A Geochemistry Ditty

Mar 11, 2013 3 Comments by 3867 views


As I sit here watching my columns drip,

I thought I’d put together a little writ.

It’s about something that’s not always so plain to see;

the hidden world of isotope geochemistry.



It starts with a rock, water or gas

that contains an element of interest with a particular mass.

You crush, dissolve, evaporate or ash

until it resembles nothing more than a residual splash.


Next, with hands as steady as they can be,

weigh out some spike so that you can perform ID.

(Of course if you are feeling particularly pious,

using a DS will enable you to correct for subsequent mass bias.)


A drop more acid then on we go,

to run the columns that flow slow slow slow!

With resin and frits that just won’t sit right,

they’ll keep you stuck in the lab until late at night.


But finally it’s done and the samples are now ready

to be aspirated and analysed by mass spectrometry.

You tweak and you tune and you wait all day long,

but the blasted machine won’t behave unless you play its favorite song*.


Eventually the standards come down to a value that’s alright,

at just about the time you planned to call it a night.

However the lure of the data means you set the run going,

while keeping everything crossed that the nebulizer stays flowing.


The next day… oh joy, what fun, can you see?

A brand new delta value that’s been generated just by me!

Now back to the lab to clean all that plastic;

a few hundred more runs like this doesn’t sound too drastic…


To end, while I think that it’s absolutely fab,

sitting on my own running columns in the lab.

I do so wish there was someone who wanted a PhD,

that would come and run all these wretched samples for me!


*Not proven, but probably worth a try.

Column Chemistry


About the author

Christopher Pearce is a marine geochemist at Southampton University and has only recently turned to the world of blogging to find out what other people do when not sitting inside a lab. Chris gained his undergrad degree from Oxford University and PhD from The Open University, before embarking on an academic career with postdoctoral positions at the Observatoire Midi Pyrenees (Toulouse) and back at The Open University. In his current fellowship Chris uses various isotopic systems to investigate changes in the composition of seawater through Earths history. Like all geologists, Chris enjoys getting out and about as much as possible and goes scuba-diving, snowboarding, and hiking all over the world. Chris lives with his fiancée, Melanie, who’s a volcanologist and is therefore far cooler than he is.

3 Responses to “A Geochemistry Ditty”

  1. Andy Bray says:


  2. Morgan says:

    We’ve all been there…

  3. The law of straightness says:

    […] my previous post, ‘A geochemistry ditty’, I penned what is possibly the geekiest poem you will ever come across. I was therefore […]

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