In a physical chemistry lab, a good 90% of your time is devoted to fixing things. About 30% of the time, something is broken outright, i.e. not functioning properly. The other 60% of the time nothing is broken per se, however you find yourself having to tweak your apparatus in order to get “good results”–strong voltages, aligned optics, signals from compounds you want, etc. The remaining 10% of the time is divided between setting things up (99%) and actually observing good results (1%). The diagram says it all; study it well, future p-chemists.
It is the strange and disturbing truth that while fixing an instrument, you will inevitably cause at least one additional problem in the instrument. In addition, the number of additional problems that surface after discovery of the initial problem is proportional to the age of the instrument.
That’s why, I figure, it has taken us a week now to fix a twenty-five-year-old Bomem FTIR. Each time we fix a problem, a new one arises. We are also at the mercy of a phantom light fixture, which turns on and off at random regardless of the voltage it sees.
I must admit that I like fixing things, though. Each solution brings with it a certain sense of accomplishment, even if it also brings more trouble. Working in a lab where observing good results takes up less than 1% of my time, I have to cherish the little victories.