SUERC-Cosmo offers a training programme for independently funded PhD students and researchers.
NEIF-Cosmo funded students are particularly encouraged to attend the training.
The training program provides visitors the opportunity to learn part or all of the steps from sample processing to producing cosmogenic nuclide ages or erosion rates, and to work directly on progressing their samples from rock to AMS target. We understand that it is not feasible for some PhD students to commit to the training programme. In this case the samples submitted will enter into the normal sample processing queue.
The complete training program consists of two visits to the SUERC-Cosmo laboratories, one at the beginning of the process and the other 1 or 2 months after the first visit. The lengths of these visits are typically one to two weeks for every batch of ~10 samples, although this might vary depending on the sample type (e.g. difficult or unusual mineral separation) and the number of samples (processing several batches allows overlapping).
When applying for NEIF-Cosmo funding please discuss with the SUERC-Cosmo staff (1) if project involves a student, (2) the availability of NEIF-Cosmo laboratories, (3) the availability of the SUERC student flat (if required; https://www.gla.ac.uk/research/az/suerc/informationforvisitors/studentflatinfo/) before ticking the training box in the online application form.
The full process "from rock/sediment to AMS data reduction" typically takes between 3 – 12 months from sample submission:
Sample submission: You can either send the samples by post or carry them with you for the first visit. Please make sure that you send a copy of the sample submission sheet before starting the process.
Mineral separation: Sample selection, crushing, sieving, froth flotation, magnetic separation, etc. This typically takes around one week per 10 samples. This part of the process is critical to understanding what can be expected from the samples and how to select and/or combine them if necessary. The sample selection process significantly benefits from student input, and the student will become fully aware of how sample selection in the field influences success or failure of samples during the chemical processing.
Mineral cleaning: Etching and ICP assay to remove everything excepting the centre of the target minerals' grains. This is a long process involving long periods (days) when the samples are in an ultrasonic bath. The whole process takes between 3 - 8 weeks (depending on the sample composition, ICP availability, repeat etching), but it is not worth for the student to be at SUERC during the mineral cleaning part of the process.
Wet chemistry: Sample dissolution, spike addition, element separation and target pressing. This is the most interesting part from a geochemistry training point of view, where we separate the Be, Al or Cl from the rest of the sample and prepare the AMS targets. This typically takes two weeks for each batch of samples (8 samples for Cl-36, or 14 samples for Be-10 and/or Al-26). During this part of the process, the student will also learn how to interpret the AMS data and calculate isotope concentrations and ages or erosion rates.
AMS measurements: The AMS runs are scheduled when the SUERC AMS laboratory have enough targets of a single element. In every AMS run c. 50 Cl targets, or c. 100 Be or Al targets are measured in a single wheel. The measurement of a full wheel usually takes between 3 -7 days. As the SUERC AMS laboratory is running AMS samples almost every week, the NEIF-Cosmo students usually visit the AMS laboratory while they are being trained on mineral separation or wet chemistry. Therefore, they can see the whole process without the need for an additional visit.
Data reduction: the calculation of isotope concentrations and exposure ages or erosion rates are discussed during the second visit. Questions about the project data are typically solved by email or phone and don't require the student to visit the CIAF. However, more complicate inverse modelling programming is sometimes required to interpret the data (e.g. depth-profiles, heterogeneous basin erosion rates, etc.). If this is required, the students can also visit the SUERC-Cosmo to learn how to perform the data analysis (typically using Octave or Matlab).
Please, do not hesitate to contact the SUERC-Cosmo staff if you have any question about any aspects of the above.