Tag Archives: measurement

Last week I learned to use a new machine – a goniometer. One of the things a goniometer does is measure the contact angle of droplets on surfaces. You can dispense some liquid out of the dropper onto a flat surface, the vision system captures data, and the software analyzes what angle is formed between the droplet and the surface. Why is this useful? For my research, I needed to learn more about the surface properties of some materials I was interested in. If you know the contact angles of various known liquids on an unknown material, you can calculate things like the surface energy of the material. Then you can make some progress toward figuring out the work of adhesion on that surface, or the fracture energy between two surfaces. So I thought this would be easy. Put drop on surface, measure contact angle. But the key here is…

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Earlier this week, the discussion around the lunch table at work was on how you define success – and what are the units of measure? Setting aside the inherent nerdiness of this conversation (I work in a nerdy lab in arguably one of the nerdiest schools in the US, so I have come to embrace the constant wash of technical discussions), it was an interesting topic. As a PhD student engineer, there might be several units of success. For someone heading into academia, units of success might include: – number of papers published – quality of publication record (impact factor, etc.) – grants and proposals written – undergraduate students mentored – conferences attended But if you are not headed into academia (I’m not), those things don’t really matter as much. Of course I want to publish papers, but I don’t have to worry how my record is going to stack…

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In the olden days of apprenticeships, your status in the world was built on your set of tools. While you were an apprentice, you started saving your money and acquiring your collection of tools, and when you had a full set and were ready to start your own practice, you launched on the foundation of the tools you brought with you. The set of tools you needed was directly related to your field – cobblers needed shoemaking tools, blacksmiths needed forging tools. If you allow the analogy to stretch, even the young women of the time built a collection of tools – they filled hope chests with linens and tablecloths as a dowry for when they got married. And I think to some extent, this tradition of building a set of tools persists today. Machinists and auto shop guys still take great pride in their toolboxes, carpenters take loving care…

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