Science is like one big slow human conversation, and I'm excited to say something."
Lorien here, the new co-op student at PolyGone Technologies.
As a Systems Design Engineering student at the University of Waterloo, I'm interested in how our microplastic capture setup can be analysed and improved as an entire system. This means I think about its ergonomics, stability, accuracy, and how well it matches the best possible design that we could implement. I started off the term with a bit of research about existing methodologies that have been used in previous academic papers to detect and count microplastics. This was really my first time reading scientific articles in such depth and with the primary objective of critically understanding and analyzing a methodology, and I found it quite eye-opening. I've gained a newfound respect for the scientific process and for the importance of detailed method descriptions. Science is like one big slow human conversation, and I'm excited to say something.
More recently, I've been helping out by identifying a few new technologies that we can use. One of our major goals is to improve our photography and image analysis so that the particle-counting process is automated and free of human error. This means I've been deep-diving into the physics of light and fluorescence microscopy, as well as testing out a few new open source image processing programs that can help us detect the fibres after they've been filtered.
We ordered a new dissecting microscope recently, and this opens up a whole new avenue for image analysis. I’ve been given the chance to practice my 3D modeling skills for some new parts we’ve 3D printed as well as my circuits skills for a potentially useful Arduino-based setup with the microscope. Who knew DC motors drew so much current?
We've also been making some changes to the filtering workflow in the lab. The mission to rid our lab of plastic contamination continues, with new 100% cotton lab coats and a filtering setup made of glass and wood. I've gotten the chance to help Nicole construct a box to house the circuit that contains our water pump - this frees up a bit of space and makes our lab environment that much safer.
If there are any co-op students out there (or any excited individuals) who are interested in learning about PolyGone, feel free to contact us with any questions! Microplastic capture and identification is such a complex problem that you can be sure to connect it with any area of expertise, whether that means image analysis, machine learning, ergonomics, chemistry, fluorescence microscopy, or a whole host of other fields.
One great opportunity to come speak to us one-on-one is at World Water Day! Come celebrate water for all with the University of Waterloo’s Water Institute – it will be in the Science Teaching Complex (STC) on Friday, March 22. Look for PolyGone’s booth with the exhibitors. We hope to see you there or at EnviroCon at Western University the same day! Lauren and Nicole take the stage at 2pm, so listen up!
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