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!
I’ve been doing a lot of networking coffees/informational interviews with people around the University/across the US. It’s been pretty epic fitting all these events in with actually working in the lab; it means I am running around like a crazy person even more than normal. Plus I start teaching my section of the class I am co-teaching next week (how is it March already?!?!). I might explode!
Anyway, I want to talk about these coffees/interviews because I’ve noticed a striking pattern. I think that within the first minute, I can tell whether a particular interview will be useful. Then I either leave feeling inspired and excited about my potential future and career or I leave feeling miserable and like I totally missed the boat somewhere along the way. I’ve been going over my various interviews recently trying to figure out what’s happening in each scenario so that I can share them with you! Let’s break it down:
make me laugh.
make me feel comfortable “in my skin.”
involve my coffee-mate listening to me and acknowledging that what I want to do is important.
include a list of potential contacts for follow up interviews, potential fellowships to apply for, potential new directions to go in, etc.
include a list of ideas for making me more a “competitive” applicant.
make me feel like I should have already figured out my life.
make me feel like I fail at communication and basic human interactions.
involve my coffee-mate not really listening to what I am trying to say and pushing their own agenda on me.
involve my coffee-mate telling me that everything that I want to do is competitive and assuming that I am not a hard worker and do not have the skills to succeed in the field of interest.
include a list of potential contacts for follow up interviews, potential fellowships to apply for, potential new directions to go in.
include a list of ideas for making me more a “competitive” applicant.
I think that the bad interviews are bad because I have a different personality from the person I am chatting with, not because I am not interested in learning more about his or her job. I guess I never thought about how completely jarring it would be to try to get career advice from someone who thinks differently than me. I am tempted to chalk them up as good practice but not too important but I feel a bit uneasy completely writing them off. I’m sure there’s good information in there (see the bottom two bullets of both categories) but I leave them feeling so down about myself that it’s hard to find it. Ideas for how to make the most of these situations? Is there a way I can take charge of these situations and refocus them in a way that’s actually useful for me? Should I even try? Anyone want to share their own job-hunting stories?
I’ll leave you with this picture of tasty tacos from last weekend when Cobalt and I went to Torchy’s tacos for the first time with our friends J and K. Delish.
Now I want tacos…. I should start setting up networking taco interviews………
Yay science posts are back! Today we are (finally) going to start that daunting question about how to read about science by talking a little about experimental design and what to look for when trying to read about a science topic in the news. There’s a lot going on here so take your time and leave me a comment if something didn’t make sense or you want to know more about something.
Let’s start at the beginning. All science starts with a question, such as “Why are cats afraid of cucumbers?” Then, in order to start answering the question, the scientists have to come up with a hypothesis – their educated guess for an answer. For example, “Cats are afraid of cucumbers because they are green.”
Now comes the tricky part. Scientists have to design an experiment that directly tests their hypothesis. This part is tricky because there are always a ton of potential answers and scientists need to figure out how control their experiment so that solely it tests their hypothesis and doesn’t bring any other factors into the mix. For example, if we wanted to test whether cats hate green, we’d want to control our experiment so we wouldn’t accidentally be testing the cats’ response to different shapes or smells.
Designing a good experiment is really complicated. It’s made even worse by the fact that the very systems that some scientists study are filled with differences. For example, all humans share more than 99% of the same DNA but think about how unique we all are (even identical twins who have exactly the same DNA). The term we use for this phenomenon is called “heterogeneous” and scientists are finding to this day that organisms with the exact same DNA can act completely differently from each other. So with all of this crazy heterogeneity in mind, another way scientists can be cautious about designing experiments that solely test their hypothesis is to replicate the experiment a lot or test multiple subjects (cats, people, bacteria, etc).
Replicating an experiment is really important. For example, if I put a cucumber behind my cat and she doesn’t freak out, can I really conclude that all cats are not afraid of cucumbers? Let’s add some replicates in there! I could put a cucumber behind my cat 10 days in a row and then determine if she continues to stay nonplussed by the cucumber. I could also try putting a cucumber behind my cat at different times of the day to determine if it depends on the time of day. Or I could put cucumbers behind a variety of cats to determine if my cat is just weird and likes cucumbers. All of these ideas would add replicates to my experiment and help me identify if my results are just a weird fluke associated with some other factor that I don’t care about or if they are directly related to my hypothesis.
Good science experiments have established controls and include large numbers of replicates to eliminate “weird flukes.” All of these factors should be listed in the original scientific paper describing the study but these papers are often incredibly dense and hard to follow (even for fellow scientists). However, a good science report or article written for the general public should also list these qualifications. So to test the quality of a good source, I like to see what an article says about controls and replicates.
Here is a fake article that I just made up:
Scientists determine that too much sleep causes cancer.
Scientists at Questionable Science University have completed a study about sleep and cancer. They interviewed two different people who have lung cancer and found that they sleep 7 hours every night. As these data clearly show a link between too much sleep and cancer, people should sleep no more than 6 hours a night to prevent cancer.
Yikes! Does this mean we should stop trying to get a solid 7-8 hours a night?
Well, it looks like these scientists talked to two people who already have cancer. I want to know more information about the people who were interviewed for this study. Did the scientists take care to control for other variables like age, race, or gender? What else do these people have in common (i.e. do they smoke? Do they exercise? What type of food do they eat? Are they the same age?). All of these questions could have affected their results in a way that disconnects sleep from cancer. Furthermore, they didn’t talk to anyone who doesn’t have cancer (this is called a negative control and is INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT). Plus they only asked two people! That’s like me saying cats aren’t afraid of cucumbers because my cat isn’t! It doesn’t look like they have any controls or replicate the experiment so maybe this isn’t a great source after all. Yay! Time to get more sleep! -_-
I like to think of science as “a quest for the truth.” Good experimental design is hard but it’s worth it because it helps scientists get closer to finding out the truth! It’s really important to make sure your sources report on good science so that you can learn about the truth! I tried to give you some tools that let you sift through some scientific topics you are interested in so let me know if they help! Go practice the game and then report your findings back to me! :D
Now it’s your turn: tell me about the science you are the most interested in learning about. Or tell me about something completely unscience related. That was a lot of science for one day…
Hey everyone! I thought I would spend today’s post talking about how I got into science.
So it all started when my parents got PhDs (before I was born). There hasn’t been a time in my life when I didn’t know about the option of getting a PhD. Not that that’s what I wanted to do necessarily. Let’s see – I wanted to be a paleontologist or a veterinarian or a marine biologist or a neuroscientist orrrrrr a biochemist? My parents attempted to encourage me to think about engineering so we built a bunch of radios together. However, I was really into cats, dolphins, whales, and other creatures. Hilariously, my 8th grade science fair project nicely merged engineering and animals. My dad and I built an “apparatus” that fed my cats if they pressed on a dispenser with their paws. My project was to train my cats to use the “apparatus” with different paws to see if they would selectively continue to use whichever paw I trained them with to eat. However, mostly my results showed that my cats were scared of the “apparatus”…. except when there was food available.
Luckily for me, there was a ton of stuff available for me, a budding young scientist, to do to explore various aspects of science. I participated in Expanding Your Horizons, which was like a mini day of college where I signed up for various science workshops. All I remember now are two different workshops: one in which I learned about math (we did something cool with geometry and shapes) and another where I learned how to give “vaccinations” to oranges. This program is all over the country. Find a location near you for your middle school or high school girl!
Another fun activity I did was I took a marine biology class at the local university one summer. This class was a week long and we did all sorts of fun activities – like going out on a boat and getting sea sick testing various properties of ocean water, studying crabs, and dissecting *gasp* sharks. (Note: this was before I found out how much I loved sharks, though I still wasn’t super excited to participate. Also, our shark was pregnant! Did you know that some sharks give birth to live babies?! Craziness… sharks are so cool!). Anyyyyyyway – most universities have programs like this for high school students. I taught at one last summer and my students got to learn all sorts of biology that I didn’t get to learn until I was halfway through college! Super awesome (fair warning – the one I taught seemed really expensive so check out the prices before you get your kiddos all excited…. :-/)!
Some students might be interested to see if they like doing research in labs. I didn’t get to experience research until I was in college. For my first research project, I did a summer internship in Fort Collins, CO where I studied how a nasty virus called HTLV-1 takes over our cells. It was SO COOL. That was over 10 years ago and yet I can still tell you all about it.
College students – this is the best part – you can get paid to do research! My first research experience was through a “Research Education for Undergraduates” program and it pays you a stipend to play in the lab! Also, at CU, we have the SMART program that I’ve worked for for the past 7 years. I like it even better than REU programs but it’s the same deal – think you might want to try research? Get paid to do it! Plus in the SMART program, you get to present your findings at a national conference (all expenses paid)! Besides summer research, most universities offer a chance for undergraduate students to work in a lab throughout the school year. Step 1: Find a professor you like. Step 2: Talk to him/her and mention that you would be interested in working in a lab. Depending on the professor/school/your schedule/etc, working in the lab could mean anything from making solutions to having your own independent research project so make sure you chat with the professor about his or her expectations for your experience. Also, if you have your own independent research project, chances are that you can apply for a grant through the school and get paid to do research during the school year! Awesome!
A note – high school students, don’t want to wait till you go to college to check out research? See if there is a professor in your area who wouldn’t mind having a high school student shadowing in the lab. We even have a program at CU for high school students to work full time in a lab (disclaimer: also super expensive)! However, you probably won’t get paid for this type of opportunity. Booo…
Since I didn’t do research until I was in college, I spent my summers and Saturdays at the best job ever – working at a vet clinic. I started out volunteering there the summer after my freshman year of high school and then they offered me a job starting that fall! My job started out with me working in the kennel mostly – walking dogs, feeding cats, etc – but then as I was there longer, I got more responsibilities. I learned how to hold animals for procedures, make up prescriptions, help with surgeries, and make surgery packs (which is where you clean all the tools and organize them appropriately for the most common surgeries). Making surgery packs is to this day one of my favorite work chores. There was something so delightful in the cleaning of the tools, the precise arrangement of everything for each pack into this neat square of fabric, the wrapping of the fabric around the pack, the sticking of “magical” autoclave tape (it turned black when the pack was sterilized) to close the pack, and then finally, the placement of the completed packs in the autoclave (=big scary machine that sterilizes things with heat and pressure) to be sterilized. I loved my job. I had so many fun stories about crazy clients and crazy animals. I had my favorite animals who boarded with us a lot (remind me to tell you about them sometime). It was an AMAZING job. I highly recommend it to anyone who thinks they like science/might want to be a vet some day.
So what happened to get me where I am today? Well after I graduated from college, I was still fairly undecided between vet school and grad school so I decided to see where life took me. It took me to New Mexico where I was in the PREP program (which was like a mini version of graduate school) for a year (also I met Cobalt). I worked in a lab full time (and had two independent projects). I also took some fun math and physics classes because I am a nerd and they were cool (also my advisor made me take the chemistry class he was teaching). This program paid me a nice salary and prepped me for graduate school. I really enjoyed working in my lab in the PREP program and decided that grad school sounded really fun (if this was a mini version of grad school, the real thing had to be way cooler). Plus, I really wanted my PhD (see my previous post for more info about that). So I went to grad school.
Note: I just want to remind you that my tuition was paid for for the PREP program and grad school. Plus, I got paid to work in the lab and all through grad school. This is the only advanced degree program that does not require you to be filthy rich or to take out tons of money worth of loans.
Grad school was pretty cool. I traveled all over the US to present my research at conferences and I got to go to France to learn about data analysis. Plus, I learned a LOT about microscopes. But it was also really hard. REALLY REALLY hard. And at the end of it, I realized that maybe I don’t want to do research anymore. As cool as it is being the expert of some crazy problem, and as much as I love sitting in the dark watching cells crawl around on a microscope, I think I need to be out of the lab and in the world with you guys!
So what’s next on the list? Not sure but I hope whoever hires me next is ready for this surgery pack-making, microscope- and camera-loving, stuffed shark- and kitty-cuddling doctor! :)
Now it’s your turn – what’s going on in your life career-wise? Did you have any crazy unexpected turns? What do you want to be when you grow up? Don’t you wish there was a class called “Hello, now that you are (insert age here) and have figured yourself out a little, take this class to figure out your next step”? I would take it!
This concludes our science posts for the month of January but stay tuned! More science is coming you way next month! We still need to talk about how to read about science and how to figure out who to “trust” with your science news!
Fact – not all scientists are antisocial nerds who only care about science.
Some scientists might only care about science but most have a lot of other things they are excited about. Scientists, like all other humans, have the capacity to be well rounded individuals. We seem to want to forget this idea right now and I don’t know why.
Einstein for example – what do you think of when I mention his name? Brilliant guy. Random equations like E=mc2. Do you know he was also an avid patron of the arts and very actively involved in the civil rights movement here in the US? Yay for well-rounded scientists!
I worry about this behavioral shift because it encourages the exclusivity of science. As humans, we all strongly feel the need to belong. If we don’t feel accepted in a situation, we are less likely to pursue it. In fact, it’s been shown that women and underrepresented minorities often quit studying science, math, and engineering because they worry that they don’t belong or are unwelcome in those fields. It’s really important to me that you feel like you do belong in this conversation about science that we are having so let’s take a moment and establish a sense of belonging by talking about something else that I believe all humans share – passions.
This is how it’s going to work.
Scientists – Why do you do your science? Is it your one and only passion or do you have others? Think about this next time you are talking to nonscientists and start by explaining to them what it is about science that you just love instead of just jumping straight into the meat of your research and why they should care about it. Also make sure you mention all that other stuff you love doing! I know a scientist who traveled to Nepal to help rebuild houses, scientists who volunteer at a local horse rescue, scientists who volunteer with their churches, and scientists who mentor underrepresented undergraduates/high school students to give them the skills they need to succeed in science/life.
Nonscientists – what are you passionate about? Next time you confront a scientist, ask them about their passions and then see if you can find some common ground. Maybe you love photography and the scientist loves microscopy. Microscopes are just fancy cameras for tiny things! Hurrah! Now you have something in common! Discuss!
Okay – my turn:
I am passionate about science because I think it is beautiful. It is so crazy to me that a bunch of random molecules can come together to form cells, which then work together to make humans! It’s even crazier to me that tiny single cells like bacteria can be so evil and trick our complicated bodies to do their bidding. I think that is fascinating.
I am also passionate about other things – I am really passionate about giving people the opportunity to be excited about science (or whatever their passions are), regardless of their race, gender, immigration status, or income. I also love photography and all animals, especially sharks and whales! Plus I am really obsessed with markers right now and I am trying to get all artsy and learn how to color/draw better. I love comics and I am super jealous at the drawing abilities of those artists. Finally I also really love food and trying out new crazy recipes.
Enough about me – let’s hear from you. Please share in the comments section! And feel free to ask questions about any of my passions too.
In case you are interested in pursuing any of the things I mentioned up there further:
Einstein – you can just Google him and look at his Wikipedia page but there’s also a really interesting book called Einstein on Race and Racism that goes way more into detail about the non-scientist part of Einstein’s life.
Hey all! We’re still in the backlog of what happened to Potassium for the past few months so I today we are talking about the few sewing projects I’ve managed to complete while being completely overwhelmed in school. Yay!
First up we have the rice whale. I got the idea for this guy back during winter break when I spent pretty much the entire time at my sis in law’s house curled up with a rice frog made from Harry Potter fabric. It was awesome. I just popped him in the microwave for a minute and voila! Warmthhhhhhh… So I decided to make myself a rice creature of sorts… I went shopping with my mom for the fabric when we were visiting my family for new years. Then I went back to lab and got swamped and didn’t think about rice creatures for a while. Fast forward to April, my sis in law found me a pattern for what could definitely become a rice whale and my excitement was reignited! The pattern was in Russian so I kind of just guestimated about sizing and such and I made one total fail rice whale and one okay but not amazing rice whale before the one pictured above but yay! Rice whale complete! And I think I’ve got the pattern mostly figured out now too which is awesome. I wish grad school would stop trying to drown me so I could make more for family and friends….
Second up we have the shark hoodie. So I originally bought this hoodie to be part of a Halloween bat costume last year. For those of you who don’t know, I have a similar hoodie (except it’s blue) that got turned into a super awesome raptor costume for my first year of grad school. It’s still all raptor-y and I love wearing it. Last year, as a grumpy 6th year, I just pinned wings to my bat hoodie and then after Halloween was over, it got converted back into a normal black hoodie. However, when Cobalt and I were romping around NYC last month, I noticed that one of the pockets was starting to detach from the hoodie. Thus the shark idea was born. I should fix the pocket, yes, but how much more awesome would it be if I embroidered a shark over the pocket instead of just using normal black thread to fix the problem?! Wahahaha… I am proud to say that I used three different stitches here for the shark – chain stitch for his gills, the split stitch for his outline, and the satin stitch for his eyes. I found sewing this shark amazingly relaxing and healing after all the craziness in lab. AND now my hoodie looks way more awesome! :)
Now I need more art projects. Ideas? I found some crochet patterns for tiny sushi… Might be fun…. ;)
Anyway, I apologize for never writing in here and being really bad about posting pictures that people are actually excited about (like from graduation or weddings I’ve recently attended). I have been saying that it’s because I am too busy and that is definitely true (I now have an army of undergrads – okay… 2 undergrads – to train in addition to doing all of my stuff) but I think that it’s partly that I’ve been kind of depressed lately. I get the feeling that my pictures aren’t going to be good anyway so why do I even try? And then of course I take lame pictures and I get mad at myself and go hide in the corner and am all emo instead. Also, lab work is actually starting to feel like it is destroying my soul. I am kind of having a life crisis about it – here I have spent years of my life training to be a scientist and what do I have to show for myself? Rage?! I hate it so much right now! It breaks my heart to think about how much time and effort I have spent working on something that makes me frustrated and infuriated and stressed out, etc. Here I am so close to finishing this degree I have wanted all my life and instead of feeling relieved and excited about the future, all I can see is how much work I have left to do and how much I just don’t care anymore. :-/
Whoa… that got deep for a minute. Anyway, I thought I owed you guys the truth so there it is. Now it’s your turn – ideas for new projects? Potassium needs some distractions from science, which is eating her soul. Also, if you know this feeling I am talking about, care to share some insight?
Hey everyone! I’m back from Germany! It was super fun! First of all, Heidelberg is an adorable town nestled in some mountains in Germany. You should be able to see that from that top picture here. The conference I went to was at EMBL which is a giant laboratory tucked into the forest above Heidelberg. I hung out with my friends as soon as I landed in Heidelberg (adventures will soon be posted) and then spent the next few days being bussed back and forth between the town and the lab for the conference. The conference was awesome. All of the talks were full of innovation and cool science (pretty sure that excitement was the only thing that kept me awake in the face of the death jetlag) and I made a lot of fun international friends! After the conference, I spent one day frolicking in Heidelberg and the surrounding areas with some of the cool people I met at the conference (again with the adventures being posted soon!).
Some more pictures:
Anyway, now I am back in Colorado. I’m super jetlagged still but life is insane in lab. I have to prepare (read: do multiple experiments) to give a presentation in a few weeks and if I really want to graduate at some point, I have to come up with what will ultimately be the “story” for my thesis. There’s actually a lot to talk about regarding my feelings about graduate school right now so I think maybe that will be in its own post soon.
Random questions below:
How are you guys? Is there anything specific you want me to definitely mention in my Germany (or Boston or San Antonio) posts? Do you want to know my favorite German word (it’s tchüss! – it means bye!)? I’m super frustrated with science/lab right now. Does anyone have any advice for relaxing/getting through hard work times? In other news, I am super excited that Allegiant finally came out today (where was it on my 10 hr flight back from Germany last week?!). Is anyone else a fan of the Divergent trilogy?
In other news, my blog is 3 years old today!!!! How did this happen?!
Helllloooo everyone! I finished my committee meeting yesterday so I am back! I think it went pretty well. I analyzed a lot of data and didn’t sleep pretty much for the past two weeks so that I could put all of what I know about my protein in my presentation for my committee members. They were helpful in telling me what they think I should focus on that will tell the best story (i.e. so that I can write a paper/my thesis) so that I can graduate within the year. Yeesh… It’s going to be an epic year. That’s all I can say about that…
Anyway, for now I am happy to be back in a world where I don’t have to analyze data and think about my project every waking (and sometimes sleeping) moment. I have a lot of stuff to catch you up on but first, I want to talk about my two friends E and L who are both defending their PhD theses today! Congratulations you guys! You worked so hard and by the end of today you will be doctors!
And now a little back story. First, L is my first friend here in the state of CO. I met a lot of the people in my class all at the same time (recruitment weekend) but I actually met L at the University of Washington’s recruitment weekend two weeks earlier. The next weekend, she went to go check out a school in Canada while I checked out UC Davis and then we reconvened after that here at CU chemistry program’s recruitment weekend. I am so glad we both decided to come here. It has been an honor getting to know you L and I hope we keep in touch about what’s next for you!
Now E! E is an organic chemist in my year but we decided early on that she is an honorary biochemist because we pretty much were inseparable our first year. E, I will never forget our horrible decision to go to Wendy’s and get milkshakes right before an indoor soccer game. It was worth it because we had to get caught up on everything but man… that was an interesting soccer game. Also E was my first photo buddy here in town because we got our DSLRs right about the same time. It was so much fun running around Boulder county learning how to take pictures with you. Also, I think we all had a blast at your wedding! I know you are about to head to Portland soon to join your hubby and I wish you the best of luck! Keep in touch friend, I will really miss being neighbors! :)
That’s all for today everyone but stay tuned because I have engagement pictures for you (hopefully) next week! :D So what has been going on in your worlds lately?
Welp, I am about to enter my 6th year of grad school which means that some of my lucky friends in my class are starting to defend their theses and then graduate! Since I’m probably going be talking more and more about defenses as we get more into the season, I thought I would take a minute to give you a run down about how grad school works in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry here at CU. So during our first year, we have this crazy schedule that involves classes, TAing (usually general chemistry or biochemistry), and trying to find a research group to join. We also have a written test about our knowledge of chemistry or biochemistry that we either took every first Saturday of each month until we passed a certain number of them (the Chemists did this) or that we took one epic day the August after our first year (We biochemists did this). Then our second year was full of finishing up our classes, doing research in our labs, and preparing for a scary oral exam where three professors spend two hours asking us about anything in chemistry and biochemistry to make sure we understand enough science to do our projects (the point is to see how you handle not knowing the answer so it’s a pretty awful two hours…). After that, the remaining years of grad school are full of science, going to conferences, (hopefully) writing papers about our findings, fighting with instruments not working/cells not growing/something breaking/procedures not going right after they worked perfectly every other time, making mistakes/figuring them out, etc until finally one day, it is time to write up everything we’ve done in a nice neat little package called a thesis, present our work to our faculty committee, our peers, and our families and then (after the presentation when everyone except our committee members leaves) defend our theses to gain the title of PhD. Whew… It’s a ride. And I’m not even done yet… but someone is…
The first of my friends in my class, P, defended his thesis today! Yayyyyy! P I am so proud of you! I remember back in our first year P and I used to do homework together and talk about graduating like it would happen at some point in the distant future. I also distinctly remember getting confused when I was teaching a lab and I ran downstairs to the lab P was teaching in so I could ask for his help. After our first year, we stayed friends and caught up over lunch almost every week. It was especially fun last year because we were both planning our respective weddings and so we could compare wedding planning notes in addition to catching up with why science infuriated/excited us that week. There was also much soccer and kite flying and other adventures. We even tried to take a kendo class together one semester at the school rec center but found that we both liked trying to stab each other/sword fighting with the shinais (kendo sticks) better. You made grad school more bearable and fun for me, friend and I’m really really going to miss you when you and P make your big move this fall but I am super excited for what happens next for you guys! Congrats friend! :D
What are you guys up to this weekend? I think I am going to be sleeping. I know I say that a lot but seriously… this week was REALLY intense…
So my summers are usually crazy because I have to split my time between getting my research done and helping out with the SMART program but then there is always something extra that makes my already crazy summer even more epic (ex: last year I wrote that epic grant AND got married). So it’s no surprise that I am already feeling pretty overwhelmed by my summer because I am, yet again, involved in many other activities this summer. Because I think they are all kind of cool I thought I would write about them here for you guys.
I Have a Dream
So the first thing on my list is working for the I Have a Dream foundation. This program has been near and dear to my heart ever since I found out about it upon entering grad school all those years ago. Basically, this national foundation adopts classes of 2nd and 3rd grade students where the majority of the students in the class come from low income families. Every student in that class is promised that if they stay in the IHAD program (and in school) until they graduate from high school, the IHAD foundation will give them a full ride to the college of their choice! Sounds like a sweet deal to me! In the past, I have helped out with workshops (genetics, how your eye works like a pinhole camera, forensics, etc) for the IHAD students within Boulder county but this summer, CU is hosting a conference for middle and high school IHAD students from across the country. They get to come to CU and take workshops and check out a college campus! My friend C and I decided we would run a genetics workshop for them. A few weeks ago, I got an email asking for a brief summary of our workshop. Although C and I had decided that we wanted to do a genetics workshop, we hadn’t actually discussed the details of this workshop. So a few short emails back and forth later, C and I had come up with this:
In this workshop, we will be discussing genetics and how genetics research affects our daily lives. After an initial discussion of general genetics terminology and how it relates to living organisms, we will be isolating DNA from strawberries using every day materials. To finish the workshop, we’ll discuss implications of and current events related to the field of genetics research. Possible topics of discussion include: genetic testing, genetically modified organisms, gene therapy, personalized medicine, and evolution. Participants are invited to bring all genetics questions and a sense of curiosity and excitement about biology!
I am pretty excited about this workshop now! It should be a blast! I hope our students are as excited as we are…
Go Women in Science!
A while ago, I headed up to main campus to take a survey our library was putting on for how people in our new building were using the library resources in our day to day research. One of the women conducting the survey was impressed with my ability to talk about my project to nonscientists and she asked me if I’d be willing to speak at a conference for science librarians she was putting on this summer. On Thursday, I will be on a panel with two other women discussing our research and what it’s like being a woman in science. I have to come up with a 5 minute little talk about my personal experiences and my research and then we will be answering questions from the audience. As such, I have spent this past weekend thinking back about my own and my friends’ experiences as scientists… I am nervous but also really excited!
So for you nonscientists out there, all of us science majors have to do some form of independent research project, especially if we are planning on going to grad school after undergrad. Some schools even require you to perform independent research as one of the requirements for obtaining your degree (I had to perform at least a semester of independent research and write a thesis in order to receive a BS degree – I spent a year studying yeast (the kind that makes your bread and beer delicious) proteins. It was a huge fail in that I got NO results but that’s how it goes sometimes…). Anyway, if you are planning to go to graduate school, the more research experience you have on your resume, the better. So at the end of my sophomore year of college, while most of my friends were excited about going home for the summer, I packed up all my stuff, went home for a few days, and then went to Colorado State University in Fort Collins, CO for my first taste of independent summer research (this was called a “Research Education for Undergraduates or REU program – it’s similar to the SMART program though it is smaller and specific for every department). Although I came down with mono the first week I was there (sad days…), I still managed to have a lot of fun and totally fall in love with doing science independently from the lab classes I had to take at school. A few years later, my sister followed suit and headed to CSU for her own research experience. Now we have both been invited to be on the panel of current graduate students who give advice and wisdom to this year’s summer class of undergraduates. So come late July, my sister and I will have a mini family reunion and also get to hang out with the undergrads in the same program that inspired both of us to continue on to graduate school. How cool is that?! Btw wee, I am loving how our science is helping us see each other every year. :)
Whew! Epicness! At least I am learning super multitasking skills during my PhD… What are you up to this summer? Anything epic going on? Vacations, etc? Also how was your weekend? Talk to me!!