The Upside of Rock and Roll Home

Page 199

Part III Home e

My LAB DUDE Period

  In 1987, my wife Donna, having a degree in chemistry and being only a few credits short of having an MBA, went to work for a couple of different environmental testing laboratories. That is, the labs that do the testing of soil, water, air, etc... in compliance with EPA standards. Previously, she had worked as a "mud engineer" in the oil industry. A mud engineer is the person responsible for the mud; a mix of chemical agents that will go down the hole of an oil rig, around the tool and pipe shaft. It's very involved and I'm not sure I could explain it well anyway.

   In all my life, I was never more impressed with the value of a good education, and what the credentials that go with it can do for a person, until I saw how employers immediately offered her jobs, due to her education. She's quite brilliant, as well as successful, and continues to make her mark in the industry.


In 1988, we decided to start our own environmental testing laboratory, along with some partners. The initial clientele were geological firms that sampled the soil around old underground gas tanks that the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) said needed to be removed. If there had been too much leakage over the years, then there would be remediation methods involved. Once that was done, they'd have the soil resampled and taken to the lab for quantitative (amount) analysis. I'm referring to the "parts per billion" range. The main methodology and instrumentation used was Gas Chromatography. Different detectors were used, depending on the type of analysis being done. We had special extraction methods (ways of removing the analyte from the soil/water sample in order to prepare and measure it correctly) that were used for diesel and other compounds. If it sounds like I'm trying to snow you with "chemist" jargon, it's because I am. I'm trying to be just as impressive as I can! A musician in a chemist's world. Go figure.

   The knowledge that the chemists possess and the expertise of the technical end of quantitative analysis is humbling. Personally, I was taken with all the specialized glassware used in the process. I must admit that, on occasion, I put on a lab coat and was feeling quite "in the groove," as we say.


   Yes, I was way out of my field, that's for sure. My wife had asked me to learn to use a computer, but I was skeptical. She mentioned how good I was at audio engineering and stressed that all I had to do was apply myself and it would be a snap. With her urging, I began learning computers. A friend of hers at a lab in Stockton had a Macintosh computer and she said that she was sure I could learn on this Graphic Interface. Windows for PC wasn't happening yet, as I recall. So, I learned how to operate the computer and typed up all of the documents that Donna was writing, and needed for certification . A bundle, I might add. There were S.O.P.'s (Standard Operating Procedure's) for everything imaginable. It insures that the methods used by the lab are standardized and in accordance with the EPA and DHS (Department of Health Services). The written S.O.P.'s are required by the state for certification, and only "certified labs" are allowed to do the analysis.

Next Page