Skip to content

Lessons from the lab

July 28, 2021
Andrew Sleugh
Class of 2023

Hey all, I’m Andrew Sleugh and I have been spending my summer in Wendy Gu’s lab trying to understand how exactly the presence of hydrogen gas within metals leads to degradation of the materials. Essentially, my work involves fracturing samples of iron, nickel, and steel at different hydrogen concentrations and looking for differences in how cracks propagate and overall decreases in mechanical properties.

This is my first time ever in a research lab, and I was incredibly nervous that I would make a fool of myself or be in over my head before the program started, you know, just classic imposter syndrome things. Initially I was terrified of making mistakes, which made me wary of trying new techniques or asking questions about topics I didn’t know much about. You’re probably thinking, “Andrew, that doesn’t sound like the best mentality to have in a research lab,” and you would be right!

Thankfully, it didn’t last long because when the mistakes inevitably came, my grad student mentor Andrew Lee was always patient and just emphasized noting the conditions that led to the error. He also made sure to highlight the fact that sometimes projects are dead ends, hypotheses are wrong, and experiments fail, and that it is just a natural and unavoidable part of the research process. The goal is still to try and minimize mistakes, but the last few weeks have definitely taught me to cut myself some slack when they do happen and lose the inhibiting mindset I came in with. As a result, I’ve grown a lot more confident in skills and techniques that were completely foreign just a few weeks ago, and I’ve been having a lot more fun now that I’m putting less pressure on myself! I’m incredibly grateful to both the SUPER program and everyone in the Gu lab for being so welcoming and accepting despite my inexperience, and hope to pass on the lessons I’ve learned to others!

Strain field created through Digital Image Correlation analysis of a nickel sample being pulled apart in our tensile tester