Experiences shape the life that you live. I slowly come to think, each day, that this chance — this once in a life time opportunity — really has been a blessing, in a sense. I don’t strictly believe it is a blessing but I do believe that it is fate that I ended up here, that I have made the decisions I have made thus far.
Three weeks ago, when I first came to Northwestern, if you were to ask me what I think I would be doing at the end of the second week of the quarter, I would have told you I would be scrambling to find a lab to join, be swamped with coursework and horribly behind, and lost without friends. But at the end of two weeks, I can say I love this place more than anything, that I want to stay here for as long as I can, and make the most of this opportunity.
Academics aside, I am so lucky to have this chance at research. It just happened that last week, when I attended an informational meeting for a research workshop program I am a part of, as I waited to talk to a facilitator who’s interest lie in genetics (like myself), another facilitator came up to me and struck up a conversation. Research interests came up at one point and it just so happened that the Principle Investigator (PI) she worked for during the summer was looking for an undergraduate student. And it happened that the research this PI is doing is something that is very intriguing and is a field that has a lot of room to grow.
So here I am, two weeks into my last two years of my undergraduate career, spending my time in the research laboratory, playing with Escherichia coli (E. coli) during my free time. It is a post-doctoral student that I get to shadow this quarter, with the opportunity to grow and learn, to get caught up to speed since later on this quarter and for sure starting next quarter, I get to take off on my own project. The topic? I have no idea. I received a couple of papers to read up on what may potentially be the topics of my project but nothing is set in stone. This unknowing breeds my curiosity; it drives me to want to keep working and learning as much as I can, because I can only grow from here.
This post is titled “Words Come Alive”. Why, you may ask? The driving force (and my motivation) for me finding a laboratory to join is that I love to learn but the things I learn, I look to apply. I seek to be pushed to ask questions, to continually learn, and to see how the concepts I learn every 10 weeks translates into actual research. And these first two days, that has happened. Yesterday I got the chance to prepare E. coli with various plasmids which, after treatment with enzymes and other chemicals (which I cannot recall right now), was incubated overnight. When colonies were gather, these were grown in liquid culture for greater quantities.
Today, when I went in to lab after classes ended, the colonies had grown. The plasmids were taken up by the bacteria. All we had to do now was to extract these plasmids. Easy, right?
It is, the concept that is. All you really had to do is open up the bacterial cells and then isolate the plasmid from the rest of the cell contents and the bacterial genome, purify it, and there you go: plasmids. I learned this in class, in my molecular biology class. Yet it doesn’t really make sense on paper (at least for me it didn’t).
But I got to do it today. In about two hours, I created two small vials of plasmids which can be stored for later use. Later use, that is, in experiments, such as when a researcher wants to linearize the plasmids to run them on a gel or insert them into a new genome for further study.
Yes. This is tiring. Yes. This path I choose is exhausting. But yes, this is the most rewarding thing I can think of at this point in my life. I regret no decisions I have made thus far. Things will slowly fall into place, and this dream is worth chasing.