Thursday, August 19, 2010


My school requires three rotations. The post docs in my undergrad lab thought spending most of Year 1 in different labs, not actually doing thesis research, was a waste of time. I even thought I knew what lab I wanted to join, so I kind of agreed with them.

Then I got here and learned the awesome guy I wanted to work with was moving far away, and I had no intention of moving. Plus, I don't know if our personalities were compatible. So I rotated with other professors.

Rotations are hard. I don't like change. I want some semblance of a routine, and then there I was, every two months, working in a different lab, not knowing where to find beakers, worrying that the other grad students would hate me, screwing up experiments again and again, and of course, having stupid lab accidents. I'm terribly accident prone, and now lots of professors get to know this first-hand because I spent time working in their labs.

Even though they're hard, I'm super glad I did them. When I realize we're missing a key reagent, I feel comfortable going to my old labs and begging shamelessly for some acrylamide. I learned some new techniques and cool science.

And most importantly, I found my thesis lab. There's no way I would have joined this lab without doing a rotation first. Now here I am, in a brand new lab as one of the first grad students, and I'm so happy to be here.

Plus, being the first student to be injured in the lab means I'll always be remembered!

Friday, August 13, 2010

First year complete!

My first year of grad school is nearly over. I've been resisting being called a second year because that makes it sound like I should have more knowledge and wisdom than when I arrived here. Alas, new first years are starting to arrive, and so I'm forced into wisdom.

I'm at a big research university in the Great Snowy North (GSN), and I'm trying to get a PhD in biochem. We'll see how that works out!

Here are some things I've learned in the last year...

  • Sleep is vitally important. I didn't sleep much as an undergrad, and as a result, I was always exhausted, stressed, and sick. Life seems much more manageable after 7 hours of sleep.
  • Lab rotations are great. We have to do three of them in my program. I learned so much from each two month stint in a new lab. Plus, I took a risk, rotated in a brand new lab, and realized it was the perfect fit. It's safe to say I wouldn't be in this lab if there hadn't been a rotation.
  • I love living by myself. I get necessary quiet time and can recharge after spending all day with lab mates and class mates. Plus, there's no one to yell at me when I'm messy!
  • It's important to meet people outside my program. I have great friends in my program, but I see them all the time so small annoyances have the opportunity to fester and become a big deal that causes way too much drama. I wish I'd made a more diverse set of friends in my first months here!
  • I love eating real food. Don't get me wrong, Kraft Mac and Cheese is a gift from the gods, but this grad student will not be living off of ramen noodles. I joined a CSA (community supported agriculture), so I get fresh, local vegetables on a weekly basis. So much better!

I've learned some things, but there's still so much to learn! I need to work on reading more research papers and read them critically, figure out how to plan my research better so I use time efficiently (which helps with the sleeping and eating well goals), find motivation when nothing works as expected, learn to balance classes with research and TA-ing, maybe figure out an exercise plan, and keep demanding some sort of balanced life.

There's so much to do!

Intro Post

There's a lot of cool science being discovered these days, and I feel the need to blog about it. Gene expression is my one true love. I plan to blog about RNA, transcription, chromatin structure, and evolution.

And because science research is performed by actual people (including me!), I will also blog about my life as a scientist.

I hope you enjoy!