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Three-Ring Circus

Posted Apr 09 2009 7:16pm

Last month, I was selling tickets to the Battle Royale in which I took on the laboratory equipment. This week, I am selling tickets to my one-woman three-ring circus. The only problem with taking off a fabulous two weeks for winter break is having to get everything done before I am actually able to leave! Everything was timed perfectly and could fit fantastically into the four days of the week except that, of course, the dishes of cells I needed to use to make cell lysate were not confluent enough to use until Wednesday, thereby setting back everything by a day.

Thursday’s plan was simple: just strip and reblot two Westerns, lyse the HEK cells, make more GST-EWS and GST-EWS-Fli beads, pour and run an 8% polyacrylamide gel, and transfer gel to a membrane – simultaneously. Alone, each is simple, but try to do all at once, and regardless of how well you plan, it gets a little out of control. I felt like hanging up posters in the hallway inviting everyone to come watch Julie juggle multiple experiments and screw them all up! I made sure to write everything out the night before so I could just follow through quickly without having to pause to think about what I needed to do, and there I was in the lab bright and early at to get the day started. Shortly after arrival, I hit the first snag of the morning – after getting my bacterial cells situated and using liquid nitrogen for freeze-thaw cycles, the next step is sonification. I walked into the cold room to use the sonicator, started to set it up, and realized that the microtip was kept in the neighboring lab, and nobody would be in until . It just goes to show that regardless of how well you plan, something out of your control will always hold you back. In the meantime, I continued ahead with the stripping and reblotting of the Western while I waited for lab members to arrive next-door, but obviously my timeline for the day wouldn’t work due to having to wait for the ever-important sonicator tip. I was okay for a while, but by the time noon hit, I was doing so many things at once that I was running around the lab like the proverbial chicken with his head cut off, trying to associate which step of which experiment was counting down on which timer. At one point, I had three timers simultaneously beeping at me while I was trying to figure out how to proceed with the next 3 steps at once. Sadly, none of this chaos and disorganization was due to a lack of planning on my behalf – just due to my inability to actually follow through with my meticulous military-precise plans (I blame that on the sonicator tip hold-up!). I have also discovered that whether or not I want to be, I am on the Graduate School Laboratory Diet, meaning that I no longer have time to eat when I am in the lab. Having to walk out my front door at meant that I had no time to eat breakfast, and just planned on taking an early lunch. With timers going off left and right, clearly there was no time for lunch, and next thing I knew, it was , I still had yet to consume anything for the day, and I still had a few more hours of work ahead of me. I wonder if it would be possible to request some sort of glucose IV-drip while I am in the lab to eliminate the need to ever leave for food while still maintaining energy… just think of all the time that would save!

After a week and a half off to study for finals, I realized that I did miss being in the lab. I think with graduate school, so much is thrown at you all at once that it’s really easy to become overwhelmed. When I’m in class, I’m stressed over what’s going on in lab, and likewise when I’m in lab, I’m stressed over having to study for classes. Taking the time to sort out each one separately definitely reminded me that I do enjoy what I’m doing, and having a week in lab and lab alone, no classes and studying since finals were over, reassured my confidence that this is what I want to do, and that things will get better and I will be happier once I can be in the lab 60 hours a week without having to go home and study. Since I’m finally getting into the depth of my rotation project, I feel bad packing up and leaving for two weeks and I’m sure while I am at home I will feel guilty not being in the lab, but you know what? I just survived what everyone in the program proclaims to be the worst semester of graduate school, so I am going to go enjoy my two science-free weeks and let my brain recover from more biochemistry studying than I ever thought possible!

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