The sixth week gave me long working hours and ruined free-time plans, but also chances to try new things with hopes of some more to come right next week, a promise of some useful data, opportunity to give a presentation (which I have not done for good two semesters) and a sweet cookie moment. However, let’s keep stuff ordered as usually.
Life in the Lab
I started the week walking to the Centennial campus (after two weeks long break) for a meeting of L’s lab. I was pretty sure it was waste of time as well as steps because I doubted there was supposed to be one. Luckily, this was not the case and I had a chance to listen to an African guy whose main interest were viruses of a well-known and favorite crop. It was hard for me to understand but he had lots of pictures showing symptoms of the infected plants, so I used his talk as a photography case study. Just in case I would ever be invited to join a photography project again. And I would love to do so!
Later in the afternoon, when I was about to leave but D was about to start working (he rarely shows up earlier than 11 AM), I realized there would be no skating today but some more lab (well, flow hood) work instead. After all, lab experience is the primary purpose of my stay here, so I better do not complain and accept the work. It’s for free!
On Tuesday I came to the lab rather early as my first task of the day was time sensitive and I wanted to be sure I would have enough time to finish it. Good I did not sleep much longer as I got a delay right at the beginning. The lab ran out of liquid nitrogen which I needed so badly. Thankfully, Big E could not supposedly sleep and came early, too. And helped me and thus saved my samples! Great! When processing them (I did the procedure for the first time), I was doubtful I would be successful – the intermediate phase looked so weird. Surprisingly enough, I was and once done, I could join D and Ji for some more tedious flow hood work.
The main task of Wednesday was a follow-up of Tuesday sample processing and again successful. As a reward, I could dip some plants with D. I might have transformed not only the plants but me, too. However, I think the chances I would be bringing a T-DNA incorporated in my genome as a souvenir are very, very low.
Thursday was the presentation day. I got up early enough, so I would avoid coming late for the meeting, yet I was in rush anyway. After the breakfast, I was trying to improve my slides some more, nearly forgetting about the time. Thankfully, my morning rush through the campus had a happy end and the presentation was not a fiasco either. After a few days long break, it was time to give another try to the PCR I first did maybe a couple of weeks ago. Having a new primer gave me so much hope but unfortunately not the desired band on my gel. In fact, no band(s) at all.
On Friday, I had another reason to come early to the lab. How sweet! But preparing a 384-well plate, moreover for qPCR when pipetting accuracy does mater, would not be a short project. The good news though is that my effort paid off. Most importantly, I had quite a portion of the work done before it got to lively in the lab (i.e. harder to concentrate). Second, my efficiency (in other words, quality of my pipetting) was measured for the first time in my life and it was not bad at all (R^2 > 0.99). I was very happy about that and particularly about the fact that I did not fail to meet Mrs. C’s expectation for better-than-just-good pipetting. I so hope I can maintain this standard for (at least) the upcoming three weeks! I only regretted the same quality measurement had not been done at the very beginning of my studies, too. It sure would be interesting to see how it changed over the years.
Unlike regular PCR, the moment you put the plate in the PCR machine is not the end of the procedure but it is when great things start to happen. First, you need to set your plate using a specialized software who is especially picky about what you tell it. Once this is done and your pipetting was not a total crap, another fun part comes – data analysis. I see that both preparing the plate and analyzing the outcome, might teach me to be more patient. You sure need that as a scientist! I was playing with the program for quite a while. We had a very nice very late afternoon in the lab together but I did not move forward too much. I definitely did not see the exciting difference between my samples and the control as Mrs. C did earlier today.
In the meantime, I also joined D for staining his gel with protein samples. Unfortunately it was not perfect, so (fortunately for me) I might have a chance to go through the entire procedure with him the next week. I care for DNA much more but little fun with proteins should not make any harm. After late lunch, I went for a series of four short lectures (probably undegrads who joined NCSU labs for the summer) and decided I would skip the English Conversation Club this week and try to repeat the cursed PCR once more. Mrs. C discovered where the problem might be, J gave my the right cDNA and I was hopeful to see a nice band on my gel. This did not quite happen but at least I had some fun de-freezing the huge -80°C freezer. Thanks to this experience, I have much clearer idea what I might end up doing one day with my master’s degree.
Happened out of the Lab
I had to wait for my first skating of the week as long as Wednesday evening. Monday was too busy to squeeze in even a single minute of skating and on Tuesday the weather was not too cooperative. After a day hotter than “as hot as usual”, the storm finally arrived in the evening and I sure was glad I was not out for that one.
The only skating this week was the first time when a trail along lake Johson (or more generally, any of the trails I have skated on) was rather busy. Most of the people were running or jogging and I also recognized a significantly increased concentration of dogs. Some of them looked like they had seen a roller blader for the first time in their lives. This impressed them so much that they even forgot to bark or try to attack me (unlike some Czech dogs who already lost their initial hesitation). Or do American dogs “only” behave better? Honestly, some of the people were rather surprised too. Is there any one else inline skating in this county?
To get motivated to do as well as possible with my presentation on the mysterious crop, I made the following deal with myself: If Mrs. C likes it, you can by a Raleigh T-shirt for you. The first part was fulfilled (what a relief!) but by late Thursday afternoon it became clear that there would be no T-shirt purchase this week. Thankfully, I came up with the following back-up plan: cookies. When walking down the Hillsborough Street a few weeks ago (and you do not want to be there where you are hungry or just have a sweet-tooth), I discovered a place called Insomnia Cookies and put it on my to-do list immediately. I thought that the right moment finally came on Thursday. Being done with my presentation was only an excuse for high sugar intake but the truth is that going there must always be a good thing to do. The cookies were delicious! It was tough to make a decision but I eventually narrowed their offer down to two: Double Chocolate Mint and Peanut Butter Chip. And got them both. They were delicious!