Hello :)

It’s been a minute, wordpress. I don’t think the title of my blog applies anymore. I’m thinking of starting blogging again, because as you know, life happens. I changed courses quite drastically, I must say. I’m no longer a graduate student. I graduated last October with my master’s degree and left the city I fell in love with this past April. I moved back to my home state, but to the southern part instead. I had a job for a few months but then suddenly lost it and now I’m a bit lost and confused.

I’ve been searching for employment for two weeks now, looking in the biotech sector to do research and development but also in the education sector. I thoroughly enjoyed my time mentoring high school students while in graduate school, and when I tutored and taught briefly at community college. Sometimes I wonder why I didn’t go get my teaching certificate so I could teach high school students but then again, I had a passion for research and lab work, so I followed my heart for a bit. Now, I feel like I’m back at square one, unsure of where to go from here.

You see, through all this, I’ve been discovering myself. I get down on myself quite often and I must say, I see the world with a glass half empty point of view. Or I did, I should say. I have been trying my best to see this as an opportunity, a blessing in disguise. It is a chance for me to figure out what I want to do with my life and career and I’ve been chasing my hobbies lately.

I went skydiving. If you know me, you know I absolutely hate heights and free falling. I don’t actively seek out adventure and I’m more of a homebody, sit on the couch and watch a baseball game and cuddle or read a good book at a coffee shop with my dogs type of girl. The most adventurous I’ve been is going to the ball park for a baseball game on a Monday night.

I dyed my hair and got it cut short.

I started to boulder and rock climb more, everyday in fact for over a week straight.

I run more now than I have in months. I’ve also got the Chicago Marathon coming up in a few short weeks.

I’m slowly beginning to physically and mentally prepare myself for a triathalon.

I’ve fallen in love. And let myself fall in love wholeheartedly, to the point where I’ve gotten heartbroken and now am hurting and confused.

Most importantly, I’m beginning to turn my life over to God. I believe in a higher power but I never grew up religious. However, nothing in my life made sense. I didn’t understand why I was being “punished” with mental illnesses and pain and emotional distress. I didn’t understand why I never managed to kill myself despite trying at a minimum of three times. I didn’t understand why I self-harmed for 10 years and am now left with the scars as reminders. I did, however, understand it the only way I could: because I was a failure, a mistake for my parents, a problem and I needed to be punished.

Now, however, I’m starting to see a purpose to my struggles. I’ve been able to speak out about my suffering, my experiences, my pain, as a way to help my friends understand that even the best of us who seem to have it all together can suffer. I’m more outspoken about my mental health because I believe in my heart that there is a meaning behind why this happened to me and in my lifetime. I share my story because if I can save one person from taking their own life, then I have won this battle with my mental illnesses.

I’m not going to preach to the choir about finding God and believing in His greater power, because truthfully, I don’t even know Him fully. I’m just scratching the surface. However, I can say that when I went skydiving, I put my life in His hands and let him guide me to safety. And I am doing that with my life too. I’m turning over my heart to God because He is the only one that knows who is the right one my heart belongs to. He is the only one that can bring two hearts together as one and while I feel I know who I want to be with, only God can provide me with the right individual in due time. I don’t know where I’ll end up in a day, in a week, in a month. I don’t know if I’ll have a job or a roof over my head or money to keep myself alive or if I’ll have the privilege of being somebody’s girlfriend and partner, but I do know that God’s timing is right and that it will work out in the end the way it is meant to work out.

He wouldn’t give me anything I am not strong enough to handle. I may not see my strength now, but when I look back, I’ll know exactly how strong I had to be to overcome the things I have and will have to in life.

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Proteins

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This is what science is to me. The white powder simply is nothing to most but I know that my protein sample is preserved, that the purification and care I took in processing the cell culture worked. Because that powder is my protein. And that protein is mine.

Cell Biology Videos :)

I think I mentioned before that I have been accepted into graduate school and will be working towards a PhD in biological sciences. However, I don’t know what exact discipline I want to go into but the good thing is I am part of an umbrella program so I get to rotate in three labs and choose!

So to preview I guess what I may be studying — cell biology!

Enjoy 🙂

Hello :)

Hi there readers!

It’s been quite a while since I last posted. All I can say is that life happened, in a good way though. I have finally figured out what I want to be doing with the rest of my life and it’s nice to know I will be staying put here on the shores of Lake Michigan for a few more years!

I applied to the graduate program at my undergraduate institution and was accepted, so I get this wonderful opportunity to study what I love, learn new skills and techniques, be surrounded by the best in the field, all while getting four seasons and starting my own, independent life.

It’s weird but I guess that’s what comes with graduation. That’s not to say you can’t take time off or such but this is what I want to be doing and my gut feeling is telling me to pursue graduate studies in a biological sciences interdisciplinary doctorate program. So I am. I would have never thought when I transferred universities, let alone just a month ago. Sometimes things change quickly, other times slowly. And patience, as I have learned, is the best way to approach all the curveballs life throws our way.

For now, I end with this thought, something that has given me a new way of approaching life. More soon, and I cannot wait to share with you all and document my journey through a doctorate program.

Challenges and obstacles on the path of life may seem initially like things that are standing in your way but in reality, the obstacles, roadblocks, challenges, curve balls are the path of life. You can’t avoid hitting a curveball when it comes your way because if you do, then it will keep coming back. So why not just go for it? You may miss the first time but you will eventually get a hold of it and drive it right over the shortstops head into left field.

Save those samples!

I let out the biggest sigh of relief when I saw those three letters in that 1.5 mL eppendorf tube sitting in my box in the -20C freezer.

It has been a couple months since last posting due to the fact that a lot has been going on in my life personally and academically. I have just gotten a chance to sit down, today, with my PI to discuss the project that I am currently working on and all the results that I have gotten.

A time crunch is an understatement for the situation that my project is in. I have been working on this since February, and since the middle of March, my project has been going in circles. Finally, after somewhat conclusive NMR data and yet again unexpected SEC-MALS data, we (my PI and I) have come to the conclusion that quite possibly, something as minor as a His-tag is affecting my entire protein sample.

It would have helped to realize this sooner, but despite all the failures that I have seen in the past couple of months, it is good to know that all my experiments and tests have not been in vain. Though I am going back to step one by transforming my plasmid with my target sequence into E. coli for overexpression, at least I know that what I am about to work on will give me a shot at producing some results at the very least.

My first year at Northwestern is coming to an end and my time in lab has been nothing short of amazing. I have pushed myself to so many limits and cannot have asked for a better lab to join. The people I work with are so incredibly talented and though it often times makes me realize how little I have accomplished in my life and how much of a failure I seem compared against my fellow labmates, I use that to drive me to do what I need to do.

I am motivated and determined to be able to push my project forward. It really is satisfying to see results coming out, to be able to interpret them on your own, and then discuss with your PI in a two-way conversation regarding what the next steps are.

This year has been such a whirlwind but I can say that I am so happy and grateful for the grant that I have been given to allow me to continue my research here during the summer months.

For now, this is it. Bacteria cells await my care. Just know, saving samples is crucial when doing research! Save those samples!

Back at the bench: in the dugout and in the lab

There is a strange about standing over the pH meter, watching the numbers rise — click, click, they sound. Or so I imagine. One drop too much of NaOH and there goes the beautiful click, click; it is a swoosh, an adrenaline rush.

Time to add HCl. Bring those numbers back down. But one too many drops — even half a drop — and there goes the delicate balance between hydrogen ions and hydroxide ions

There is precision to the work that I do for my independent study course. I am to spend whatever time I wish to in lab, to do my project at my own leisure. Sure, there are ‘deadlines’ I need to meet — have you purified yet? Did you run SEC? How about that protein gel? Do you have enough pellets in the -80C freezer ready to go on any given notice?

Yes. Yes. Yes. I think. No. I actually don’t have my act together. Or I didn’t. Because for the past 10 days or so, since the quarter started, I told myself that I need to focus on me, that I need to start reaching back to the old me — the one that loved to run and workout to stay sane, the girl that found joy in burying herself in her studies.

But that hasn’t worked. Back at the bench since my last class ended, following a day since my 7AM 4-hour emergency room shift, I find myself sitting at my lab desk, staying late into the night, doing one too many tasks. Run the agarose gel to see just exactly why your mutagenesis isn’t working. Incubate the EDTA with your resin in the cold room for 10 minutes before you elute. Collect your fractions from the SEC run and store them so you can run a gel on them later.

There is a list of tasks running through my head. It has been 15 hours since I was last sleeping. I tried to avoid coffee all day but half a cup down and I am going strong.

Fueled not by fear, but by passion. Back at the lab bench, it brings me back to the days when I had a seat on the bench. In the third base dugout, where despite convention of the home team getting the first base dugout, our team was, sun behind us and not in our eyes. Being back at the bench is just like being on the bench, up against the fence, cheering on the team. It is just like grabbing my battered Mizuno glove off the yellow bench, running out as I slip my sunglasses over my eyes, and looking back at the field to gather the sign and position myself, predicting where the ball will go. Because isn’t that what I am doing now? Making predictions and then running an experiment to see if what I think is reality? Because isn’t positioning yourself just slightly on the third base foul line indicating that an inside pitch is being called by the catcher and that the righty at bat will pull it down the line?

At the end of the day, I can tell myself I need this time for this and this time for that. But really, it doesn’t matter what my ”excuses” are, because this is where I feel at home. There is a feeling of serenity and calm that overcomes me as I methodically go through each step. I have my protocol memorized down to how many grams of each chemical I need. Step by step, walking a fine line.

Just like I knew the hitting signals and the fielding cues, I know my protocol. I know that an outside pitch requires me to go with it and poke it just over the first basemen’s head so I can beat the right fielder’s throw to the bag. Just like that. It is a science. Softball and research. Where I am me.

Research Grants

Only having been in involved in biological sciences research since January of this year (when I got my own project, not counting the shadowing I did during fall quarter), the grant process was something that I dove into head first. I knew that the entire process would pose many struggles — composing something that isn’t an english paper? read through scholarly articles to gather background information? understand the entire project? produce preliminary results?

It was all over my head. There were one too many drafts that I ended up going through. At one point, my project changed, and half my grant went out the window. New background information. More sources to sift through. Learning my new samples.

It is an experience that I hope to be able to go through again in the future. I know that I have a long way to go, as I am still very much an amateur in every sense. It has only been a mere three months that I have been working intensively on my own project.

That is what summer is for. Spending time on the shores of Lake Michigan, hoping to understand how two proteins interact. Unsubstantial? Maybe. But I know that it is an honor to be granted this research grant by the university and I can’t wait to dive head first into the coming summer months.

Rhythm

I didn’t think that I would start to enjoy lab when I first signed up for this experience. I did it because I fit the need to step out of my comfort zone and challenge myself at this new school I found myself at in the fall. Yet somehow, over the course of the past few months, I have grown to love the work that I do and love the time that I spend on the fourth floor of Cook Hall.

It has been a busy quarter, filled with an enormous amount of firsts. There have been milestones though. I wrote my first grant. I made my first research presentation and then presented it to my labmates during meeting. Small steps which seem like nothing but mean so much.

What I have come to see is that research is tedious at times; challenging, time consuming, draining, and downright frustrating. But regardless of whatever feelings it may arouse, I know that it is something that has grown on me. Just like you can’t judge a book by its cover, don’t discount all the negatives about what you know of research, because you never know, it could grow on you and add more to your life than you could ever imagine.

Setbacks in the Lab

It’s been about a month now. I have had a project since the first day of the quarter, but it seems that the project which I once thought was mine no longer is. I came back from class today to find an envelope sitting at my lab desk waiting to be opened. They were my primers. Three sets of them — sense and antisense.

Though it may not seem like it, I am really disappointed in myself for the results that I have been getting. I know that it shouldn’t fall on my shoulders because I can’t control if two proteins are to interact or not. I followed protocol and that should be what matters. However, tonight, the night before my biochemistry midterm, all I could feel was frustration over my research. I started my new project today. I ended my first one today too.

This is the first time I have felt so invested in something and to see it not work? Heartbreaking.

I know this is only part of research, and that I have learned so much from this month. But still, part of me feels as if I have let my PI down and my lab down.

Your thoughts?