Blast from the past: specimens and notebooks

Another thing I came across on the weekend while sorting through storage boxes was all my old thesis stuff. Two boxes, filled with notebooks, log books, specimens, and negatives.

specimens and photos
About half the thesis detritus: steel specimens, notebooks and (some) negatives…


So many negatives. Remember them? Much of my thesis involved looking at tiny bits of steel under electron microscopes and I have the photos to prove it.

The weird thing was I couldn’t throw any of it away. I went through those boxes fully intending to consign every last item to the scrap heap… but I couldn’t.

I started flicking through the ‘thinking’ notebooks (11 of them) and the literature review notebooks (6 I think) and the experimental log books… and was reminded of hours and hours and hours and HOURS of work (and sweat and tears).

Somehow I had consigned the 5-1/2 years of my thesis into an amorphous blob of ‘research’ (and pain) and hadn’t given much thought to what exactly I had been doing all that time. It wasn’t until the detritus spilled out over my parents’ kitchen table that the memory of all the days spent in the metallography laboratory, the numerous dilatometry sessions, the hours spent in the dark with electron microscopes… came flooding back.

It looked like such a lot of work. And it was not a little overwhelming to think I actually did all that, understood all that. (Because it’s, er, a bit of a struggle now!)

It’s ridiculous to keep it, of course. It’s long past the seven years I had to keep it. I’m never going to need any of it. I certainly don’t have the storage space. But for some reason it’s all still sitting in a pile in my living room.

One interesting thing that struck me about my old ‘thinking’ notebooks is how typical they are of the way I work now. All my thoughts, planning, results, hypotheses, to-do lists etc bundled together in dated order… One numbered notebook after the other. There’s liberal use of highlighters too. I started flicking through some of them and they felt immediately familiar. They could have been any one of my current WIP notebooks — although the subject matter’s a bit different!

Now I just have to decide what to do with it all… Any suggestions?


11 thoughts on “Blast from the past: specimens and notebooks

  1. Bits of steel, you say? Maybe you could build a robot with them, and assuming I actually settle on software engineering for my future career, I could program it to fight crime–and maybe clean stuff during those lulls when there’s no crime to fight πŸ™‚


    1. So I expected too… But when it came to it, I looked at all that WORK and I couldn’t! At least, not yet… I suspect I’ll have to eventually. I did not expect the wave of nostalgia that swept through me!


  2. I have no suggestions for you because I am a packrat from way back and would more than likely keep all of it. I mean, it represents an impressive body of work that you spent a chunk of your life on.

    I realize I am absolutely zero help πŸ˜‰


  3. I am also a HUGE packrat. I keep everything. I still have my teaching materials from when I taught photography classes (that’s like, 9 years ago!). I don’t think I will again, and they’re taking up space but…I can’t bring myself to toss them, either.

    What was your thesis on exactly? It sounds really cool.


    1. Erm, the title was something like ‘characterisation of medium carbon steels subjected to complex thermal cycles’… Or something! Basically I was investigating whether a particular type of steel could be produced with a good enough combination of strength and toughness… And how. It was a very long time ago.


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