Back to the Grind: 2013

There are certain things that I feel as if I will never be able to wrap my head around. Nor will I ever come to fully understand the implications of many of the things that have been happening in my life recently.

Are there reasons why I am so fortunate for being able to come across this opportunity to research in a wonderful lab? What is the purpose of my deciding to push through with a quarter filled with endless hours performing lab research, understanding my project and its implications, as well as trying to keep up with very time consuming, content filled courses?

I guess this isn’t the place or time to be thinking about all of this. I can say though, that after a week back at school in 2013, I am very overwhelmed and wondering what it is I can cut out from my life in order to really, fully grasp everything this quarter has to offer, as well as push myself and do the best that I know I can do.

Overall, I am looking forward to tackling the project that I have been given by my PI. I feel like it is a great starting point for me to really come to understand how to study eukaryotic transcription at the molecular level, something that is truly fascinating and intriguing. Aside from doing basic preparations I have been reading up on the literature written about the proteins I am working on. There is so much unknown out there that it is amazing how I get to be a part of this discovery process. We may think science has offered us all the answers but to this day, there is still so much unknown, so much uncertainty that only through research and discovery will we be albe to come one step, one baby step, closer to understanding how our body works on the molecular level.

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Words Come Alive.

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.

Learning Curve

I wish I could say that things are smooth sailing, but that would be a lie. Classes have started and within the first week of the quarter, I have had three quizzes, one writing assignment due, 50 plus pages of biology reading, plus 15 poems to catch up on. It doesn’t help that I don’t have all my books and that my schedule is still not set in stone.

On top of academics, I am not part of a journal publication on campus as well as a member of three campus organizations. And to add to it all, I think I will be joining yet another journal publication and I am employed.

Does this post serve as anything significant? Not really. Just an update, from here in Evanston. It has been a rough week but also it has been a great one as well. I am getting to know more of myself each day, test my abilities, and meeting some really great people. Other than that, not much left to say. Hope you all are doing well!

One Book One Northwestern Day in Chicago

As part of the One Book One Northwestern program, new students were invited to participate in a day out in the greater Chicagoland area. The book that we were asked to read this year explored the various neighborhoods of Chicago.

On a whim, I decided to take this chance — 7 hours away from my academics — to take a look at what there is to offer in Chicago. And I am so glad that I did. The group I was placed in went to Fuller Park, in the southern part of Chicago. The topic of our adventure today was Leadership and Community Development. In this, we visited a place called Eden Place, where it is an oasis within the city. Fuller Park is bordered by the highway and a newly built train wall.

Driving through the city, I noticed how rundown the place was. It is so different to be in a less fortunate community. The community is in need of further development and much help. This has been a truly humbling experience, to be able to see a less fortunate part of Chicago, to know that there is so much of a disparity even within Evanston and the greater Chicago area.

But more than that, today was a day of learning and self discovery. More than anything, it has been a chance to learn about the city that I am going to be calling my home for the next two years, or maybe even more.

I spent the day in a small community in Southern Chicago. I got to meet some amazing professors and a prominent leader in the Fuller Park community. Things can be rough, but sometimes the brightest diamonds are the ones found in the roughest of areas.

Here are some pictures to share from my day, though:

Animals raised at Eden Place:

          

 Houses along the main street in Fuller Park

 All kinds of tomatoes grown at Eden Place

New Beginnings

Typically, before every quarter starts, I write about my goals and aspirations for the quarter at hand. However, this time, it is something different. A new adventure.

This morning, I met with the Biological Sciences program director to fill out paperwork to declare the major. After turning the forms in at the Weinberg college advising office, I felt a sigh of relief; I have an official major at my new university and have a set goal to work towards: a B.S. in Biological Sciences with a concentration in Genetics and Molecular Biology. Lengthy. But exciting.

Tomorrow classes start. Junior year. And with that, it is my chance to start over, with a new goal in mind, aspirations and dreams. It sounds general, it sounds boring, but in truth, it is how I feel.

I have the goal one day of becoming a doctor. Pediatrician, if that is possible. I know it is a long road ahead but I am ready for what lies ahead.

Hit the ground running, as I am told. Just get involved. Research, volunteering, clinical experience, shadowing, clubs, campus organizations. It is all so overwhelming. Yet I am looking forward to all that Evanston and the Windy City have to offer.

So for now, this is where I will leave it at. Classes start tomorrow. Here the adventure begins. Here’s to new adventures and the unknown path that lies ahead.

Trip to Chicago and more!

There are only a couple days before classes are set to begin. We attended President’s Convocation yesterday. The weather has been absolutely perfect these past couple of days. Taking some time away from campus, the transfers and their Peer Advisors spent the afternoon in Downtown Chicago.

Everything about this city has captivated my heart. How can you not fall in love with a city where there is a river that runs right through, where there is the shores of Lake Michigan right to the east of the city?

It isn’t your typical big city. Sure, there are a lot of people and a lot of traffic and tall buildings, but it is clean. It is welcoming. It is inviting. And it is absolutely gorgeous (at least the parts of town I have been to). There is nature embedded into the city, starting with the trees lining the streets to the river right through town to Millenium Park.

I won’t say more; pictures are worth a thousand words. Take a look for yourself. What do you think?

 

NU Arch

 

President’s Convocation

 

 

 

Lake Michigan

 

 

Chicago’s famous deep dish pizza @ Gino’s East

 

 

Downtown viewed from Michigan Street

 

 

The Bean @ Millenium Park

Start of WildCat Welcome

Today marks the first day I became an offices WildCat! We marched under the arch, the gateway to campus on a gloomy yet peaceful morning. We stood as a class of 2016 and transfer class on Deering Meadow as President Morty and a couple other speakers addressed us as the rain started to fall.

After listening to the marching band play, we sang the fight song and learned how to do the “claw” in preparation for the Big 10 game tomorrow. And lastly we took a class photo (though I must admit, I felt a bit out of place representing the class of 2014).

It is a jammed pack week. There isn’t much down time. And I have to say, I am overwhelmed and exhausted by everything going on. Though, while I am on this high, I have to admit to myself that this is a fantastic experience and it still feels unreal that I am here.

Cheers!

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Northwestern University Arch

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Weinberg Convocation