• Question: How long does it take to plan an experiment?

    Asked by BenMartial258 to Sophie, Daniel, Ana, Alejandra, Todd on 7 Mar 2017. This question was also asked by Alex.
    • Photo: Ana Gallego

      Ana Gallego answered on 7 Mar 2017:

      Planning can take from a few hours to days.

      The key is to define exactly what you want to achieve and think very well about how to do it. Whether you want to test something following a Standard or you want to make up your own design to replicate human movement or a specific scenario.

      Sometimes you realise, when you are doing this planning, that you have to break down the experiment into smaller chunks that will be actually more valuable and will give you more information.

      You also need to think about what tools or equipment you will need, and whether is it available or where can you get it from.

      The actual experiment sometimes takes less time than the preparation.

      Make sure you write everything down and document everything. It will be very useful for when you get down to analysis your results and draw the conclusions.

      I hope this helps!

    • Photo: Daniel Morse

      Daniel Morse answered on 7 Mar 2017:

      As Ana said, it really depends on what it is.

      For example, I have just started some experiments (looking at antimicrobial effects of drugs) which has taken weeks to get in place – making sure I have enough of everything, the drug, growth medium for the bacteria, availability of tools for analysis, pipette tips and other single use things, whereas I did some work last week that I planned on the morning of actually doing it.

      I’ve also just done a really big experiment that cost about £10,000, which took me about a month to plan and get in order…so it varies quite a lot! The actual experiment however, took 2 days to do…and now I have to analyse all the results!

      The most important bit it making sure everything in place, so even if it takes a week to plan and organise, if you do it properly, you (hopefully) wont have to do it again because you did it wrong!

    • Photo: Sophie Cox

      Sophie Cox answered on 7 Mar 2017:

      Hi BenMartial258,

      That’s a really interesting question. Like the other Engineers have already said the answer really varies depending on what we’re trying to do.

      Planning of experiments is super important, especially when you’re working with some expensive materials and equipment. Of course you also want to try and do things well and get the results you need first time. Sometimes things don’t always work first time and you have to repeat things. For example, there was one experiment during my PhD that took me 6 times to get right!

      I think the longest I’ve taken planning a single experiment is about 1 day.

    • Photo: Alejandra Aranceta

      Alejandra Aranceta answered on 8 Mar 2017:

      Hi BenMartial258,

      I think the planning varies depending on the amount of details you want to observe. Usually, the first time you do an experiment is the one that takes longer, the others become easier with practice.

    • Photo: Todd Burton

      Todd Burton answered on 10 Mar 2017:

      As everyone else said planning can take from hours to weeks depending on the experiment and what equipment you need to use. There are so many things to consider from sample size to the control groups needed. It is the preparation for an experiment that takes the most time.