Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Adventures in Quebec City! (and other stuff)

So right now I'm writing my blog entry at the Halifax, Nova Scotia airport, since I missed my shuttle to reach a rendezvous point where my cousins will pick me up; and I need something to do. Anyway before I begin my tale of Quebec City, I'll give you great pictures I should have posted earlier. The first two are pictures of the lab in which I work:

This is where all the amazing genotyping and PCR (and other great complicated stuff) gets done. Apart from here, I work in the psychology department for the behavioral experiments, which unfortunately isn't pictured.

This is a view from the lab. We happen to be on the 6th floor and get a great view of the city everyday. (My guess is that these were put in to keep the scientists happier.) In other research news, after my trip from Nova Scotia, I'll be doing behavioral experiments galore. The great thing about behavioral research is that you can get data relatively easily and quickly, but the preparation with the animals, etc. takes a lot of time. But more about that at a later time.

Alright, a picture that I hadn't uploaded at the time but should have included in my last post was one of Cirque du Soleil:

The iconic circus tent can be seen from pretty much all parts of the port near Old Montreal.

And now to Quebec City:

My friend Anthony and I went Quebec City for the weekend, and we got to catch the last celebratory bits (some parties) of Fete Nationale du Quebec on June 23-24, or the Quebec "National" Holiday. I use the quotes, since well Quebec isn't independent...even though some want to secede. I shall refrain from any political judgments in this entry, since it wouldn't be very guest-like.

Anyway, the three hour bus ride from Montreal was pretty comfortable, and I was surprised to find the hostel we stayed in to be very clean and tidy. It's kind of old, but cozy nonetheless. There was even a bar (with excellent brews and cocktails for a small bar if I might add). I was disappointed to see that there weren't that many people my age at the hostel, but we did meet a person named Sebastien, who is also from France. More about our adventures with him later. First Anthony and I went to simply walk around the city and got magnificent views of the port, chateaus, and street life:

This is a view from the port/coast area. It was truly beautiful, especially with the excellent weather.

This is Anthony's dream home. lol. I forget the name of the chateau, but I know it's n0w been transformed into a classy hotel.

We also ran into these guys who did cool acrobatic stuff. I actually got pulled in to participate in one of the acts along with 5 other guys. We had to lie on the ground next to each other and one of the performers did a horizontal flip across all of us! It was pretty cool, especially since I've always wanted to be a part of these street acts. In summary, the city of Old Quebec has many little restaurants, bars, pubs, and cafes

The next day we met Sebastien, and we three decided to go to Montmorency Falls, which is about an hour away from Quebec City. It truly is a worthy site to see. The falls and the walking paths around it were a good way to get away from the city life and enjoy nature. Nearby was a local poutine restaurant and Montmorency Manor, which houses a number of boutiques and mid-to high end restaurants.

Anthony's on the left, Sebastien's on the right.

After we returned from our morning/afternoon in Montmorency, we decided to eat dinner at a restaurant that served la reclette, which basically is when you are served many choices of meats, veggies, and bread, and you have this apparatus that heats a special cheese that goes over combinations of food. It was phenomenal, and I was sooo stuffed! All in all Quebec City was a fantastic place to visit, and I hope I can come back some time!

I'll post soon my adventures in Halifax, Nova Scotia!

Until then!

Research takes patience...

AND I AM SO IMPATIENT! I wish I could just get results put them in a machine and have them all analyzed... but life just isn't that easy is it.

I am starting to get a bit frustrated while at work. Working at the Marine Biodiscovery Centre is challenging for me because I am the youngest student by 5 years. Everyone else who works here, except for one, has their PhD and is very involved in their work. I have only met my PI twice, so I often feel like I have little direction, so Jie, I know how you feel. Not only that, but many lab members are so involved in their work that they don't offer much help. But! That being said, I have learned how to work independently and figure things out on my own! Which actually, one could argue, is possibly the useful thing to learn in a lab.

It's taking me forever to get results. After growing my fungus for three weeks, I finally began extracting chemicals from it. I don't really know what I'm looking for because the PhD I'm working with is rarely around, but that shouldn't be a problem because...

This week I am trying to teach myself how to read 2D NMRs! And that's not an easy task my friends. While waiting for my fungal partitions to separate, I asked Hannah (the diploma student from Germany who is ALWAYS eager to help me and on a similar program as I am) if I could analyze some data she received from Bangladesh. And of course she said yes. She handed me an HNMR spectra, A C13NMR spectra, a COSY (Correlation spectroscopy) spectra, a Heteronuclear Multiple Quantum Coherence spectra and a Heteronuclear Multiple Bond Coherence spectra. WOAH, I was like... okay... this is going to be difficult. But after a bit of explaining from Hannah, I think I got the gist of it! Reading these spectra is a lot like those logic puzzles you get in 6th grade where you have to match the name, occupation and address of a group of people with a certain set of clues... maybe you remember.

Anyways, it was cool to learn how to read one of these guys:

Hopefully, by the end of the week I can start analyzing the fungal samples I will finish extracting today. Thing is, the NMR is broken at the moment. How frustrating... but that's just how research goes as they say... sigh

Liverpool was great. I left my camera cord at Ogy's by accident so I don't have any pictures to show just yet. This weekend I think I am going camping with some friends I met in Aberdeen and hopefully I will have some good NMRs to start analyzing.

Till next time!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

I see oocytes when I close my eyes

Sometimes I fall asleep imagining my forceps performing the perfect removal of the outer follicular layer.

I've reached the point of self-sufficiency with my oocyte preparations and voltage-clamp experiments. This means I no longer feel guilty for taking up my post-doc's time, though it does mean longer hours. The relationship between the oocytes and myself has also evolved. The wonderful mesh of oocytes young and old straight from an ovary under the dissecting scope on Monday mornings. Then the ensuing chaos in my petri dish as these fragile eggs burst white goo when my forceps accidentally poke them too hard. Finally, separating the 25 best ones and putting them to sleep inside the incubator. It's an emotional roller coaster from 9 to 5.

Austin and I hit up Liverpool last weekend and let me tell you about that. We caught a Beatles taxi cab tour with Peter and saw Strawberry Fields, Eleanor Rigby's grave, and what John meant by Norwegian Wood. The tour and tour guide were both the most excellent I've ever experienced. The hostel we stayed in had a resident wise, old black man who lectured me on why a south american team was going to win the world cup, the secret that is the great country of Ghana, and his life in Surinam. Then we hit up Crosbie beach and saw the surreal site of human statues along the coastline looking out to see. All in all, Liverpool is one of my favorite cities that I've been to.

I went for a little hike with my lab in the Peak District, or the rolling, English countryside. After which we had a well-deserved drink at a pub in the hills, and I was treated to the best Indian food I've had in England. They're all old and married, but who knew that old, married people know how to have fun? The Argentinian and German in our group are ecstatic about the results, and so are the two Englishmen who are now happy that the city has returned to normal. I'm pretty bummed about the US loss, but if Ghana can advance past Germany I'll be glad. I think Rachel got the best deal out of this whole IRES thing getting to be in Buenos Aires. When I see Maradona celebrate, I can only imagine how the streets of Argentina must explode after a goal.

Three weeks down, seven to go. Until next time.

-Logy D.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Wave Your Flag

Today I went to Plaza San Martín in downtown Buenos Aires to watch the Argentina vs. Mexico game on a gigantic outdoor screen. I was accompanied by Sarah, an American student who is doing research in a lab down the hall from mine, as well as thousands upon thousands of fanatic Argentines. Even if the first goal was questionable due to a blatant failure of the sideline referee to call offsides, we still won fair and square (and yes, I do now refer to Argentina's team as "we"). I had a great time at the plaza today - half of the fun was from watching the game, and the other half was from watching and listening to all of the locals going crazy each time Argentina made a play.

This is a Palacio San Martín, the palace at the entrance to the plaza:

And here's a view of the screen from a distance, with a tiny portion of the crowd:

I tried to get a few videos to show the excitement, but there's just no way to properly capture that much energy. I believe this one was taken shortly after Argentina's second goal:

In reality, the crowd was at least 100 times louder than that, though. I find it slightly ironic that by the time my ears stop ringing tomorrow morning, I'll be on my way to the lab to study the cochlear receptor involved in natural protection against hearing loss.

As you can tell, fútbol is the central focus of Argentinian life right now. However, while listening to games on the radio and discussing the latest World Cup gossip with other lab members, I've been able to get quite a bit of really good research done. I finished analyzing my data for one of the drugs I'm supposed to characterize, and I'm pretty excited about my results. Hopefully I'll get a chance to discuss my data with my PI early this week (and hopefully after talking with her I'll still think that my results are exciting). Also, I got a new shipment of compounds from the collaborator who is synthesizing the drugs, so I'm really excited to try out the new ones. I'm really invested in this project, so it's going to be difficult to pack up and leave in just over a month when I know that I'll still have more experiments I want to do. If only I could stay in Argentina indefinitely...

I'm sure I'll have lots more science and fútbol news to report next week, especially seeing as Argentina goes up against Germany on Saturday. Nabiha, prepare for battle.

USA :(

this week was nice but fairly uneventful... In lab, I labeled tadpoles with a fluorescent toxin which labels neuronal receptors so you can see the neurons that innervate the muscle cleft at different stages in development... after labeling, for the first time we tried putting the tadpoles in histo clear (we were trying to see if putting them in histo clear would get rid of the fluorescence), which makes it so you can see through the animal and so you can more easily observe the parts of the animal you would like to. In addition, we mounted these animals onto slides so we could observe them under the confocal the next day and take various images...this was a very interesting experiment for me because we learned about different types of labeling techniques in 302 this year!... I also went to a microscope talk this week to learn about some new software the lab just bought.. it has a computer program which controls the microscope and does various other cool things! I also went to my second lab meeting and watched the world cup with a bunch of my lab mates in an auditorium in the building i work in!... I met a bunch of new people through someone who lives in my hall! one of them loves to cook and has a cooking blog that she posts to regularly! Her cooking is wonderful! Some of the best food I have eaten here! She cooked some homemade french toast this morning (including the bread) and I'm going back for dinner tonight! I also went out to a grad party this week at a pub where they had live music playing which was soo much fun! everyone was swing dancing which i wasn't used to but joined in for a couple songs!.. I also watched the game last night with the group of emory people I met here and their whole gang of friends and went to another pub after which was a lot of fun! except disappointing that the US lost :( ... i also booked a weekend in Paris for next weekend with a good friend from Emory! I'm kind of worried about the hostel/ hotel we're staying in after looking at the reviews but it shall be a character building experience!...I'm off to watch the England game!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Montreal Edition Trois

People say not to apologize up front, but I really need to apologize for not being more diligent in updating this blog. But it looks like there have plenty of entries to keep this blog busy :)

Anyway in the past few weeks, I've done loads of stuff so here we go:

Research! So in the past weeks, I finally got certified to handle mice. Animal regulations here are pretty strict, etc., so my abilities to do behavioral tests with the mice were pretty much nonexistent. In the mean time, another post-doc in the lab showed me how to culture bacteria as well as grow neurons from mouse embryonic cortical tissue. It was some pretty neat molecular biology :) I also had time to become familiar with some behavioral testing protocols (i.e. object recognition and contextual fear conditioning).

After animal safety certification (you actually do get a certificate in the mail lol), I was given some 'normal' wild type mice to practice object recognition and fear conditioning protocols so that I don't screw up doing these tests on the mice that have been fed rapamycin for 10 weeks. Imagine that. If I screw up, then 10 weeks down the drain! No pressure ha. ha. But anyway, it turns out, we didn't have boxes (literally a 16" by 16" by 12" wooden box missing the top) for the mice to do object recognition; so I got to use some "brilliant engineering" to design 3 boxes. Successful I was.

From there, I ran object recognition tests with my 11 mice and scored the videos from the tests (scoring video by the way is ridiculously boring). Repeat similar procedure for fear conditioning minus the box building. So far results are pretty good. We'll tweak some parts of the protocol if it seems inefficient.

Anyway now to the fun stuff. Anthony, a new hallmate who moved in on my floor, is from France on 4 weeks paid vacation. Jealousy. But yeah, he's a pretty cool guy; and we've been touring Montreal together and watching plenty of world cup matches. Go USA by the way :) It's just been slightly difficult, since his English isn't that great; but this gives me a great chance to practice my French!

One of the things we saw in two weekends were different awesome fireworks shows. Apparently, there's an international competition hosted in Montreal with globally renown pyrotechnics. I posted a video of one segment of a show here for those of you who are interested:!/video/video.php?v=1309187698405

Also a picture:

Anthony and I watched these shows from an amusement park called La Ronde, which also belongs to the Six Flags franchise. In the picture, you can see a view of the park, but you can also see a bridge. That bridge is totally closed at night and filled with people to watch the fireworks.

At La Ronde, I decided to try poutine. I promised Leah that I would try this Quebecois local delicacy. It's basically fries, cheese, ground meat, and a choice of brown or red sauce. In terms of clogging your arteries for a fast death, this beats wingnuts hands down:

For me, it wasn't that great; but people like many other local delicacies.

The same place we watched fireworks is also very close to two major attractions: Montreal's largest casino and the Biosphere. I wish I could say that the casino carried a similar vibe to Vegas, but alas I cannot. It was simply filled with old people with money to spend/lose, and I felt like I have aged 20 years. The drinks were also not complementary.

The Biosphere has great engineering and architectural elements as seen below:

It kind of reminds me of Epcot Center at Disney World. Anyway, Biosphere, I found out, is an interactive museum mostly geared towards little kids to learn about the environment. There were different rooms with different environmental themes, like one room dealt with water and had a bunch of activities for kids to play with to grasp principles of water. What made me laugh hysterically was the room concerning nuclear waste. It was a room decorated with black and red paint with warnings about nuclear energy and power, and it seemed apparent to me that this place could be used more as brainwashing than education. Just my 2 cents.

The same weekend I saw the biosphere was also the same weekend Formula 1 started. It is a huge deal in Montreal, and I was happy to attend with Anthony the pre-Formula 1 party/ies the day before the race. One whole street was blocked off, and it contained lots of cars, girls, beer, bars, and people. It was crazy, but crazy fun :)

Also in June was an ongoing festival called Francofolie, where a bunch of French and French Canadian singers perform. Anthony and I went a couple of times, and it was quite the experience. There were some concerts that I didn't think qualified as music, but I really enjoyed the rock and reggae concerts. One night, there was this band called La Compagnie Creole, which was extremely popular in the '80s in France, but I guess like the Beatles, their popularity transcends generations, given the crowd at the concert had plenty of young people. Here's one of their most popular songs:

Ok fast forward to June 23. My 21st birthday. Lots of drinking happened and dinner was had. Moving on. :D

This past evening, I got to go to see Cirque du Soleil! :) The circus acrobatic show originally started in Montreal, and I got to see an amazing amazing show under the large tent in Old Montreal. I went with some of the people in lab, and I had a blast!

I'm getting pretty sleepy at this point, so here are some things to come:

I have to get up early to go to Quebec City tomorrow with Anthony. We'll be staying in a hostel for 2 nights, and we'll be touring the city and hope to meet some interesting people along the way!

Soon afterwards, I'll be heading to Halifax, Nova Scotia to visit my cousins, whom I haven't seen in a decade or so.

I hope to post much sooner this time.

Until next time.


I'm back in the ol' Ayy Bee Dizzle. For some reason, I still can't view anyone else's posts (except for Nabiha's title about prisons), but I can still post myself so here we go!

So, last time I had checked in, we had just finished the grand opening of the MBC (Marine Biodiscovery Centre). Although that was great fun and included many interesting talks, the week was a bit unproductive in terms of chemical isolation. But NEVER FEAR, this week has been different! But FIRST, OSLO! I have a friend from Chicago in Brussels right now, and the plan was to meet her in Oslo! I went there. It was very cool.


How does on get to Oslo? Well, it's actually a bit difficult. At about 2:30 last Friday, I got on a bus to the Edinburgh airport! After three transfers and about 5 hours of beautiful Scottish scenery I had arrived. I got out of the bus, stretched my legs, got my passport checked, and next think you know I'm sitting on my first RyanAir flight ever. Flying RyanAir is a bit of an interesting experience. Sleep is essentially impossible since flight attendants never stop running up and down the aisle trying to sell you something. But I enjoyed the view from the plane (the Norwegian Coast is quite nice).

Finally I land in Norway (note, I did NOT say Oslo). Once I stepped off the plane and onto the tarmac, I smelled the crisp Norwegian air and realized, I am nowhere near Oslo. That. Was. Scary. I had no idea how to get to Oslo. Oslo is 90 km from where I landed. I quickly ran to the nearest information desk and asked, "what is the cheapest way to get to Oslo!??!" They calmly replied that there was a bus waiting outside the airport and it goes directly to Oslo... THANK GOODNESS! Only thing is, OSLO IS SO F*$&* expensive. So, unaware of the exchange rate, I casually bought the ticket and hopped on (minus 50 USD). After an hour and a half, I arrive in Oslo!

I get off the bus and am once again thrown into a flurry of panic and confusion. Apparently some free concert had just been let out, so as I got off the bus I walked into a train/bus station bustling with activity. Norwegians and their punk/skater demeanor were EVERYWHERE! At this point, it was about 1AM and i soon found out my hostel was about 9km from the point I was standing. WHAT THE EFF! I quickly get a map from the bus station, find a route I can take, and scamper to the bus stop. When I get there, I see a Norwegian chick, ask her if I am going in the right direction (I am) and I get on the bus. While enjoying the ride to my new temporary home, I meet an Estonian girl named Maire and an Englishman named Matt (more about them later). They are also going to the hostel I am staying at so FINALLY I arrive (1:30AM), check in, get into my bed and calmly await for my Brussels-friend's arrival the next day. All seemed well...

UNTIL I GET A CALL AT 7:30 IN THE MORNING! I groggily answer: "Helloooo." It's my Brussels-friend Melanie: "Austin, I am SO SORRY. I overslept and missed my flight to Oslo" Me (still groggy): "NooooOOOoOOoOOOooOO." Melanie: "I checked other flights and...CLICK!" Phone goes off. OF COURSE, I have run out of money on my phone. I sit up in defeat, look around the room and realize I am alone in Oslo for the weekend...

I go to breakfast and see Maire and Matt. I tell them my sob story and THANKFULLY they invite me to tour with them! HOORAY! Next thing you know, we leave the hostel and head towards the city.

Oslo was very interesting. Not as big as I imagined but very beautiful, very European. I liked it. Despite a bit of rain, we toured the famous Vigeland Sculpture Park (BODIES EVERYWHERE):

Then we saw the Opera House:

Then the Nobel Peace Prize Center:

And FINALLY (after about ten hours of walking) we had dinner and the Maire and Matt went to their new hostel, and I went back to mine. When I finally got back, I decided to watch some futbol. While watching I started a conversation with two French Canadian girls about Glee. Eventually my lone-state became apparent and they invited me to spend Sunday with them! That was AmAzInG! After some conversation, I went to bed and looked forward to Sunday.

On Sunday, we toured the castle in Oslo and saw some dead kings' tombs!:

Then we had lunch. Lunch was interesting. One of the Canadians spotted a park near the city center so after buying some vegan food (being vegan in Norway is basically impossible, but I managed), we headed towards the park. However, after setting foot on the grass, we noticed something was up. I looked to my left, and saw some interesting looking people smoking some interesting looking substances. Then I looked to my left and saw not one, but two people shooting some unknown brown liquid into their veins via a sketchy looking syringe. Then I saw some white powder, mirrors, and rolled up Norwegians Kroner and decided we should choose another place to eat. We walked away, but we were close enough to see all of the drug deals and craziness happening:

After lunch, we had just a few hours to spare before my flight left so we bought some beer (10 USD a pop) and enjoyed the sunlight in the city square:

After the trip, I realized that even though I was left alone in Oslo for the weekend, I was still capable of meeting new people and enjoying my trip. I owe a lot of that to my first days in Aberdeen, and it was awesome to realize that I have the ability to approach some random strangers, spend the day with them, and learn a lot about their culture and them mine (EVERYONE LOVES talking about veganism).

So, despite my initial fears, I had a great time in Oslo. This week I started a fungal extraction in lab (VERY COOL) and this weekend I am going to Manchester to visit Ogy! Should be great!

Monday, June 21, 2010

A bit of Physics, Prisons and Picasso

Yes, I did end up doing a lot of things this week... while being productive at the same time. So good for me I guess. Research update: my experiment is nearly up and running. We did a test run with the big shaker earlier in the week and it looks promising. I’m glad I finally learned how to use that beast... and now I’m not as scared of it as I used to be. haha. I think we should have everything running by the end of the week. I’ll update you guys when that happens. Let's just say that I'm pretty excited!Now onto other things. I went to a Bavarian pub to watch Fussball ( Brazil vs.North Korea) earlier this week. I ordered coke (yes, coke owns my soul) and spilled it all over my office mate. Whoops. But it’s all good because now everyone knows that coke owns my soul (and Emory’s soul) and I’m exploding because I’ve had way too much of it in the past 2 years. And if you’re wondering about the German Team and Football, let me just say that the whole country came to a standstill after Friday's fiasco. Did I mention that I got the rest of the day off on Friday just to watch the game? I guess we were hoping to celebrate, but ended up sulking the rest of the day.

One of the PhD students had a birthday party at a German frat house... and let’s just say that the amount of beer available puts American frat houses to shame.German fraternities are fencing fraternities and these fencing duels are a matter of enormous pride. You fence without helmets and the one with the least number of cuts on his face wins. Yeah... pretty traumatizing. The party was a lot of fun and made me marvel at how international my frat, i mean lab, is. I also had the chance to meet my fellow DAAD peeps in Goettingen! We had dinner earlier this week and went hiking to a castle on Saturday and had a picnic there. They’re pretty chill and are working at the university on astrophysics and particle physics stuff. I guess I’m the intense experimentalist among the theorists. I also realized that I just got really lucky with my lab being super diverse, which in turn requires it to run in English, because it’s not the same for them. Friday was a special day for Goettingen because it was “Nacht der Kulture” (Night of Culture) for the town. The town set up 24 locations with the city center where they had concerts and shows all night long... and it was really difficult when it came to figuring out which shows to go to! But I ended up going for 6 events, starting with the Picasso exhibit and ending with the RnB concert. [Above]Country music in Goettingen..? I'll take it. lol [Below] RnB and Soul concert. I also went to a jazz concert and classical concert... and yes, saw some pieces by picasso! But nothing too famous :)
I went for a city tour on Sunday and then took the day off to get some rest (and feast on a Doener kebab). My city tour discovery:

A prison cell for university students in the past. It was trendy to have spent at least one night here while in college. I'm sure Austin would have ended up here at some point. haha. :D

And on a food note (I know Jie will appreciate this), there are these heavenly baked good one finds at bakeries here called Wuppies and they’re triangular sweet breads with chocolate chips in them. YUM. I also realized that I should make an effort to be healthy, so this is where I go running, or rather, enjoy nature at its best:

Looking forward to another exciting week and I may have weekend travel plans too! PROST! :)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Time Flies...

I can't believe that I'm nearly half way through with my stay in Buenos Aires. These last five weeks have been incredible, and I hope to make the next five weeks even better. I truly love everything about my life here: the culture, the city, the science, the pace of life, the food, the people... I never want to leave!

I did indeed whisper sweet nothings to my oocytes before beginning my experiments this week, and apparently they appreciated that, because the mysterious and worrisome results that I had seen last week disappeared entirely. It was a huge relief to get normal data again this week. Actually, I was able to collect some data that (I think) give us some very exciting and new information, so that's even better! I'm planning to show my results to the PI when she returns from a conference in a few days, and I'm hoping that she finds the data interesting as well. I feel very at home in the lab by now, and I'm really enjoying my project. Also, at this point I'm almost entirely self-sufficient, so it's nice to feel like I no longer have to bother the graduate students with endless questions.

I've been wandering around and exploring new neighborhoods a lot lately, so I feel like I'm starting to learn my way around the city pretty well. One thing that I absolutely love about Buenos Aires is the music. Many of the popular radio stations and convenience stores are still stuck in the 70's and 80's (a few favorite songs are "YMCA" and "Super Freak," for example), but the street and subway performers play a great variety of classical, tango, and jazz. I was very excited to find this traditional tango orchestra playing on the street in San Telmo:

And when I came across this group of dreadlocked, brightly dressed, drum-banging hippies, I was immediately reminded of my hometown in Oregon:

Now, for my World Cup update: The fútbol excitement continues to grow in Argentina, especially now that they won their second game. I went outside shortly after the match ended on Thursday morning and I was amused to see Porteños running through the streets with their bodies painted and wearing nothing but their country's flag. Nobody went to work on Thursday until after the game was over, and apparently all schools, from kindergarten through universities, cancelled classes in order to show the game. I have to admit that this World Cup fever is highly contagious, as I'm getting fairly caught up in the excitement myself. I can't wait to see what this week's match has in store!

uh oh...

wedding at castle - men all dressed up in their kilts

war memorial on the way to the castle

part of St. Andrews cathedral

St. Andrews castle

me on the way to the castle

tadpoles in different stages of metamorphisis ^

this week i succesfuly took part of the tadpoles skin off so i could make neuronal recordings :)

on the second day of going into the lab though.. i went to go use the ladies room and when i went to use the sink it wouldn't turn off! and the sink wasn't draining! soo as you would imagine it starts to overflow and i had to be the new girl and run to get someone who came as quickly as she could and also unseccesfuly tried to turn the sink off (i was kind of relieved because i would have looked silly if she had been able to haha) so she had to call maintenence! luckily she was nice about it but i was so embarrased!

I also went on a coastal walk to see a castle yesterday! and went to a bonfire near St. Andrews castle! (pictures above) I've also been out a lot at the pubs watching the world cup.. and i went to someones house today who cooked us some delicious food! we ate and enjoyed the game!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


So, as most of you know, I am not a chemistry major. I have always considered chemistry one of my worst subjects (but I love a challenge, so here I am learning chemistry), but this week I had a breakthrough!

But before that, this weekend I had a blast! It was my good friend Steve's Birthday so I went over to his house at 9PM and about six hours later found myself in a casino... and I hate gambling. So I walked home in the LIGHT.

The day after, my friend Chelsea Douglas (who is in Dundee right now, and is also on the WMRE exec staff with Ogy and me) came to visit! That was actually wonderful. The more I live in my slightly uncomfortably room the more I realize that I'm not a big fan of living alone, so it was great to have Chelsea stay over for a night. I think she really liked Aberdeen. I felt like a true local because I was taking her around the city showing her my favorite bars as if I had lived in Aberdeen my whole life! That was quite an experience, and I love showing my friends a good time!

This week, the lab was hosting an international symposium on Marine Natural Product Research, and by some act of God, my AMAZING friend Hannah and I were put in charge of the wine reception! So, on Monday we were interviewed by several local news agencies, and were even on TV, because this week marked the official opening of the Marine Biodiscovery Centre where I work. On Tuesday, Hannah and I spent the morning preparing the wine reception and then were invited to attend the lectures that would last till 6PM. There were some GREAT speakers. I never thought I could be so interested in chemistry, but woah. Dan Morse, a professor from UC Santa Barbara was my favorite. He examined silica skeletons of sea sponges and the squid's dynamically tunable photonics. I was so amazed. While most Marine biodiscovery focuses on pharmaceuticals, Dr. Morse works with material sciences. He research was so inspiring to me, it opened my eyes to a whole new landscape of Marine Science. After his lecture I was having so many geek moments. Once we left the lectures to begin finalizing the wine reception, Hannah and I were chatting the whole time about the implications of his research. IT WAS SO COOL.

Next, the best part... WINE RECEPTION! And who doesn't like to be served wine by a charming American! This biopharmaceutical company funded the reception so we had 90 bottles of wine and COUNTLESS bags of chips and pretzels. Hannah and I calculated it, and I think there were about 2 wine bottles for every person. Lots of wine. At the reception I talked to a professor from UC Santa Cruz who owned a winery in Monterey. He was an incredibly nice guy who was very disappointed with the wine but still managed to drink about a bottle and a half... my kind of guy! Once the reception was over, less than 20 bottles of wine had been opened...more about that later. Next we were off to a posh restaurant called Foyer, in the city.

After I snuck a few glasses at the wine reception, we walked into Foyer and quickly learned that not only was the dinner already paid for, but SO WAS THE WINE! I sat next to Hannah and Mustafa and the three of us drank 2 more bottles of expensive wine (but Mustafa doesn't drink and Hannah is allergic to wine)! We had a great dinner (my dinner consisted of garnishing, but good garnishing, as little was vegan) and after Mustafa drove us home. Posh restaurant (but imagine it filled with 80 liquored up scientists):

What a night! This morning I attended more talks and cleaned up the wine reception. THING IS, there were about 70 unopened bottles of wine! So after this morning's talks, lunch and cleanup, we all decided since the sun was out (a rarity) we should go home early. So I snagged more than a few bottles of wine and enjoyed the rest of the beautiful day.

What a week! This weekend I am going to Oslo, should be AMAZING!

Oh yeah, (for Leah) here is a picture of me in my home away from home, THE NMR ROOM:

The Typical American...

I didn't put too much thought into packing.. instead i just threw and stuffed random things into my suitcase at the last minute that I thought I might need.. This ended up putting me in quite a difficult situation.. This is because once off the airplane I had to take a bus where there was not someone there to help you put your belongings underneath had to lift your bags onto the bus where there were spots to store them (i had to get the bus driver to help).. this also proved to be difficult because i could not lift my bags to put them there.. as a result i left them leaning on the side of the racks.. while on the bus i had to hold them there so they wouldnt fall on the people who were sitting in front of me who im sure were taking about me.. after getting off the bus i had to drag my bags to the train station across the street to buy a ticket where the lady preceded to tell me that i should get the train in four minutes! I couldn't fit through the normal place where you put your tickets and walk through so i had to use the handicap entrance.. then i quickly looked for the sign marking where i was supposed to go and realized i had to go down two flights of stairs because there was no elevator! A lady passed by me, saw that i was struggling, and luckily offered to help...and luckily the train was a few minutes late.. then when the train came i realized the platform was not level with the train so i had to tug my rollies onto the train.. i also didnt realize that there was a button you press to open the train door so before this i ran to the door that someone has previously opened.. one of the ladys who work on the train said to me "you have to press a button you know".. then once in the train the lady yelled at me that there was a specific spot to put your bags.. there was no way i was getting there so i just ended up tucking my suitcases into the seat next to me and telling her there was no way.. finally i arrived at my destination tugged my luggage as it fell of the train and luckily my advisor and someone at my lab was right there to first watch this happen and second help bring them up another flight of stairs! After this we all go into the car and drove to St. Andrews... I went to meet the people in my lab, take a look around at all the facilities, and go for lunch.. they are all really nice wonderful people.. after lunch i learned how to stage tadpoles and i watched them clean the frog tanks and inject hormones into the frogs so they can mate... after all of this, i dropped the stuff to my room which is pretty nice (the only real minus is that there is just only one shower down stairs), went out with the two younger guys in my lab with their friends and my advisor for a drink, and then one of the younger guys in the lab gave me a tour of St. Andrews which was really nice.. its beautiful here! really cute town! Having been up for almost 24 hours i went to sleep after this.. the next day i went into the lab again and ended up meeting up with a few Emory people that are here which was really nice! so all and all im really liking it here so far.. i met some new friends, love the town, and really enjoy the lab i am working in. I will be posting some pictures later that I took today! :)

Monday, June 14, 2010

new background?

Google just presented me with the option of a new template for the blog and there was one with a map so I couldn't resist! If you hate it, I can change it!


I think I've caught something... WORLD CUP FEVER.

I hope y'all have been keeping up because it doesn't get more exciting than this. 45 minutes of uninterrupted, physical strategic play. Make sure you go to the bathroom at the half because you won't want to leave your seat. It's streaming online on BBC/ITV, ESPN3, and on a similar Canadian channel. Of course, for the proper environment you'll have to go to your dorm's common room, or a small bar or pub. We've conveniently scheduled 'lab meetings' in rooms equipped with projectors when the home country of our lab members are playing a match. Argentina, Germany, England, and USA. The Brasil, Spain, and Holland games also promise to be entertaining, so catch them if you can. We're doing a random lottery (British translation 'sweepstakes') around the lab and I pulled Nigeria and New Zealand, the second of which is the worst team in the entire tournament. 23 pound grand prize, 9 pound second prize.

Let me walk you through the the first half of my week. It's a very commonly used technique, so I doubt I'm divulging any classified information First, I collect a bundle of Xenopus (frog) oocytes, there are thousands in a sac, and they're all about half a millimeter in diameter and in different stages of development. I put them through a special rinse cycle which dissolves the collagen that binds them all tightly together. After incubation for an hour, which is the break I'm using to write this post, I put a couple hundred under in a dish under the microscope. Using a pair of sharp tweezers, I separate out about 25 of the more mature oocytes and remove the thin surrounding follicular layer. Then I load up an injection electrode with RNA and send it into the oocyte. The RNA is for sodium channels which take two/three days to express, after which I start my experiments.

America has left its footprint all over modern British culture. Although, as Jie was mentioning, they're about ten years behind. Some people in my lab started watching Friends, and Dominoes seems to be the number 1 pizza chain. The German student in my dorm watches mainly American films and tv shows, and he confirms the same is the case in most of Western Europe. All the buses have posters of upcoming American films (a month late) and the music is mostly American (90s, hip-hop, rock). The English do have smaller cars, and seem to be more environmentally-minded in general. It's probably because I'm on a college campus, but there's always a set of recycling bins nearby.

The similarities are becoming more apparent than the differences between our cultures. Do any of you guys in the UK speak French or Spanish and want to head down there?