… Raleigh. Summary of Week 7

It was a crazy busy week with little sleep pretty much every single night and with most of its 120 hours spent in the lab, studying (i.e. reading papers and searching for relevant information) or working on my presentation. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it and consider it to be one of the summer’s best weeks.

A Warm Welcome to the Lab - I am gonna miss it.

A Warm Welcome to the Lab – I am gonna miss it.

Life in the Lab

I gave up attending the Monday lab meeting, so I could help S and S and a couple more people harvesting plants. Well, that is what I was told I would be doing. Although I indeed was chopping tomato roots, it turned out that they cared about a certain plant pathogen much more than about the plants. There were two sets of the plants to take care of. For the first one, there was some stuff to harvest, however, in the other case things did not work out so well and the harvest was nothing else but struggle. Though I felt sorry that the experiment did not work the way it was supposed to, I was glad there was not more to do. Honestly, I do not think I have ever done anything more trickier, patience-demanding and to some extent boring. A lecture on any topic would have been 100 % better!

When I was finally free, I took care of my own plants, so I hopefully have enough material to use for me PCR. I have a feeling it might work out the upcoming week. I so hope it finally happens! There were no experiments on Monday as the only task for the rest of the day was cleaning. The lab needed it so badly. Everyone got involved and I think we have done a great job – the lab is such a beautiful working environment now. It does look like the place I first came to almost two months ago. It should be mentioned that our effort was appreciated – Mrs. C got plenty of cookies for us from the Insomnia Cookies place.

At first, I regretted I had not postponed my visit to that place for a week, thus probably saving some money. However, those cookies are so tasty that money spent on them can never be wasted. I only did not like the mint cookie as much as I had the first time – this time, it tasted too much like a toothpaste. The other choices of mine (Macadamia-nut & white chocolate, Peanut butter again, and Cinnamon sugar) did not have a tiniest drawback – they were all delicious and I cannot tell which one was my favorite.

Tuesday to Thursday, we had visitors to our lab – two high school students (boys). While one’s hair was cut super short the other had a long, fancy African braids. What they had in common was their genuine interest in what was going on in the lab, accompanied by a very funny and relaxed approach to the things they were exposed to. They introduced whole new terminology, so, we do not use substrate any more but magic juice instead. Similarly, the lab does not have the dark room any more as it was replaced by a bat cave.

The unique thing about Wednesday was a 14th Annual NC State Summer Undergraduate Research Symposium. Though they might have been some short talks earlier in the day, all the lab members (including me, yay!) visited a poster session as one of the lab’s undergraduates had a poster there. I was truly impressed (well, shocked might be a better word) by the number of students involved (in two sessions, it was over 200 students! and probably from all over the world) and how noisy a poster session can actually be. It was my very first experience with a scientific meeting like that and it was a great one, not even mentioning another cookie (somewhat healthier as there were oats and cranberries) this week. The posters probably covered any field of science: from psychology, to data analysis, inorganic chemistry and plastics synthesis, to solubility of some protein in water versus oil, to neuroscience on zebra fish, soil analysis and pre-biotic photosynthesis.

On Thursday “our” high school students had a short presentation about their experience, so Mrs. C, Big E and me went to get some excitement – i.e. see how to present science in the funniest possible way. “Our” duo was not the only extremely relaxed one, there were more pairs with similar attitude. Although funny, the students were serious about their findings and asked some really good questions. I wish I had had a similar experience back at high school. Thankfully, I can compensate for it by being in Mrs. C’s lab this summer which is an outstanding opportunity. Undoubtedly.

From Monday evening (after the lab cleaning) until Thursday late afternoon, D and me were preparing for a protein purification and it was not bad at all. But the, Friday came – it was so overwhelming! The final steps kept us busy for good seven hours, the funniest parts being those performed in the cold room. It was damn cold there and I sure was glad once I did not have to come back there again. One of the last steps was to “see” if we got the protein and how much. During the process I could hear D exclaiming “Oh shit!” and I was so sure I took the opportunity to screw up at pretty much the last step. Alarmed, I rushed to him and then he added: “This is an insane amount of protein.” It worked!

When I was walking back home, I was so exhausted and ready to go to the bed directly. At the same time, I was also happy that we managed to do the whole procedure and got a better-than-expected result. I enjoyed being D’s slave and student (that is called “2 in 1”) as he definitely was the protein guru of the lab and I could not have asked for a better teacher.

Cold Room Magic I

Cold Room Magic I

Cold Room Magic II

Cold Room Magic II

Happened out of the Lab

With so much going on in the lab, this week, there was room for two non-lab moments: one skating and one lunch.

The skating took place on Thursday and I had to force myself a bit. Good I did it. I added some 20 kilometers to me North Carolina mileage, thus reaching the 200 km landmark. Some 90 minutes provided me with three wild-life exciting moments. First, I had a chance to greet a local deer doe grazing on the trails shoulder. Later, I had to jump over a turtle. It seemed to be ready to go to bed but the middle of the trail did not seem as the best spot. So, I took all my courage and moved it to the grass. It was a fifty-fifty chance that I would return it to the side of the trail that it want to leave – I hope it did not happen, so its hours long effort was not wasted. And finally, once it got bit darker, I saw a beaver for the first time. It definitely was the most shy of today trio and as soon as I noticed it, it was already heading to the river where it took a breath and disappeared.

Lunch at Jimmy John’s was the best food of the summer so far and I have a hunch that it helped me to survive my time in the cold room. The combination of Choice roast beef, smoked ham, provolone cheese, Dijon mustard, lettuce, tomato, & mayo was not bad at all. In fact, it was from the delicious category. Surprisingly, the bread was not as bad as American bread – it even had something resembling a bread crust! – which made me extra happy. And finally, it was so much food that I was still digesting at the time of leaving the lab, so there was absolutely not obstacle to go to bed as early as possible.

However, I thought that when a group of people goes for food together, then they would have the meal together, too. This did not happen which I thought was a missed opportunity to get to know my temporary co-workers better. Anyway, this little issue cannot prevent me from calling this week a great one as I still feel like I got the maximum of it.

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