And now for something completely different.
I made a sharp change of direction when I took a graduate research position at Montana State University in their EE department with Prof. Kevin Repasky. Some of the current research by those associated with Dr. Repasky and Dr. Carlsten may be found at the group website.
With some guidance, I built a system to measure concentrations of carbon dioxide in the air. The system was built with the idea that it could be deployed to monitoring carbon dioxide concentrations above an oil field where carbon dioxide may be injected for long term storage. This is known as carbon capture and sequestration (CCS).
The instrument we built, known as officially as CODDA (CO2 Detection by Differential Absorption) and unofficially as the Differential Absorption Measurement Instrument (aka "the DAM instrument") , is based on a tunable laser diode operating at a center wavelength of 2004 nm. We have deployed this instrument in the summer of 2007 & 2008, at the field site managed by ZERT. In the hay field, the instrument withstood various weather conditions from inch sized hail, driving rain, 60MPH wind gusts, and 100+ degree Fahrenheit temperatures. It also withstood conditions that my allergies did not want to handle.
The natural CO2 concentration, near ground surface (10 cm), varied from around 600 ppm just prior to sunrise on a calm morning to 340 ppm on a sunny, windy afternoon. So, not only did the instrument actually survive but it was able to successfully distinguish the large, natural, diurnal variations from an artificial source.