Monday, June 30, 2008

Back to the Grindstone

After a fairly relaxing weekend of hiking the AT and searching for a PBA-free water bottle, Monday was a rise and shine early day. Of course the day has not gone as planned. While treating my cells and late for a meeting, we realized I was out of stimulant. SO I hopefully have 2 sets of each cell type, but that is not clear. So, yes I will most likely be repeating again. Additionally my data from last week, was not consistent with previous trials. Ugh. Here I thought this would be my big push week and then it would be downhill. I suppose life is never like that. In the lab expect the unexpected no matter how much you planned. There are always things to forget or overlook. My PhD student mentor also let me organize my plates on my own, and I learned a lesson that I will not be repeating. The details are tedious, but my organization was not the most efficient in this case, also disappointing.

Here's hoping I get good results later this week. I will definitely be here late tonight!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Working my way into my comfort zone

Today I had an intriguing conversation with a fellow PhD student. We got to the heart of why I am currently stressed and why vet school is perpetually stressful. The reason happens to stem from the same reason I left my prior career in business. The only way to grow as a person is to enter a place outside of your comfort zone. I was very comfortable in finance, in fact, I was bored because it was too comfortable and I did not have a vision of the future that excited me. As a result, I submerged myself in this completely uncomfortable world of veterinary medicine. While it can take a long time to work up the learning curve into a comfort zone, most people, myself included, need small successes to help deal with the stress and frustration thrust upon them while in this uncomfortable place.
This summer I am currently outside of my vet school comfort zone, as well. I have doubts regarding whether or not I can achieve my summer goals successfully. This is the root of my stress. The only way to work out of it is to do the best I can, stay positive, and manage it through exercise and other outlets (blogging).

This theory fits together well with vet school. The entire time most students are out of their comfort zone. The small successes are tests. There is always another test to take, therefore, continuous stress as the student works into a comfort zone.

The only true light at the end of this tunnel is to appreciate the small successes, knowing that someday in the future comfort may occur again, and right beside it could lie boredom.

Come on and bore me!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Matt's Birthday weekend

This weekend was a mini marathon. Saturday morning we ran the Run for the Rainforest 5K race in Arlington, VA. I finished in 30 minutes and 19s and Matt finished in 26 minutes. He was 18 shy of finishing in the top 100. The winners ran the 5K in 15 minutes, amazing! It was fun, great weather, great cause, and I walked only a small portion of it.

After the race and some coffee, we headed to Lansdale PA to visit one of Matt's college friends, who just completed his MBA. It was a good time, but also an additional 6 hours in the car:(

Sunday we awoke fairly early to run errands and go out to breakfast at my current favorite place, First Watch cafe ( Then, we headed to the Washington Nationals game, where we broiled in the sun. We had fun checking out the stadium, despite the Nationals 5-3 loss to the Texas Rangers.

It turned out to be a low key birthday for Matt, which is how he wanted it. My trip home, however, was horrible. It rained off and on, and the last hour I drove in the dark through sheets of rain. I was scared, could not see, and just prayed I'd get home safely. I was so thankful when I did get home after 4+ hours. I clearly was suppose to stay with Matt and the cats tonight. If I had thought about it beforehand I am sure I could have gone into work late, but I signed up to use our Real Time PCR machine in the morning and I need the data for my meeting with Dr. Li Tuesday so I was torn with what to do. Next Monday I may plan to drive in the am on Monday, I cannot do another horrid thunderstorm and well "tis the season!"

Dr. Li's Lab Week 4

Week 4 was an interesting and long week (even the morning radio DJs mentioned the longevity). It began with my more positive, relaxed attitude from the prior weekend. Matt was here for dinner Monday night, which was great. As he left, I went to the gym and back to lab, keeping me distracted from his departed.
Tuesday was a reading and result analysis day. Tuesday evening I went to my fabulous yoga class, ad then made enchiladas for some good girlfriend time.

Wednesday was my early 5:30am day. This is where the week got rough. The PhD student I am working with has another apprentice, an undergraduate. We were both there bright and early and as I was ready to start helping, I was informed that this week I was on my own. Now I am not a morning person and I was not expecting this, so it shocked my relaxed attitude. I explained that I did not feel ready to do this part on ym own yet, and she obliged. She also mentioned that Dr. Li expects me to be working independently now, especially beacuse of the undergraduate apprentice. I understood and took copious protocol notes to prepare for next week. The 3 of us working together was slow, and I wa slate for my amazing ethics training at 8 am at the vet school building.

When I got back to work later that day, I still felt abandoned and as if my PhD mentor was disappointed in me. For this week I worked almost completely alone and tried to be more asceptic and thorough. My RNA purities were excellent for my wild type cells, but not good enough for my IRAK-1 knockout cells. Not sure how I feel about this, was there a contamination in those, did I actually improve from last week-- those are the questions. I also was disappointed because I would be repeating this experiment again next week and this was my third try. It is becoming mundane repeating the same experiment over and over with little result.

So Thursday was sort of my "funk" day where I wallowed in self-pity and attempted motivation in reading articles. Friday I spoke with my mentor Dr. Li, told him my purity issues and showed him my results so far. He wasn't angry, disappointed at all. He was intrigued and excited for more results come Monday. He explained that a phenomena is showing itself and that we would be okay to show something on my poster for the conference.

I am not totally sure I believe him, or that I will not be completely rushing and overwhelmed through the process, but it made my week end on a brighter note. I also explained exactly how I felt to my PhD student mentor. She told me she thought I was ready for Wednesday, and knew Dr. Li would be pleased and understanding of my progress (or lack there of). She also complimented how far I have come. It felt good for us to discuss what happened and end the week upbeat!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Weekend Recap

This was Matt's second summer weekend in Blacksburg and it was a blast!

We kicked off the weekend with a yummy lunch at Gillie's and met friends for drinks and grub at the New Orleans style Boudreux roof top patio in the evening. I also had a wildlife ward page to attend to 2 baby starlings in great healht, albeit hungry. A friend of mine wa able t care for them and get them to rehaber the next day.

Saturday was a long day of errands. After some thunderstorms, we hit the community fish fry! All you can eat fish, fries, slaw, and homemade deserts for $7! Next stop the Sun Music Hall in Floyd for Contra Dancing! I had never been contradancing before, but I had a blast spinning, stomping and smiling! I cannot wait to do it again in the fall!

Sunday we gathered our fishing gear and bathing suits and headed to Gatewood Park and rented boats o their lake. My boat did not catch any fish (Matt must havebad karma) but the other boat of fisherman was quite successful with 6 catches, including catfish, sunnies, and tbd.

After some great water and sun time, we headed back tired. We got a wee lost in Pulaski, and had an interesting incident while asking for directions.

All in all a great weekend in the New River Valley.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Week 3 of NIH Research Fellowship Recap (&51st blog post)

After deciding to change my stressful perspective of this summer last weekend, this week went much smoother. By decreasing the pressure on myself to be a seasoned lab scientist in 2 weeks, I was able to learn and enjoy my work more. As for my real time PCR skills, they did in fact improve. My RNA purities were better than last week, yeah! I had time to work on my lab notebook and read many more journal articles, and review my immunology notes from school.

After 3 weeks of almost exclusive RNA work, the next few weeks have some different experiments lined up. We are going to repeat our Leptin and LPS inflammatory research with human cells now, which is an entirely different process than the mice macrophage work we had been using. I'll also learn how to do a Western Blot to measure protein expression and an arginase assay.

This upcoming week I hope to flesh out the topics for my poster. I also plan to keep my more relaxed, optimistic attitude toward lab science and I will certainly continue learning!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Week 2 of the PhD Program Recap

Research can be frustrating and stressful. That is this week's lesson. I conducted my first experiment on my own (with much hep from my PhD student) and of course my RNA purities were too low to run RT-PCR data. So now I have to wait until next week's macrophages are ready and try again. Apparently this happens to everyone on their first try. The problem is that the lab I am working in is getting ready to publish and the PI is very results oriented. So there is not much time for screw-ups like these. I ended the week feeling frustrated and useless; I felt like I was bringing the lab down.

After a relaxing, chill weekend with some errands, a few drinks, and some quality sleep I have a new attitude. I will try my best since everyone, including the PI, knows I am brand new. I can only do all that I can. I will not beat myself up for not getting results, and in the end everything will be fine. Perhaps I don't have a career in research or will not get published, but at least I tried something new and put my best foot forward.

My first Monday with my new attitude has gone well. The insulin tolerance testing on the new study mice went well this morning.