Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A bad day for science

Today was a minor disaster of a day. I'm taking this stupid grant writing class that second-year PhD students have to take, and over the last few weeks we've been writing the individual sections of a grant. Specifically, the F31 pre-doctoral fellowship (NIH). Today we had to submit the complete grant,  incorporating the suggestions of the reviewing professor. Ugh. Writing shit for this course has been almost as painful as writing my master's thesis. I've hated every minute of it, even though it's a good practical course all grad students should be forced to take.

Anyway, being the dingus that I am, I thought that I could get the whole thing knocked out last night. Ha! Silly me. I couldn't even concentrate long enough to open Word and type my name, much less knit together a cohesive scientific-sounding thought. So I got up early-ish (for me, anyway), and got to school a little after 9 am today. I thought that I could easily crank out my finished grant in 4 hours and submit it before the start of class at 1 pm. Well, I cranked out something and submitted it by 1 pm. I think I incorporated at least some of the instructor's suggested edits, but I know I missed a bunch. Based on past experience, (having been severely chastised - by one of the instructors who is probably my own age - for turning something in late) I've learned that as far as the profs are concerned, it's better to turn in a steaming turd on time than it is to turn in Pulitzer Prize-worthy work late. I think that's bullshit, but whatever.

Incredibly, I thought I would have time to do some science today before and after class. The only science-y thing I was able to do this morning was to tell my minion (she's actually an intern, but I like the way minion sounds) to repeat last week's fish infections using a higher inoculum. Unfortunately, the shaking incubator decided to quit shaking sometime before 5 am this morning, so that introduces an additional unwelcome variable into my planned experiment. I did manage to infect some fish also, but it was almost 4 pm before I had time to do so. Bah.

My main goal for this week was going to be optimizing a protocol for fixing and paraffin-embedding V. cholerae-infected zebrafish for histology. Infected fish aren't completely infiltrated with paraffin and don't cut well. Therefore, we haven't been able to conduct much histological staining/analysis (looking for the presence of colonizing bacteria or other signs of pathology due to infection). Because I didn't read the protocol carefully enough, I neglected to put the infiltration paraffin in the water bath last night to melt. I didn't think it would be that big a problem - I could just melt the stuff in the microwave, right? WRONG! Apparently, infiltration paraffin is immune to the microwave's melt-y wiles. It didn't matter how long I nuked that shit, it would. not. melt. Not even a little bit. If it had been in a non-plastic container, I could have torched it or put it on a hot plate or something. Anyway, this seemingly minor oversight has royally fucked up the time frame for the protocol and may lead to my samples being ruined. Instead of being in clarifying solution just overnight, my fixed fishies will end up marinating for 2+ days. I don't know how this will affect my samples yet. I guess I'll find out tomorrow or Thursday.
Speaking of tomorrow, Wednesday is apparently "40 oz. Wednesday". I guess a bunch of us are going to sit around and drink 40s in the afternoon. Maybe my science is just suffering from delirium tremens. Beer ought to fix that. I don't think it could make anything much worse, anyway.