Hudson Hall is usually chilly when I walk in. I take the steps all the way to the back, the path once a maze but now familiar, up the stairs, and into the Annex. I check in with my graduate mentor, Chris, and ask for updates and any tasks to accomplish for the day. I check LS-DYNA and Pre-Post, hoping for the words that signal that the SIMon model I altered has successfully completed: Normal Termination. I check my lab book and Excel spreadsheet for what I’ve already tested and look through the resulting animation, clicking through tabs for any sign of possible changes I can make. Analyze the strain on the finished model, check for global rotational velocity, alter kinematic curves, and re-run the program.
Recently, pace has picked up. I head down to the basement to work on impact testing for the pig brain, and ask questions about the process, trying not to feel small in a world of complex materials and knowledgeable mentors. On test day, I go in early to prep the drop track, double checking the electromagnet and the camera. We (my grad student, PI, and a couple other grad students) head over to the medical center in order to pick up pigs they have finished working with. After a dissection and removal of the skull, we attempt to make a clear skull using hardener and plaster while doing drop tests in the basement on the brain with no skull. Save the videos and call it a day!
There is a friendly aura that surrounds everybody working in lab: an impalpable feeling that introduces peace on stressful days. I am always appreciative of the smiles and genuine care the mentors in lab have toward all the students, even while pushing us toward challenges and hard work. So this is lab: tinkering and Error Terminations on a quiet day, advances in the model, lab meetings, impact testing, and Normal Terminations on a good day.