Me and the IRMS: A Magnetic Tale

I have spent the last 2 weeks here in Kuopio dancing attendance upon an analytical machine by the name of a GC-IRMS.  This stands for Gas Chromatograph Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometer.  I’m just gonna call it the IRMS from here on out.  The IRMS is the machine that analyzes the isotopic signature of various compounds, and it does this thanks to a really big, really fancy magnet.

IRMS from the top Continue reading

Run, Rudolph, Run!

Ah, March.  Pretty much everyone I know here has told me that March is the best month of Finland’s winter.  It’s relatively warm, actually sunny, and the days are getting longer and longer, so you can enjoy it all.  This means excellent skiing conditions, and I have had the great pleasure to watch some professionals at play.

Goooooo, Visa! Continue reading

The making of an oxygen-free zone!

I don’t know how many of you already know this, but my dissertation research centers on two microbial processes: methanogenesis, and the anaerobic oxidation of methane (lovingly abbreviated as ‘AOM‘).  These processes are two sides of the same biogeochemical coin, and that coin is methane (you may also know or have seen this written as CH4).  Methane is one of the current world’s ‘trace gases’, or a gas which comprises less than 1% of the total atmosphere.  Despite its relatively minor volumetric contribution, methane is a more potent ‘heat-trapping’ greenhouse gas than the more abundant gases CO2 and water vapor.  Let’s therefore assume that it’s a worthy and fascinating research topic, and move on.  This is an adorable crocheted molecule of methane that I got as a present a few years ago, that I uninspiringly named Methane:

Methane - the crocheted molecule Continue reading


Tervetuloa Kuopioon!  I live in Kuopio now.  I actually moved here about 6 weeks ago, but with all my travelling, I feel like it’s taken me this long to actually get to know this city well enough to write a post about it.  Some facts about Kuopio (pronounced kwah-pee-oh): it’s situated in Finland’s ‘lake district’, which means the central and eastern part of the country, which looks a whole lot like upper Minnesota (about half the land surface area being water).  Kuopio has a population of around 105,000, which apparently makes it the 9th largest city in Finland!

Kuopio train station sign

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Veitsi Puukko

One of my absolute favorite things about Finland is that it’s totally normal that I walk around everywhere with a pretty substantial knife hanging off my person.  When I glance at this portable evidence of my badass-ness, I think about my childhood crush on ‘Crocodile Dundee’, and wonder if more of Texas rubbed off on me than I was ever aware of.  Anyway, sometimes when I’m feeling low about my crappy Finnish language and/or science skills, I focus on the fact that I live in place where it’s cool to take a visible deadly weapon everywhere with you.  In Finnish, the kind of knife that you carry around strapped to yourself is called a ‘puukko’ (pook-koh).  ‘Veitsi’ is another word for ‘knife’, but that would be a kitchen or butter knife, so if you’re wanting to be super clear about what you’re carrying about, you call your personal blade a ‘veitsi puukko’.

my backpack and blade! Continue reading