On Monday morning I chose to join Mrs. C for the L’s lab meeting again. And I was impressed again, even though I understood even less than the last time. Anyway, I got some idea what to study if I ever get too bored here (or any other place in the world). Mrs. C had some errands to do right after the meeting but nevertheless, she gave me a lift to the lab, which was very much appreciated. First, I did not have to walk in the heat nor take the bus (Wolfline) completely on my own. Second, I could enjoy a ride in a huge American that moreover that made it all the way from West Coast of the US to the East coast, which I thought was very impressive – in terms of capabilities of both the car and its driver(s). And finally, we gained few minutes to talk about her latest research interest and to agree on my presentation on a plant species completely new to me – I heard about only a week or so ago. Besides that, she made sure I had my groceries done and that I have other way of survival than spicy meals only. She is always a very enjoyable companion and I do have a hunch I will learn from her – both as a person and a scientist – a lot this summer.
Mrs. C was about to go for a couple of days for a conference in the afternoon, so I tried to clarify a few things before she leaves – hoping a short talk will help to make at least a tiny progress until she is back on Thursday morning. Surprisingly enough, it happened.
I spent over two days trying to find a way how to get set, so I hopefully produce high-quality (e.g. resolution and lighting conditions) and nicely looking pictures of a value to Mrs. C’s aims. In the process, I must have made dozens and dozens of shots that were good for nothing but moving to trash. When installing the plant of interest the way I wanted (and the way it did not want to be), I practiced some bad Czech language. On Tuesday evening I already knew I would need “something”, so S, M and me made a short trip to Walgreens to get a black paper I could use as a nice background. Thankfully, they had a foam paper of decent size that turned out to be the best purchase while in the US so far. In fact, it motivated me so much that I did not really mind spending most of Wednesday in an attempt to make a nice ruler for my pictures. A successful attempt!
Overall, it cost me only $ 3.85 and 2.5 days to get on – what I think is – the right way. Since Thursday I have been taking pictures that are no more only playing with my camera but what I hope will be a scientific material in not too long time. Let’s see if the initial investments and days to come will be enough to build my international reputation as a photographer.
In a strong contrast to all the safety measures at NCSU – including the toe-covered shoes, is the approach towards ethidium bromide, which I thought was considered a rather dangerous stuff. Here they apparently do not feel the same as the EtBr-contaminated stuff is not really labeled and definitely not absolutely separated from any other equipment as back in my Czech lab. What is the lesson? I better thing twice before doing any more gels.
On Thursday, there was the lab meeting. Except for data presented, I learned about methods that are going to be used in this particular project. Some of them were new to me, others I could recall a bit from my classes and felt bad I did not remember much more. Just as the last week, I witnessed the importance of statistics as well as visual aids in data analysis and their presenting. Now, I am considering to take some relevant course the next semester. I believe that one becomes an excellent scientist as his/her experience grows but I definitely need to strengthen my background in the last two semesters of schooling, so I can build on it after my graduation.
On Friday I tortured the Mac version of PowerPoint in an attempt to make a template of some so make my life years in weeks to come. Eventually, I got the desired result, so I could get involved in the lab a bit – I ran one gel and refilled tip boxes. Normally, I would turn up my nose at tasks like that but as I was in desperate need for some work, I enjoyed them both. My photo project continued on Friday, too and I am proud to announce that one of my newest pictures is nothing but great and I cannot wait to show it to Mrs. C on Monday. In the afternoon, I went for a talk whose main message remained blurry to me. I know it was about some protein, I also understood that iron was somehow involved and I liked the pictures she showed – especially the microscopy ones. It was, nevertheless, nice to be there and watch people sharing their ideas and giving suggestion as well as critical points (e. g. You need to make sure that your protein does (not) …. when you …). I appreciate NCSU’s scientific community more and more.
Happened out of the Lab
On Monday morning I walked to the Centennial Campus with M. as I had a very limited knowledge of it while she had none at that time. We found “her” building without any difficulties and on top of it, were lucky enough to meet an unbelievably fast fawn. I had about an hour left between saying Goodbye to M. and the lab meeting, and planned to spend it the the great Hunt Library. However, I realized that sitting outside under the large tree might be the right way to breath fresh air of North Carolina without cooking. That is exactly what I did and it was a great decision – it was just as comfortable as I had thought it would be and moreover, I finished another paper I did not manage to read during my 30 hours of overseas travel. The plan for late Monday afternoon was to had a bagel and than go skating but the bagel place was closed by the time I got there. It was rather disappointing but I went out for some skating anyway. I chose the Rocky Branch Trail again and already knowing what to expect, it was not a too bad time.
On Tuesday afternoon I tried to get a bus to get me to a place where I could get the black paper for my background. I do think I was waiting at the right bus stop but no bus showed up in almost 15 minutes. That time was enough to get awfully sweat and I gave up without much of remorse. Instead at the stationer’s I stopped at the NCSU store at the Talley Student Union. I did not know it would be its second day in the new location (as well as for Starbucks), so I was honestly surprised how crowded place it was (during the summer!).
On Wednesday morning I had peanut-butter for the first time in Raleigh and right after the breakfast I went to the Bruegger’s Bagels, where I got an Everything bagel that would be used as my “first supper” (i. e. before skating) later on. This time I put my skates on at the Centennial Campus, passed the Hunt Library, got to lake Raleigh and continued to the west along the Walnut Creek. On my way, I made a detour to the Farmers Market but as of a situation there at about 7pm, I do not think it is worth another visit. I liked the Walnut Creek Trail very much – in fact enough not to search for any other place for a while. The asphalt is mostly super smooth, there are trees almost all along the trail, there are not too many hills and those few present are within the safety limits and finally, I probably have not reached its end yet, not mentioning the fact that I can also go eastwards from the lake. After all, the only drawback is the wet and dark tunnel but should be fine. Honestly, there was one medium scary moment on the way back when I encountered a dog that did not seem to have its owner anywhere nearby. I did feel relieved when it kept going straight rather than sniffing me. It ended up in some garden along the trail and while it might be a nice local dog, I definitely hope this was our first and last meeting. The 12 km I did today do not quite reach my standard but I am slowly getting there.
Thursday was by far the most adventurous day in North Carolina. I woke up into a stormy morning and decided it might be a good idea to go by bus today. The rain, as well as the storm, was gone by the time I left the house but I nevertheless decided to insist on the original bus plan – just to get some experience if it is ever really needed (as the only thing I am sure about is that I do not get this bus system at all). Here comes the time to explain the word ADVENTUROUS used few lines earlier. I got on the right bus, surprisingly enough the right direction too, but somehow expected it to stop on campus more than just once. This was a wrong assumption and in about 15 minutes I found myself downtown. What a surprise! I knew something was terribly wrong once the first skyscrapers appeared but I thought that getting off the sort of main station would be about the safest solution. Indeed, it was. There was an information booth where I asked about next bus back to NCSU and luckily enough, I had to wait for less than 15 minutes. Is it really such a problem to have a bus schedule/route available on each bus stop? And back at the main station downtown, would it cause that much harm to mark the individual platforms with numbers of bus line(s) leaving from there? Anyway, I was back in lab 30 minutes prior to the lab meeting and gained some experience for my next trip downtown – when I intend to do so. Oh ya, and I also figured out how to signal that I want the bus to stop at the next stop. However, I do not understand why the heck the name of the bus stop to come cannot show up on the screen that is present in the bus anyway. In this regard, my daily walks through the campus paid off – even though I had no idea about the street names, I could easily realized that I wanted to get off NOW.
On Friday afternoon I attended an English Conversation Club for the first time. It apparently works the following way: there are some native speaker volunteers who are willing to spend time with international students and talk to them. The leader of the meeting was Mr. R, probably the oldest American I have met so far. When I came to the classroom, there already were quite some students (primarily girls for some reason and I could tell that a majority of them was definitely not from Europe) in conversation with a couple of elderly American women. I ended up starting a new conversation group with Mr. J and later on a student from India and another one from Iran joined us. The official length of the session was an hour and during that time, American candies were served twice. The four of us, an Iranian girl and another volunteer (who lived at a bunch of places both in the US and Europe) stayed for an additional hour. Overall, it was a very well spent time and I definitely want to come again. OK, the candies played some role in this decision making.
It was this English class, when I heard about a shooting that took place in Raleigh today – at a place super close to the campus and also at a place where I skated through on Monday. As a result of the recent event, I decided to postpone my grocery shopping as the store is damn close to that neighborhood but frankly, I do not have a reason to feel unsafe. I do hope I will feel the same over the remaining six weeks, too.