Sunday, January 13, 2013

Say hello to Ms. Sacher-Masoch...

i.e. the original masochist. I just can't seem to stop inflicting great pain on myself. For example, this week I am infecting zebrafish larvae with GFP-expressing cholera in order to (hopefully) visualize the bacteria using fluorescent microscopy. The idea is to get a good image that demonstrates cholera colonization of the zebrafish gut, which my PI can use in the paper he is writing and he said would get me co-authorship. Yay! I also have to plan out an experiment for my rotation student to see if fish infected with cholera can spread it to uninfected fish when placed in the same container of water. Plus, I am apparently getting an intern tomorrow. (I told Chris that I will refer to her in private as "Monica the Intern", just to be lewd 'cause that's the kind of person I am) I will have to plan stuff for her to work on once I know when I can do my own experiments in the fish lab.

I'm in a weird, yet incredibly exciting, position; I'm now considered the lead researcher in the development of the zebrafish model of cholera colonization/infection - I think. So anyone that comes into the lab to do fish stuff gets assigned to me. To the best of anyone's knowledge, I am the only person in the world working on this. I didn't expect this to happen so soon. I honestly can't imagine being in the shoes of my PI, entrusting me with the project that everyone in the lab calls "his baby". I don't know if it's just because I'm the warm body who landed in the lab at the right time to get the project, or if he sees qualities in me that make him think I'd do well in this role - qualities that I don't often credit myself with, like a general lack of idiocy for starters.

Tuesday is going to be a real banner day. First, I have to rewrite a scientific journal article into a "News and Views" type of summary piece for a general (read: non-scientist) audience and turn it in before class begins at 1:00 pm. Then, we have a departmental seminar from 12:00 - 1:00 pm. The final coup de grĂ¢ce is the abstract I still need to write for the poster I'm presenting at the national ASM meeting this May. The abstract submission deadline is also Tuesday, the 15th.

So that's my upcoming week in a nutshell. I just hope my head doesn't explode before I have a chance to knock back a beer with friends at the Corner on Friday. That would totally suck.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The wheels of science keep grinding

A full week into 2013 and I think I have finally accumulated enough stuff to write about. I guess it's similar to how I wait to go to the doctor until I feel like I've "saved up" enough maladies to make it worth my while. Unfortunately, once I unfurl my laundry list of complaints, I sound like a raging hypochondriac to anyone within earshot.

I had initially intended to do some lab work over Christmas break, but I ultimately talked myself out of it. This past Sunday, I started feeling really anxious about starting back in the lab on Monday. I had it in my head that the other grad students in my department had all worked diligently through the break, and would berate me for my laziness in staying my unmotivated ass at home. I had also told myself that I would catch up my lab notebook (for reals this time!) and start the year with unbridled enthusiasm and a clear vision of what I want to accomplish in my research project. Oh, what lofty unattainable traps goals I set for myself! I'm so far behind, I'm still writing up shit I did in September. Ugh.

I have a few things going on that should keep me pretty busy for the foreseeable future. One is that I'm taking a scientific communications class, which is similar to the proposal development class I took at Eastern. It does seem to be quite a bit more structured than proposal development and it delves into scientific writing with specific goals/audiences in mind. I forgot how much it sucks to have classes again. By the end of the semester, I should have slowly and painfully birthed a grant proposal for my thesis project. I really need to sit down with my PI and hash some shit out. I need to stop being so afraid to ask questions about what I'm doing!

Another thing I need to do this week (that I should have done in, like, November) is flow cytometry on the cholera strain I made - and resuscitated from Christmas break benchtop desiccation - that is supposed to constitutively express GFP. My sequences came back with some possible point mutations, which may or may not affect expression of GFP. Colonies seem to look green when I expose them to blue light, so at least I know that something is working somewhere in the black box of the transcriptional unit. Here's a picture of a GFP-expressing strain (not the one I just created) that I took using the fluorescence scope I learned how to use. They're purdy :)

My PI dangled the carrot of co-authorship on the fish paper he is writing if I can infect zebrafish larvae with my GFP strain and show gut colonization via fluorescence microscopy. I'll write more on this exciting new development in my research saga tomorrow, as well as my being charged with the care and feeding of our rotation student for the next eight weeks. I'll probably do a better job of taking care of her than I do trying to look out for myself. Enough for now; I couldn't sleep at all last night and I'm really tired all of a sudden. With that said, I'm gonna quit writing and thinking now and just go to bed.