succeed this summer. I am still amazed, as my internship comes to a close at the end of this week, how prepared I was intellectually for all the projects I have completed this summer. I know there is still a ton I have yet to learn in my field but as of right now I feel that I am pretty prepared to enter the work force come graduation.  

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Pittsburgh Concrete Conundrum

This has been an exciting and crazy week! This week I took off Monday and Tuesday and was able to explore the Pittsburgh area with my boyfriend while he was in town. We went to "the Big Butler Fair", a large county fair and carnival where the band Lonestar and  country singer Casey James were playing. Even though it was incredibly hot it was a fun experience and a good concert. I also had the chance to explore the inner city, walk around in the downtown and strip district areas. It was a blast to be in the city and see how things differed from my home city of Philadelphia. My favorite part of Pittsburgh was defiantly the view from a top of Mount Washington. There is defiantly not a view like that back in Philadelphia. It was a great relaxing time but back at RJ Lee the work was piling up.
I got back to RJ Lee Group on Wednesday refreshed and ready to work. There were a ton of concrete samples that are in need of prep and need to be prepped fast. With several different projects going on there has defiantly not been a boring moment this week. Since there are a couple of different projects there has been a few different ways that the samples need to be prepped for different types of analysis. This week so far we have been preparing samples for the optical, air void, and SEM analysis. The samples we prep for these analyses are thin sections, lapped sections, and polished sections. The process starts by cutting the samples, whether they be drill cores or little chucks of concrete, they are all cut on a diamond saw to a specification set by the customer and the analyser. After the samples are cut they are lap and polished down to a certain size grit. If they are being made into a lap section the process is a simple as that. If they are being made into a polished section then they have to be taken through all the of the diamond grits too in order to insure a mirror like finish on the concrete. If the samples are being made into a thin section then they get glued onto a microscope slide, and get ground down till the sample is about 15-20 microns. This makes it so the sample can be seen through with a petrographic microscope.
There are some samples needed to be epoxied to preserve the salts and imperfections of the concrete. For these samples we are not allowed to prep them with water instead they must be prep with isopar (a refined type of kerosene) and oil based diamond paste. Other samples we have been prepping did not have such restrictions. It is important to pay attention to the instructions and make sure that everything is prepare up to the standards of RJ Lee. I always want to try my best and make sure I am working my hardest. I really work hard to the point where my supervisor tells me to take breaks. These moment make me laugh because I do forget to relax sometimes. I guess my mind in just still in school mode where I always have some sort of classwork, studying or working at one of my campus jobs. So I am just used to working as hard as I can as quickly as I can to get things done and get them done to the best of my abilities. I just hope that one day my hard work will pay off. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Fourth of July

Well, it's the week of the fourth of July! To me this means that summer is about half way over, and my time with RJ Lee Group is going by way too fast. This week has been a lot of the same things that need to get done. The main project I have been working is with coal dust. This project consists of a some-what uninteresting procedure but is very important because of the consistency of the number of projects that come into the company, and the fact that this test help to save the lives of miners by making sure that the walls of the mines they are working in are coated with enough CaCO3 so that a small spark does not ignite the coal. There was apparently some sort of accident in a mine where this happened and mines must have this test done from scrapings taken from the mine walls. There are hundreds of samples that get processed each week and is one of those projects that just always needs to get done, even though it is not really anyone's favorite thing to do.
My favorite thing so far that I've learned or been able to experience at RJ Lee was the short amount of time I got to spend looking at asbestos fibers under a optical microscope. At Juniata, the optical mineralogy parts of my geology classes has been on of my favorite subjects to learn about. In these classes we learned to identify amphiboles which are also types of asbestos. So it was interesting for me to be able to identify these minerals in a different setting other then a test type of environment. Actually, most of the interesting things I have done at RJ Lee also incorporate using knowledge I have learned at Juniata. I guess it makes me feel good that I can actually use my college education in a none academic setting because there are those people that still tell you that you will never use any of the things you learn in college. I like proving them wrong. 
I know that there are many things that I still have left to learn, but this experience has definitely got me thinking about all my options for after graduation, besides grad school.     

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Learning new things

This past week has been super hectic at work. We have many big projects that have been going on that have to get done right and quickly. This last week, I was focusing on helping with Non destructive testing on concrete. These tests included testing the concretes hardness and how well sound travels through the concrete if its struck, which help identify cracks in the concrete. This type of testing is something I haven't experienced in school yet. So, there has been a lot of things to learn. This type of work is something that I normally would think I could do with a geology major. In all reality though, concrete is just another type of rock. In fact one could identify it as an conglomerate or sometimes a breccia depending on the sizes of the aggregate in the concrete. I am learning a lot about the chemical and geological make up of the concrete. Its also fun for me to try to identify the aggregate. The aggregate usually is some form of quartz or feldspar, so a rock type whose majors components are quartz and feldspar.
Making thin sections is another be component of the concrete testing. I already have a good amount of experience making thin section from juniata; but, at RJ Lee making thin section is a lot easier due to a awesome machine that elminates a lot of steps I would normally have to do by hand. Which just saves time. At Juniata it would take me about 4-7 hours making one thin section but at RJ Lee you could make 4-8 thin sections in a day. The record being 13 thin sections in one day. The only thing that is sort of frusterating about making thin section at RJ Lee is the fact that you cannot use water with most concrete samples. One has to use isopar, which is a refined version of kerosine, and oil based diamond pastes. There are pros and cons to each method, but water is generally easier to work with and cheaper.
Overall this past week, though it has been hectic, it has been a great learning experience. Which is what this whole summer is about. I am definently learning that I'd rather be busy then have nothing really to do.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Learning so much


It has been such a busy time for me but in a good way. Working for RJ Lee Group is amazing. There are so many different projects and so many things to learn that I just hope I can absorb as much as possible over the summer. Lately, we have been getting very caught up on all the different projects that have to be done on a regular basis. These projects deal with coal dust, the vermiculite, and other projects we have to get prepped for the SEM or TEM. What I am finding to be most interesting about this whole experience is that I am learning not only how to preform different laboratory task and different skills and techniques but also what I like and do not like doing. Before this experience I had no idea places like RJ Lee Group existed or that I could have the skills and background knowledge to work at them. Its so fun for me to be able to listen to people tell me about the different projects that are going on and then be able to tell them what I have learned at school on the subject. It is also interesting to learn a different way to complete tasks I have already learned how to complete at Juniata. What I am learning is that when we prep samples at Juniata it usually takes way longer or I was taught the hard way to do things and now there is one machine that eliminate steps from a procedure or there are ways to do things that involve less human error. It also fun for me to meet so many new people who are experts in their different fields. Overall, I am having so much fun and I really am liking my experience so far this summer.


Monday, June 4, 2012

This Weekend

I am having so much fun here!

My living situation will be the topic of this post. I must say I have it good living with Justin and Holly. Holly is an amazing cook and over the weekend made a huge dinner for us and Justin's brother and his brother's girlfriend. Stuffed hot banana peppers with hot Italian sausage and spaghetti with a red pepper sauce. DELICIOUS! This wonderful dinner was made after a day at the Vandergrift's Art's Festival. It was a small festival put on by the town where local artists got a chance to show off and sell some of their work. There was good food, okay music, and many beautiful things to look at. I had a lot of fun. After the festival and dinner, fireworks and a intense game of cranium were in store for the night. It was a blast, I never thought this summer was going to be as fun as it is starting to become. My nervousness about the summer and especially my living environment have gone away.
Sunday, after going to church and dropping Holly off at her musical practice, Justin and I join Holly's parents for a amazing lunch/dinner. They made roast beef from a cow they owned, and made potateos, green beans, and salad from their own garden! Holly's dad was pick the stuff for the salad as we got there, I was amazed. It was so fresh that there was no way it couldn't be good. The rest of the day was relaxing watching TV and watching the storms! I've seen 3 rainbows already since I've been here, I'm taking that as good luck!
One of my favorite things to do here right now is watch the peacocks! The one neighbor here owns three peacocks and they mozy into the yard every night after dinner. I am fascinated by them since until now I have only seen peacocks in the zoos.

All and all I am having a great time!