By Akihary Kitagawam, Cohort 3
My placement at Library of Congress (LoC), United States, has taken an unexpected route due to COVID-19 and subsequent lockdowns worldwide. I was originally assigned to a project about wastewater quality analysis to determine the toxicity of post-treatment water from art conservation. However, as the laboratory closed due to the country-wide restriction, my placement was initially delayed. This meant I spent a few weeks in lockdown at my sister’s house in Virginia as I waited to start the placement. During this time, I carried on working on my PhD as well as looking after my baby nephew!
Luckily, LoC were keen to get me started and decided to continue the placement via remote working. To allow for this, I was relocated to a new team whose research focus is on air quality analysis. The new project involves the analysis of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted by museum construction materials to measure and evaluate the air quality of the exhibition and storage rooms for the museum items. Some VOCs possess a detrimental damaging potential to those fragile and precious museum collections, and hence it is important to understand and control the indoor air quality.
To proceed with my placement, the team at LoC has sent a series of data from their past experiments which I am using to build a prediction model to determine how hazardous the air quality is to the museum collections. If successful, this method will drastically decrease the air analysis time from over a month to just a few hours. Meanwhile, as this is a complex project that involves various factors of consideration, I am working on a literature review to justify the prediction model and update upon its development. With this project, as well as with looking after my nephew, the lockdown has been very fulfilling for me. Although the content of the placement has changed from water quality analysis to air quality analysis, and having to work from various rooms in my sister’s house (even creating a standing desk in the kitchen!), I am enjoying my “virtual” placement whilst gaining knowledge in an otherwise unencountered field of science.