Sunday, September 12, 2010

Give up!

The Grad Student Regulatory Network

In phd mutants, Ddl (Deadline) signaling causes UTDL (unrealistic to-do lists) to become phosphorylated and translocate to the nucleus to promote transcription of wka (workaholic).  Acting in a feed-forward loop, wka activates the p10 (perfectionst) pathway. p10 enhances wka transcription by binding a conserved enhancer region ECR-INWO (I’m not worthy) upstream of wka. Above a certain threshold, wka also activates ins (insomia), dpr (depression), and dfl (dissatisfied family). Excess p10 is targeted for degradation by REL (real life) but in the presence of Dl (dumb luck) and DBL (double shot of espresso) may be able to activate dat (data) and apa (appeased advisor).

It has been shown that a point mutation in wka, which causes an amino acid change from Y to N at the p10 recognition site, interferes with the wka feed-forward mechanism.  In other grad students a variant of dfl, which codes for a transcription factor, indirectly represses wka expression by turning on why (why am I doing this to myself). Both mutations rescue normal phenotypes. 

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Oh my science!

It's usually entertaining to see how people react to your everyday environment. Here are two dear friends dressed in lab coats (not actually used by people working in the lab), laser safety goggles (sometimes used by people working in the lab) and allen wrenches (often used by people working in the lab), looking delighted. They had coerced my husband into a deceptive plot to bring me a chocolate shake while I was finishing a class project. He was forced to lie in order to obtain my unknown position in a deadline-induced-time-warp so the delivery could be made. Thanks guys, it was a very delicious chocolate shake and it appears you would make excellent scientists!

Pull lever harder

Sign reads, "If the yogurt is running too slowly, please pull lever harder. Thank you, Spoons Staff." Stating the obvious is always funny to me. But then I realized this sign illuminates a sneaky symptom of graduate school, the tendency to stop looking for solutions. Maybe it is my personality. Admittedly I thought to myself, "this yogurt is coming out slowly," but decided to wait it out, having not noticed the sign. Similarly, I expected graduate school to be difficult and for most of my experiments to fail and need to be repeated since "that's research." So I began to unquestioningly accept sub-optimal solutions and methodologies like the slow-running-yogurt-theorem. No, thank you Spoons Staff. I will be more critical in my work. I will pull the lever harder.

Well grounded

When you hear about people conducting research, what comes to mind? I remember the website for the first lab I worked in which displayed an intimidatingly sophisticated mash-up of lasers, pristine white lab coats, and researchers intensely looking through microscopes. Reality is different. In this photo is evidence to the contrary, one of the more creative attempts at grounding out the noise in our imaging system that probably won't make it onto any official website. Getting a clear picture from the system is often reminiscent of trying to watch a show using a hand-me-down rabbit-ear antenna which requires 1) luck, 2) simultaneously jumping on one foot, patting your head, and rubbing your stomach, and 3) use of the magic word "Abracadabra".  For usable experimental results, make sure to have your biological sample blessed by the appropriate patron saint in advance.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Chocolat au toilet

Just what I wanted to find under the toilet in the supermarket! Well, I haven't been able to imagine any reasonable explanation for this discovery. After some deliberation I investigated further and found the box was partially empty. Did the box belong to an employee hoarding a stash of tasty treats to snack on during restroom breaks? Or was it an impulse buy in a moment of crisis, followed up on immediately and then carelessly discarded? Or a considerate shoplifter with a mom that taught them how to share? All I can say for sure is that for me, it was the first time I had the presence of mind to resist the temptation of a sampler box. 

Lab Santa

We caught this mythical creature lurking around the lab in December. He is securely fastened to the lab door with high-quality VWR tape and won't be leaving until he grants us every Christmas wish. We haven't verified scientifically if his presence correlated with more positive experimental outcomes, but we can say that we observed more lab cheer.

Chicken rings?

I took this photo while visiting my awesome Grandparents in West Chicago (miss you guys!). After landing, my mom and I hopped into the rental car and stopped by White Castle to pick up some miniburgers for Grandpa. I was on the fence regarding the miniburger craze until I saw this advertisement for so-called chicken rings. Apparently they are so popular that one flavor has sold out. After that discovery, miniburgers didn't sound so bad.