Today was just one of those days when my brain didn’t work. It was one of those days when things would come out of my mouth in garbled strings and loops of syllables. I felt utterly not on point. It was terrible. I forgot to start cultures of competent cells, so I didn’t get to finish my transformation. I explained a graph during journal club really terribly. Nothing worked coming out of my brain and into the outer world. I mean, I got a chromosomal DNA extraction to work, I think. But aside from that… ugh.

I did get to watch a presentation on super resolution microscopy. It was pretty cool. Mostly I was there for the pretty microscopy pictures. My current project doesn’t really need microscopy, but I worked in a lab that studied cell division and used microscopy to look at the localization of cell division proteins. Microscopes are freaking expensive (sigh, money and research).

So now I am going to sit here, read more about DNA replication, possibly read some of Caitlin Moran’s How to be a Woman, eat some of my giant dish of lasagna (seriously, it is hard to make one serving of lasagna), change the water in my vase of flowers that I got while talking to a really interesting florist (who talked microbes with me!), and go to sleep early because I am tired.

I need to get back into running… but all of my running clothes have been sweatified and need to be washed…

Also, I’m considering going to the fencing club practices! I fenced for a semester (about) at Mudd and it was fun… maybe this will be a good time to get back into it!


Books, Blue, and the Boy

Today I acquired a coffee maker. It makes five cups of coffee and I can program it to make coffee when I wake up. I wanted to find one of those pour over coffee filters, but I couldn’t… I’m not a huge coffee drinker (I prefer tea, because I can taste the different flavors better), but sometimes I just really crave some coffee flavored life… Luckily, I found out that making the coffee maker make 2 cups of coffee is actually the equivalent of one cup of coffee for me. So it all works out in the end. (I’m testing the automatic feature tomorrow morning… with any luck, I’ll wake up to the smell of coffee and not my apartment burning down).

I am now more than one week into grad school. The results of last week (and this weekend, because bacteria don’t recognize weekends): mutants! I managed to make three deletion (well, deletion in that we inserted kan resistance genes where the actual genes were supposed to be) mutants in B. subtilis. Also, I am getting better at saying subtilis the right way and not “sub-till-is.”

My dearly beloved person that I adore (also known as the boy) visited for the Labor Day weekend, so I got to enjoy dragging (not really, he went willingly) him to the bookstore, where we got matching copies of Dune (by Frank Herbert) and the Magicians (by Lev Grossman). We also somehow avoided going to the Iowa vs. Northern Illinois game… but were a little overwhelmed by the amount of black and gold downtown… This is very much a Big 10 town and I am terrified of how my little non-sporty self is going to cope (… maybe it’s time to wikipedia the rules of football…). My favorite geeky moment was probably finding a random conference room at Bowen and working out what relative percentages of blue caused by beta galactosidase cleaving X-gal to expect on my plates. Since the boy is a computer scientist (whose interests in biology tend toward the computational, conceptual, and/or neuroscientific areas), I got to practice explaining my work, which naturally helped a bit in me understanding what I am doing. The hardest part of being a rotation student is that I don’t quite feel like I’m doing science or contributing much intellectually. I feel like a pair of hands. Which is good in that I learn a great deal of techniques. But I also feel like I need to be doing more thinking than I actually am.

And so here I am. I just drank a cup of somewhat strong delicious chocolate raspberry coffee. I am reading about DNA replication, which is turning out to be one of my favorite things to study in detail. I am slightly overwhelmed by my journal club class – we’re focusing on regulation of enzymatic activity and bonding interactions and things like AraC… and enzymes and bonding are not my strongest suits. So it’s terrifying.

I feel a little bit of the “what if I’m not actually smart enough to be here” coming on, but I’m working hard to dispel self-doubts that are actually harmful. A little fear is a good motivator… but confidence is the best. (or something like that). and I may be procrastinating right now…so i should get back to reading…


ps. Currently reading Caitlin Moran’s How to be a Woman and it is fantastic! I have laughed so much while reading this book. While I don’t agree 100% with everything she says, it is a really fascinating read and she brings up relatable points! 

Experimenting with grains

I decided to be creative with breakfast. Also the bulk foods sections at the store are going to be my downfall.

This is a porridge with bulgur wheat, a tiny bit of old fashioned oats, soy milk, some brown sugar and vanilla, a few chia seeds, and a handful of blueberry flax granola. And honey.

Om nom nom!


The Iowa uniform…

I went to the Campus Wellness and Recreation Center today. I was wearing a Harvey Mudd shirt, because most of my shirts are Mudd shirts… Anyway, on the way down someone stopped me and said they had gone to Scripps. Apparently, the person was a dean of the law school here. I like meeting 5C folks. So if any of you are out there, hi!

I also saw this picture on the way down:


Which I thought was really cool.

I woke up late this morning (around 8). I figured it was my last weekend before the start of class and I might as well take advantage of it. I went to lab yesterday. My first PCR in more than a year seemed to work and I did my first gel purification in more than a year… Going back to molecular biology after a year as a behavioral neuroscientist for thesis is a little terrifying. I’m not always sure that I’m not forgetting something basic. So now we have a few strains growing for transformation on Monday.

Also I called this post the Iowa uniform because I swear – wearing an Iowa shirt is required or something. I guess I should go find one. Adjusting to a large state school that cares about sports is going to be fun…

Thursday Textbooks! (and thoughtful tidbits?)

Today I stayed home and waited for the technician to fix my Internet. It was actually not terrible. I learned a little bit more about the problems going on and got a chance to apply genetic techniques to troubleshooting… or anyway, I saw the relationship between the techniques used to figure out what was causing the problem with the things I’ve been reading in papers recently.

This entire week has been basically orientation. I’ve been getting oriented with regards to my rotation project, the University, and Iowa City. Also, my body’s been getting used to doing more physical things like running and walking and biking everywhere.

With the start of grad school (and the apparent culture of healthiness and partying that goes on here… #1 party school … yeah…) I’ve been trying to be more healthy. In my adventures on the internet, skimming blogs and reading articles and such, I’ve been exposed to the idea of being happy with who you are and being comfortable in your body. There’s the idea of dressing the way you want to – not to impress anyone, but to impress yourself. There’s the idea of being who you want to be and not caring what others think about you.

But it’s really hard. I’ve always found that I seek approval in what I do. This is part of what drove me to be academically involved in high school and into college and onwards (though now I’m driven mostly by a desire to learn more about things). This approval seeking, though, leaked into how I viewed my body. While not obese, I have always been overweight. I didn’t particularly care. I wasn’t traumatized by it. The only times I thought about it was when I was in ballet class (it’s hard not think about your body when you’re wearing tights and a leotard) and when I would compare how I looked to others (not that often in high school, when we were forced to wear uniforms). To be honest, though, I cared a little. It didn’t help that for some reason a person’s weight was some sort of conversation starter in my family and extended family. When weight was brought up, I would think to myself, “I’m not that fat. I have muscles in my legs (from ballet). And I don’t look that fat.” But then I’d look in the mirror right before the shower and frown at what I saw. Definitely not a toned torso. Largish arms. And it would make me sad and then I’d have to struggle to be okay with it and promise myself that I was still healthy and that I’d work harder to stay healthy.

And now I have that chance, that new beginning. And to be true to myself, I have to do it for me. Which is difficult, because to be honest it’s also probably a reaction to the idea of beauty that is prevalent in society. I need to find that balance and that self-cognizance to be able to know what my motivations are. I don’t just want to do things because society tells me to do things.

Anyway. That was a random rant/bunch of thoughts.

I didn’t take a picture, but I got my Microbial Genetics textbook today!

And I’m going to go back to reading papers about ECF sigma factors.

New places, new views


I’m a desert girl in a river city. Views like this are amazing to me. And this is on the way to work. Look at all that green and all that water! My river at home, the Mojave, is mostly underground and trickles.

Of course there is a price to pay. The humidity. My body is not used to it and decides to sweat like crazy. Which is quite gross as I am unused to being quite this sweaty in sub-90 degree weather.

Experimenting! (a scientist plays with food!)

I usually cook with recipes. I am a fairly strict follower of protocol. I like reading the methods sections of papers . That was a lie, sorry. But I also like just throwing ingredients around like I’m the rat of Ratatouille, Remy. This was the first time I really tried a whole meal without a recipe.

And it worked, mostly. I made a vegetable cheese quiche with a bulgur wheat crust, and I think it worked out pretty well. The crust needs a little more crustifying, but it wasn’t bad at all. Maybe my next step is to experiment with this until I get the method down correctly.

Also, I wish I knew more about food chemistry. It would explain a lot of things about flavors tasting well together. Kind of like my undergrad thesis (which involved C. elegans chemotaxis to or away from odors that are produced by bacteria [see page 24! I did my senior thesis in Glater lab!]) The funny thing about doing a thesis on food preference in nematodes is that it relates a lot to everyday life – at least in the way I think about smells and tastes. It’s all about how we sense the signals and react. But it’s also about the chemical interactions between the signals, which are really just molecules that for some reason smell.

Biology is so exciting to me. Today was my grad school orientation and I got signed up for classes. Genetics and prokaryotes! What more can a girl want? I also started learning more about my project for the first research rotation – dealing with extracellular function sigma factors in bacteria! Extracellular function sigma factors are a type of alternative sigma factor that helps the bacteria respond to stress. Sigma factors are proteins that allow RNA polymerase to bind to DNA to begin transcription (and so they are pretty important in the cell). These alternative sigma factors allow for different sets of genes to be expressed depending on what signals there are to tell the cell what sigma factor is used. And in the end, this goes back to how the cell reacts to the environment, which is what gives me happy giggles of joy.

Anyway… that was a random biological tangent.

Here’s a picture of food!

This is what it looked like before I cut into it. Which is an interesting exercise when you don’t have a dedicate pie cutter or server.