Spring Thoughts

A Friday post?! No way!

Potassium and Tarantula pondering life one evening.

Hellloooooo everyone! I hope you are doing well! Sorry these posts started to get infrequent again – I wasn’t kidding when I said that adding teaching my class into the mix was going to make my life insane! But it’s almost spring break now and I am finally coming up for air.

Here are some things that are interesting me right now:

  • Mimivirus. This virus infects amoebas and can also cause pneumonia in humans. This virus is HUGE. You can see it under a light microscope (note: you can see most bacteria but NOT viruses this way). The mimivirus also has a huge genome. Most viruses have a few genes but the mimivirus has more genes than a lot of bacteria! Just a note, the HIV virus (causes AIDS) has ~10 genes while the mimivirus has ~1000 genes. What is it doing with all of them?! Who knows… but it has them!
    In addition, the mimivirus has its own “immune system” in that it has a system set up where it can recognize DNA from other viruses that might try to infect it (yeah… viruses can infect other viruses AHHHH! What is this ridiculous world that we live in?!). Bacteria also have systems like this to protect them against viral infections. This is all super interesting because the mimivirus and its family members (including an even BIGGER virus called the mamavirus) are challenging the idea that we scientists had of viruses not being “alive.” I can go more into that if you want – it’s kind of an interesting philosophical question except also with science.
  • Science rhetoric – that’s right. Let’s talk about how to talk about science. That’s like a million levels of nerdy in one sentence but still. It’s so interesting to me. I have been loving the class that I am co-teaching because it is opening my eyes to so many cool ways of talking about science! Plus I get to hang out with college students and have them debate things like: who is responsible for sharing science with the general public (all scientists? some scientists? journalists?, etc)?
  • Science Communication – Speaking of talking about science, I’ve been accepted to the Science Communication program at UC Santa Cruz! It just keeps getting better and better! It’s big decision time! Life is getting exciting and terrifying.
  • So Metal – This Tuesday my friend L and I drove down to Colorado Springs to see Nightwish and Delain in concert. There was much head-banging and jumping. Wednesday was a hard day…
  • Soccer – I finally got to play soccer last week. I’ve been having some major IT band and bursitis issues that were initially flared up by doing Insanity workouts last summer but I think they also initiated drama from an old soccer injury. But I got the OK from my PT to start soccer again and spring season started on Sunday. Our team lost 5-2 but I was so overjoyed about being able to play again that I barely noticed. Also I assisted on the second goal so WOOT.
  • Inclusive Excellence- It’s a big deal right now on CU’s campus as we try to shift the campus climate to be more inclusive and welcoming. I’ve been playing my part by drafting a document for the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee I serve on and by moderating a meeting between the Chancellor of the University (!!!) and the group I co-founded called CU Café.

Craziness… I swear I am still working in the lab on top of all of that!

Okay, let’s talk about some future posts. Do you have any preference? I could write about my life in general, life as a postdoc, previous trips (like how we went to Germany last October and I haven’t talked about it at all?!), race, cool science topics, science communication, etc. How’s your spring shaping up? We’re getting our traditional “pre spring break” snow storm right now… perfect because my PT has also cleared me to go snowboarding!


Potassium and Tarantula spend a lot of weekends like this….

Hello loyal followers! Potassium is taking a post break this week because she is CRAZY busy hosting a seminar speaker at CU but she will be back next week! :D Stay tuned for more science/photography/silly goodness. And probably more cats. Always with the cats… Maybe a shark too.


PS – How was your Thanksgiving?!

Chickens and other words…

So there has been a lot of talk about most commonly used words recently. I am mostly referring to That Nolen Chick’s blog where she held a contest for people to guess how often words like “very,” “totally,” and “marvelous” appeared in her manuscript. Got me thinking about the words I use the most. I am sure the winners are the word “like” (trying to work on reducing the frequency of that one) and then a bunch of random noises that I don’t know how to type but sound kind of like this: “prggggggggg” (also spelled “grbbbbbbbb”) and “qwraaaahhhhh.” You understand? Yeah… I didn’t think so… Sorry about that.
But then I thought some more and realized that I say the word “chicken” more than I believe is necessary for someone who lives in a town where there aren’t very many chickens around (ask Cobalt if you don’t believe me). Curious…
Do you guys have a random favorite word?

About the pic – it’s from a short story by Clio Chiang called “This Time” in a collection of graphic short stories called “Flight Volume 2.” Apparently someone else says “chicken” a lot too…

In other news: SNOW DAY. First snow day where I am actually in Boulder AND I don’t have experiments running that require me to go into lab anyway. Look forward to some fun snowy pictures next week…

On Multitasking

When I was in high school, I worked at a vet clinic. It is more or less one of the reasons why I have awesome skills at things that are not super important to life (such as walking dogs and making surgery packs* – I haven’t made surgery packs in a long time but I’m sure if you gave me the necessary tools, I would still be awesome at it. For that matter, I haven’t walked a dog in a long time either but I’m sure if you gave me a dog and a leash, we would be walking pretty in no time…) and also why I have some odd quirks (such as I can’t handle the Smurfs theme song… a story for a different day…). Anyway, working at the vet was pretty much the perfect job for my high school self because I love animals and also because at the time, I wanted to go to vet school (why I am now in grad school is also a story for another day…). So as I was working at being awesome at making surgery packs, walking dogs, giving cats baths, etc, my boss would come up with tips for me for when I went to vet school. One of the best tips was that a vet needs to multitask so I should practice multitasking.

I was thinking about that the other day in lab when I was doing two experiments at the same time. They both had 1-4 hour breaks and so I would work on the other one during the first one’s breaks and vice versa. It had the potential to end terribly (both breaks are over at the same time so how do you choose which to work on first?!) but I think it worked out okay. What’s funny is that on top of it all, I was chatting with some of my friends on Gmail’s chat feature and looking up wedding stuff during the times when both experiments had breaks. I believe that is the ultimate multitasking experience right there. The only thing that could have topped it would have been also being on the phone I guess. My old boss would be proud of my multitasking skills.

I wonder though if it’s good to have your brain spread out to so many different activities at once. It might of course lead to mistakes (doing the next step for the wrong experiment, looking up wedding stuff in the chat window, etc) but it might also lead to extreme exhaustion and a need to constantly be doing too many things at once (I might start to feel lazy doing only one experiment at a time). It’s something to think about I think in our overworked society…

Anyway, your assignment: tell me about the craziest multitasking you have ever done and how it worked out for you. Complete failure, total success, or somewhere in between? Are you multitasking while reading this post?

About the picture: Another “cool” thing from working at a vet is that now I own a lot of scrub tops and pants. Pictured here is a younger Potassium (16 to be exact) and her best friend T (and T’s awesome dog) dressed up for Halloween in scrubs…

* for you non vet people out there, a surgery pack is the tools that you need for a specific surgery all folded into a neat little package and sterilized. I was very good at the organizing of all the tools to make it into the smallest package ever. I think it has to do with the perfectionist in me.

Long Way Down

“I don’t think I’ll make it on my own…” (it’s Goo Goo Dolls!)
This weekend, Cobalt and I went on a walk on one of Boulder’s many trails because it was amazingly warm outside and I wanted to shoot some landscape pictures. I can guess what you are thinking here: “this is a picture of feet… not landscape…?!?!” Yes. You are right. Those are my feet. We were walking along and then I found this weird area with concrete and rusted steps and gears and wheels. Right in the middle of all that nature. I think it is a system that helps control for overflowing creek water but for me it was a goldmine. So fun. Anyway, I really liked this ledge with the steps leading down and since I had my 50 mm lens on my camera (yeah… not good for landscapes either… Don’t worry… I got some cool shots with the zoom lens too so I didn’t totally fail with my goal), I decided to try more of a dramatic picture. I like it. A lot.

Peace Tuesday

Yep…. More fun with the new lens. This is pretty much the first picture I took with it. lol. Happiness… Hopefully I can get out later this week and actually get some cool portraits. You know… More playing!
Cobalt and I get to see Bill Nye speak tonight! SO excited. I loved his show as a kid. :)