Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The two-sided coin

I heard the lab door open and close, then three powerful footsteps headed my direction. Must be him. When I turned around, he was already in my office doorway. Man, he walks fast.

"Hi. I have ten minutes. Show me your thing."  He was polite but matter-of-fact.

I picked it up off the desk - a tube of white PVC with a cap on one end and three plastic tubes inside.

"See, I want it to sit like this," I explained, turning the PVC tube upright, "and I have to screw the lids on and off." I unscrewed the bottom cap and removed the three plastic tubes. "But it's leaking."

He held out his hands, and I handed him the sampler. He turned it over, looked inside, put the tubes inside, screwed the cap on. Unscrewed the cap, took the tubes back out, looked inside.

"I know how to fix this," he declared. "I have another meeting to go to right now, but I'll collect you afterward and take you up to my office. It's an easy solution."

I was stunned. That simple, really? "Can you tell me what the solution is?" I tentatively asked.

He smiled gleefully. "Teflon tape!"

Friends, I work in a very special place. WHOI is one of few research institutions that employs both scientists and engineers and puts them in close proximity to one another. I've certainly reaped the benefits of that proximity - the above example is the third time in as many months that my engineer friend has offered me a usable, affordable solution to a design problem I was having in ten minutes or less. He's very helpful. Sure, I could have messed around and maybe figured it out myself, but he saved me probably three days and a trip to the hardware store.

Engineering and science are two sides of the same coin, so it makes perfect sense to have them together. I'm grateful to work at an institution that has both.

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