Tuesday - Becoming Peaceful
Wednesday - Cucumbers and Typhoon error of doom
Thursday - SURE poster session
Friday - Interesting data
Saturday - Prayer meeting and rest
Monday, day of unrelenting doom
It was on Monday that I decided I had to finally read Ann Dasher's emails about orientation and face up to everything starting in a few weeks.
I read her schedule. As I did so, my stress level climbed rapidly. There were so many unanswered questions, paperwork and presentations I felt staring me in the face. I have an issue with panicking at the beginning of semesters about 2 weeks in advance ever since the end of my sophomore year. I've carried this over into grad school.
Orientation looked terrifying. Classes were terrifying. The uncertainty of when I was leaving the lab after summer was terrifying. Also, I had a possible end of summer presentation to do on an as yet mysterious date.
I started messing with transcript paperwork. I sent transcripts a year ago, but apparently, they are now lost. That was a hassle. UGA’s site was having all kinds of issues giving me access to their page and it took me calling them twice to fix it. I visited Ann, and found out I really needed to send my transcripts directly to her. It was easier that way she said.
By the end of that, I was on the verge of a panic attack.
Yuan’s unexpected call Yuan! Love and miss her.
I told her to call me back but she said no that was ok. Her mom couldn’t hear her either. She said she missed us already. I told her to pray for me, because I was so stressed.
We texted prayers to each other, which was really sweet and made me happy. Both of us prayed for each other and for Dr. Salaita not to be stressed and to get lots of funding. She said thanks so much and we should totally pray together more when she gets back and I said oh definitely, we should.
Nina Mace and lunch
Trying to stave off a meltdown breathing down my neck, I went and looked for Nina Mace on the 6th floor and *found* her! That amazed me. I’ve never found her before when I’ve looked for her. I asked her if she wanted to eat lunch and she said sure! We ended up eating lunch in the psychology building.
I told her I was terrified of orientation and needed comforting. She gave me a really crushing hug, which was really, really nice. Most people don’t give strong enough hugs – they just give dainty ones that aren’t anywhere near as satisfying.
I talked with her about orientation and she told me about how it usually went and said it wasn’t a stressful situation. We talked about rotations and other things – even Dragon*Con – just all kinds of random stuff, grad things I was stressing about and questions I had. I said I just didn’t know how any of it was going to go.
Nina: I think orientation will pass quickly, your classes will be ok, you’ll pass your second year and get your Ph.D.
Me: You really think so? *terrified look*
Nina: Oh yes!
Sometimes, the most comforting things people can say to me are to tell me the obvious as if it were not and that everything will be ok. For some reason, I derive incredible comfort from this. It reassures me by confirmation that the obvious really is true - somehow, if someone else thinks it's true, even if it doesn't feel true to me at the time, I can hold onto the understanding that yes, it probably really is true. This is what John does. Nina was so very encouraging and sweet. I asked her if I could come find her again if I started panicking and she said oh absolutely! She remembered feeling like I did, but it would be ok.
Reading literature after lunch
Talking with Daniel
Aside about Daniel
When I realized that Daniel was having an evaluation one day, I prayed about it SO hard almost through the whole thing. I really prayed. I wanted him to have this horrible weight removed from him. Daniel had groaned about it, dreading it.
He came out looking really surprised and said it had actually gone well, which was shocking. He looked so much happier! I told him, well excellent! That was over with! He agreed. I felt like I could dance down the hall, I was so happy!
Since then, he’s been so much happier. It’s completely raised the mood and happiness of the lab by 20%! I don’t know what Khalid said or what the Lord did, but it’s been wonderful and I’m so incredibly happy. I love Daniel. He’s the best. He always helps me without stint with anything I ever ask or need.
So the thought jumped into my mind: “Maybe … he’s mad!”
If I was in a reasonable mood, I would have asked the Lord to help me refute that lie of the enemy and He would have. This idea should have struck me as very unlikely, but it did not. It’s still the knee jerk reaction I have when I get scared about Dr. Salaita.
I can’t count or remember how many times I’ve asked the Lord, “Oh no, oh no! So and so happened! Is Dr. Salaita mad?” And He would say, “No, he’s not mad.” And I wouldn’t believe Him. Come to find out later, He was always right.
I just recall how easy it was for me to make Bijoy unhappy and I’m always expecting Khalid to act like this. It’s really hard to remember that he’s not going to. I remember once I isolated RNA in triplicate and got them all without degradation – it was the second or third time I’d done so, and I was SO happy and proud of myself and gave my data to Bijoy.
He looked at it and frowned and said, “Why did you isolate the RNA in triplicate?” I said I’d done it because that’s what Katie, one of the grad students did, and it seemed like a good idea to me, so that if one failed, hopefully at least one would work.
He shook his head and said, “No, you need to focus on doing one thing at a time. You’re spreading yourself too thin and doing too much work. Never do that again or I’ll be upset.” He tended to look seriously displeased when he talked, but he never usually *said* he’d be upset! So that scared me. If he wasn’t usually actually mad, when he looked displeased, I didn’t want to find out what his being mad looked like.
I went back to my lab notebook and wrote, “NOTE: NEVER isolate RNA in triplicate again. Bijoy will be really mad. Quality is more important than quantity – make sure to focus on doing one thing well.” Or something like that. I had lots of these notes everywhere. “ALWAYS” “NEVER” “ALWAYS” “NEVER” I looked them over frequently – ways to avoid making Bijoy mad and do stuff correctly. But somehow, even though I looked them over, I’d *still* forget some of them! That was *really* annoying. Bijoy didn’t like telling me something more than once. I don’t blame him. That would be annoying. I shouldn’t have forgotten half of those things, seriously.
Bijoy wasn’t always annoyed though. We did talk about gardens a few times – it was one of the few things we had in common, I felt like. He liked garden vegetables, but I couldn’t really give him any, because his wife had a HUGE garden and made most of the food for their family during the summer, which I thought was really cool. I asked him about the stuff they grew and he’d tell me about it. Apparently they grew a *lot* of peppers. He always asked me why I used so much sugar in my tea and said when he was young in India, they did *not* eat that much sugar. But his kids also ate that much sugar. So, he wondered if it wasn’t an American thing.
And back to the point
So yes, but at the time, I was most definitely *not* in a reasonable mood. Result: I concluded, yup, Dr. Salaita must really be mad at me this time. I must have finally done something horrific. I actually believed that.
That was the last straw. I couldn’t bear the thought of him being mad. The bottom completely dropped out from under me and I freaked out more thoroughly than I have in possibly at least a year and a half.
It was 4:40 p.m. and I just had to LEAVE lab immediately. I was so terrified, I knew I wouldn’t be able to do any experiments or think worth anything. So I just left.
I called John wandering aimlessly around campus in tears in a state of near incoherence, telling him I was terrified of orientation, and there was so much uncertainty, I didn’t know what to do about anything and who knows, Dr. Salaita might be mad. I had the feeling that he might have neglected customers to talk to me, even though it was end of the month, to help calm me down. He usually doesn’t talk to me very long when he’s at work.
After talking to John, I gathered all my stuff and went home about 4:45 p.m. That’s *really* weird for me.
I sped down 78 at 80 mph, when traffic allowed. That was really stupid. But that’s how upset I was.
I went to the gas station and bought some pizza for John that he likes and my favorite ice cream that I didn’t end up eating. Also a slushy, which I did eat some of – it was intense. John said later, oh yeah, those from that gas station are really intense. It was so intense, it gave me a headache.
I went home and mom was SHOCKED to see me. I said yes, yes, I know it’s weird. I had a bad day and I’m freaking out. Mom said what? That’s nothing to freak out about, when I told her. She was right. But I was still freaked out.
I walked outside in the neighborhood to my praying rock and sat on it and just stared at the trees and listened to the world. Listening to the world is not something I do much of except at times like this, when I’m trying to be still.
Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.”
Whenever I get horribly stressed, I always walk the neighborhood and pray or find some secluded spot outside to hide in. It helps. I’ve found a kind of out-of-the-way spot for prayer near the main road, where there’s a rock to sit on. It’s also nice because the Lord’s talked to me there and it’s where He called me, so it feels special.
I sat there in silence for a long time, staring at the trees and watching clouds. I felt like I didn’t have anything left and all I could do was sit there, think about the Lord and sing songs to Him. I couldn’t even really pray.
I was actually perfectly peaceful at the time. It was very illogical. I was mad about that, actually. I wanted to continue being upset, but couldn’t. This has happened to me numerous times before. I wasn’t sure if it was the Lord giving me peace or that I had just completely spent all emotion, like sloshing the water out of a cup, leaving it empty. I suspect a bit of both.
I sang lots of various songs to the Lord that He gave me.
Talking to John and what the Lord said
John talked to me a long time and was very comforting. He argued in favor of Dr. Salaita very skillfully, I thought. There were all kinds of things we discussed. He said he thought Dr. Salaita was a good professor and wasn’t going to suddenly turn from a Dr. Jekyll into a Mr. Hyde and he certainly wasn’t mad. He didn’t know why I thought that.
Finally, I asked the Lord to speak to me. I was so, so incredibly tired. He said, more or less, the following, though I left a lot of it out. He said a lot:
Don’t be stressed – I’m not going to suddenly ask you to join a different lab. Don’t worry about Dr. Salaita not being like most professors. You’re not like most students and I’ve crafted someone just for you. He’s not angry with you, Jess. It would be almost impossible for him to be angry with you right now. He’s not going to hurt you or become a slave driver. He will tenderly plant, water, grow and nurture you with lots of support, encouragement and warm sun. You need to depend on me for everything, not him. Nevertheless, he is my provision for you. I know what you need. Don’t be afraid of him. I’ve taken care of everything.
I said, “Ok,” basically, and hoped that was true. I mostly believed it. I watched the Pink Panther 2 with Steve Martin with John. Then we both went to bed exhausted.
Tuesday, recovering back to peace
I got to Emory and thanked the Lord for being in control of everything and prayed around the building as usual.
Dr. Salaita was there, so I could finally ask him my questions, which were many. He didn’t seem mad – he actually seemed happy, which immediately made me feel incredibly relieved.
Getting my questions answered was also a huge relief. A lot of my stress was originating simply from not knowing what was going on, as summer rotation was ending, but I didn’t know when exactly and I didn’t know what was going to happen after that, or what Dr. Salaita expected from me in August, with all the orientation stuff going on.
Dr. Salaita’s manner was incredibly comforting. I could feel encouragement and soothing rolling off him in waves onto me in everything from his look, words, mannerisms, and voice, down to tone and inflection, which significantly blunted and diffused all my stress. He's exceptionally good at that kind of thing - better than anyone I know.
I decided to stay in the lab for an additional rotation, while I adjusted to classes and the stress of orientation. That was hard for me to decide, but I really felt it’s what the Lord wanted. It was just hard for me to decide, because I don’t like big decisions. Dr. Salaita said he thought that was a very reasonable plan, which made it a lot easier for me not to be stressed about it. Unbeknownst to him, I’d already decided to do that on Sunday and would have, no matter what he said, but it was made less painful by talking to him. Illogically, having Dr. Salaita so positive and telling me that everything was going to be fine made me feel significantly comforted and more confident that it would be so.
Unfortunately though, I can’t just immediately become normal after such intense, crushing stress. I felt like crushed pulp, basically. Peaceful, relieved and content crushed pulp, but still pulp. My head gets completely diffuse and useless when I’m like this – both while I’m stressed and afterward – and it takes me at least a full day or two to return to normal.
So I sat in lab meeting dazed, not really comprehending most of it. I tried to think really hard, and listen, but it didn’t work very well. I still took notes in spurts, gave up, then tried again, repeatedly. Finally, I mostly gave up and just wrote general notes of large ideas that jumped out at me that I could look up later, and sat there recovering, feeling so relieved that everything was ok.
I was also deriving and absorbing intense comfort simply from being near Khalid and listening to him talk – although, I didn’t really hear anything he said. I feel similarly about Ms. Harmon, when I’m stressed. Both of them are such comforting presences.
Yang and Rohan's presentations
Rohan, the undergraduate in the lab presented his work, which was also very interesting and easier to listen to. I really wanted to understand it. I’ve always thought Notch was cool. I need to look up more about it.
After lab meeting, talking to people
I went back to my desk and laid my head on it five minutes, exhausted. Then I started feeling lazy, so I went and decided to look for people to talk to for a few minutes, to help get some kind of normal flow of thought into my head.
I found Wallace’s cubical up there in the computational chemistry floor. He was talking to Dr. Evangelista online though and I was like – oops! He said he’d eat lunch with me later, so I said cool.
Then I went and found Vijay in the Lynn lab and asked him how his SURE stuff was going and what he was doing in the fall. Talked to a few more undergrads around there, which was nice.
Silly story about VijayVijay, 2nd from left. Ms. Harmon in center
Later, he told me that he didn’t have a lot of time that day to find him, but he had found his classroom, walked into it in the middle of his lecture, said “Hey Dr. Saadein!”, slapped him on the back and left. Dr. Saadein had apparently said, “Hey, what are you doing here?”
I looked at Vijay aghast and said, “You did NOT!” He said yes, yes, he did. I asked, was Dr. Saadein mad? He said he didn’t know, but he’d guess he’d find out later. I laughed loudly at this. That’s such a very “Vijay” thing to do. I would never do that.
Experiments on Tuesday and Kornelia Kornelia and I, about a month ago
Kornelia walked in and said, “Jessica!” She has been berating me for not giving her brownies when she got back from her vacation. She said, “You gave *Kevin* brownies. Why don’t *I* get any?” She had a point and it made me feel guilty. I said yes, but Kevin was my grad mentor-ish-person AND he had broken his foot! She said, pfffft, to that. I forget what else. I found out later in the week though that she really wasn’t serious about this threat, because she was on a diet, and said not to give her brownies yet! I would have.
Kornelia is sometimes confusing, but I feel like she’s good for me. She makes me feel guilty if I stay late. Around 6:30 or 7 p.m., or however late it is, she gives me this look and says. “Jessica, go home!! GO HOME! Your husband is waiting for you!” Which makes me feel horribly guilty, and I think, “You know, she’s right. Why am I still here? Why didn’t I work faster? I need to leave.” And I start working more furiously. Meanwhile, she continues to heckle me – go home, go home!!
Last week, the day I was actually trying to leave lab at a godly hour, she was doing this and said, “Jessica, it’s 7:30 p.m. Go home!!” I was like “EEP! No, it CAN’T be that late ALREADY!” And I flew into a whirlwind finishing my reaction and raced out of lab. I got into my car, turned it on and the clock said 6:50 p.m.
I looked at it shocked and thought – she lied! It wasn’t 7:30 it was 6:30! I couldn’t *believe* she did that. I wasn’t annoyed though. I was just dumbfounded and somewhat amused. Sometimes, I really don’t know when I should believe Kornelia or not. It’s hard for me to tell. Yvonne too, for that matter.
On Tuesday, I told her this when she was yelling at me to go home – you lied to me – you told me the *wrong* time! She said, “What? Oh yeah,” and grinned mischievously.
Random thought about Carol
I’ve heard rumors that she and Khalid don’t get along tremendously well, but I’ve seen no real evidence of this. And if she didn’t like him, why would she have an insignificant and obsolete note pinned up there that he wrote in 2012 that was about wanting to meet the next day? I figure she does actually like Khalid. That’s something similar to what I would do.
I still have chocolate Khalid gave me stashed in my drawer for a rainy day, because I didn’t want to eat all of it and waste it – its special chocolate. I also save most of his emails in a unique folder, because they’re encouraging and I like to pull them out occasionally and reread them.
Wednesday, the cucumbers and Typhoon error of doomSize comparison for mom's cucumbers
I told mom I’d let her know who I gave them too. She said give them to everyone in the lab. I decided I’d spread them around more widely than that because I wasn’t sure if everyone in lab would want cucumbers or not.
I found two janitor ladies to give some to – they are both the sweetest people and said they *loved* cucumbers. I had asked the one lady on Monday, who empties the trash in our lab in the morning, that when she goes about cleaning, to pray for everyone in the lab that we all have good ideas, and for Dr. Salaita, and for me because I was really stressed. I had figured out that she knew the Lord a few weeks ago. She said, Oh yes she would! She prays for *everybody*! God will take care of you! I said, “Yes, good! I think so too.”
So on Wednesday, I gave her cucumbers and a hug and said thanks so much, I was so much less stressed today. And she said, “See! God watches!” She’s such a sweet person. I love her.
Praying around the building, so thankful
I prayed around the building and as I did so, I was thinking about everything and was suddenly in so much awe. I thought something like, "... Oh my goodness, what God told me and has been telling me is actually true!" *facepalm* Why it takes me so long to really believe what He says, I don’t know. But He did say that’s what He was trying to teach me these days. To believe what He said.
I recall writing in my original note to Khalid that I knew God had led me here and he was the kind of person that I’d prayed to work for for so long, but it would probably take me a while before I actually believed it. That was true. But on Wednesday, I finally believed it.
Walking around the building, I realized that at some point between Monday and Tuesday, I had fallen into a deeper trust of Khalid than I knew existed, and I was no longer really worried about him being mad or turning into Bijoy. I still have those fears, but they’re more like whispers that are much easier to stamp out, rather than having to *fight* them viscerally. Or rather, ask the Lord to fight them for me. One can’t fight fears by oneself. Hopefully, I’ll stay this way. I think it can be achieved.
Realizing that what I’d hoped for SO much for so long was really true was overpowering and I was so, so, so, so very incredibly thankful. I walked around the building praying three laps. The entirety of the second lap was just to thank the Lord for Khalid, over and over and over. I have to develop a larger vocabulary for thanking the Lord. “Thank you,” is repetitive after a while. I think He didn’t mind though. By the end of my lap, I’d branched off into other things that approached silliness. Well, let’s be real now – it far exceeded silliness. But that’s pretty typical for me.
Khalid is wonderful
So much better than books! I really like books.
So much better than science! You might think that strange. I say not. Science is so much fun, but love of science can’t sustain you by itself. It can die or get squished out of you by difficult people or circumstances, so that not only is love of science important for science, but also a good mentor. You have to have both. And, if I had to pick, I’d rather have the good mentor than the passion for science any day.
SOOO much better than chocolate! Cats! Sweet tea! Mushrooms! Hearth fires! Hiking interesting paths! Squishy things! Mold! Live instruments! Bagels and cream cheese! Computer gaming! – combined!
I feel like someone who stumbled on buried treasure, was really happy but looked at it dubiously and turned it in to see if it was real or fake, and just got it back from an expert who said, “Yup, this is real.” Intense happiness.
The amount of gratitude I’m continuously feeling for Khalid is really impossible to describe. I wish I could do it justice. I feel like we have an incredibly good rapport, which is something I’d really, really hoped to find, but never expected to.
Additionally, Khalid is not just a good professor for me; it’s my opinion that he’s a good mentor in general. He somehow matches people’s personalities and knows how to help each person differently. I’ve noted this myself and Daniel told me the exact same thing, talking with me this past Monday. That’s an incredible skill.
I’ve known a *lot* of professors. I’ve had them as friends, been taught by them, watched and studied a lot of them, but I’ve never, EVER encountered a professor like Khalid – except once – Ms. Harmon. I feel like, to find someone like him takes a direct miracle, act of God. It’s a one in a million, incredibly, stupidly lucky chance.
Anyone who knows him is lucky, in my opinion. It doesn’t matter at all if he doesn’t think that’s true or doesn’t realize that. In fact, that’s probably one of the reasons he’s so awesome. Ms. Harmon doesn’t think she’s awesome either. She thinks she’s a lowly person that’s not that smart or good really, a nobody, and it brings tears to my eyes, because she’s the very best professor I’ve ever known, the very best teacher and friend I’ve ever had, who kept me in science when I thought I couldn’t go on. I don’t care if she only has a Masters. She’s as smart or smarter than at least a third of the Ph.D.’s I’ve known and a FAR better teacher than 90% of most science professors or lecturers I’ve known. Seriously. That’s the truth.
So so far, the Lord’s given me Himself – a bigger gift than any and so wonderful, I haven’t even scratched the surface – John, a person who’s the rarest of all; Ms. Harmon and Khalid. … I don’t know how I’ve had all these incredibly rare things happen to me, except by a ridiculous miracle act of God. It’s bizarre. Research AND a wonderful mentor. It’s BETTER than what I have dared to hope or dream for. I’ve just had all my dreams handed to me in one package.
I feel as if I’m falling over dead with shock and could go screaming around the streets, as if I just won the lottery. Well, to me I did. Better than the lottery.
What God said
There are days that I feel like I’ll explode or maybe implode. I can’t decide. He said He’d help me with that, to be able to better contain his joy without being overwhelmed. Then again, sometimes I'll sink into a depression just as strong - that's usually when I get side-tracked from looking at Him and frustrated I don't know always what He's doing. I don’t really understand what He really wants, what He’s doing or how He’s going to do anything, but He reminded me that it’s His job and I don’t need to know the details. I’m content with that. I just try my best to wait on Him each day. Some days are harder than others. Some are euphoric, some are depressing, but I'm glad that every day is with Him.
In the original New Testament Greek, there are three distinct words for love – or different flavors of it – fascinating topic of study to me, though I haven’t done all that much: 1) philia, or love between friends and family 2) eros, or romantic love, the one everyone usually thinks of 3) agape, or the love of God – which is pure, transcending, unconditional, hugely overwhelming, bigger and better than all the other kinds.
We’re supposed to know the agape love of God, the love He has for us, and learn to love like He does. I’ve longed to learn this. And I’ve *always* wanted to feel God’s love and know what it was like. It’s happened a few isolated, rare times. But nothing matches what He has shown me this year. It’s been unbelievable.
Now, it makes more sense to me, how a man like Adoniram Judson, one of the great Christian missionaries, could live such a miserable life and still be happy. He went to Burma as a missionary in the early 1800s and was kept in prison for about two years during a war, tortured, in horrible conditions, fed almost nothing and was constantly sick. His wife and child, though not in prison, died due to starvation and disease and he was left alone. And what he said was, he could not have gotten through all the terrible pain without the love of God. I don’t remember the story very well – it’s been a while since I read about him. I just remember that from childhood and thinking … “How does the love of God feel? Because, if it kept him sane through all that, then I know I don’t know what it is.”
There’s a beautiful chapter of Scripture that describes the importance of the agape love of God in a believer’s life – the greatest gift that one can ask God for is His love. Each instance of the word love is agape in the Greek. I checked just to make sure.
I Corinthians 13
1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.
4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.
11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Talking to Wallace on Wednesday
I really think he’ll join his lab. I’m happy for him – he seems really happy with his work. I have to say though, computational chemistry would never do for me – it’s a very alien feeling environment. But I think Wallace will love it. He’s so exuberant and as a computational guy, will get to collaborate with just about everyone eventually, which I think will be good for him.
Email from Juan in Colombia
He said that he had gotten to Colombia safely and found his family well, which was always a blessing. I feel like it’s dangerous over there in Colombia. I wouldn’t want to be there. I’ll have to make sure to be praying that the Lord protects him. I think God’s going to do amazing things in his life.
Getting a snack, and Yvonne and Kornelia being confusing
Kornelia asked what I was up to and I said getting a snack in Cox. She told me I should finish eating the donuts or the bagels! I said yes, but that didn’t feel like real food to me. I like sandwiches. And I eat dinner late, around 8 p.m. or even 10 p.m. sometimes, so this was like a mid-day half meal or something.
When I came back 15-20 minutes later, Yvonne and Kornelia were still there and said, “Jessica!” I said hi and asked them what they were still doing there. They said, “We’re waiting for you!” I looked from one to the other of them skeptically and, “… no you weren’t…” They said, oh yes, they were. I said no way – I was gone at least 20 minutes. There’s no way you were standing around here that long just waiting. They had two nitrogen tanks instead of one with them this time and I said – ah ha! You’re getting more liquid nitrogen! They said, no, they were waiting for me.
I said well, that was nice of them … but I didn’t believe it. They were so insistent, but they were smiling too mischievously. I told them I believe everything people tell me, unless I have evidence to the contrary. We got off on the lab floor and they said, “Jessica, this is the 1st floor!” I said indignantly, “It is not!”
I wondered vaguely the rest of the week what they were really doing down there. I knew they couldn’t be waiting for me. I just realized this Friday, that they’d probably been re-filling the cryogenic storage tank thingy – and I was like, “AH HA! Mystery solved.” Why couldn’t they just have said that plainly? I can’t believe it took me that long to figure that out. I really don’t know whether or not to believe anything Kornelia or Yvonne say sometimes. They’re confusing. With some people, it’s hard for me to tell.
Typhoon error of doom and failed attempts to fix it
I had to flag someone down again to get in, but there were more people around at 7:30 p.m. on a Wednesday (instead of 8:00 - 8:30 p.m. on a Friday night) so it was easier to get in.
I tried to image it, but the monitor wouldn’t turn on. I turned the button on and off to no avail. I tried turning the computer on and off to no avail. I fiddled with wires. Nothing. So, I switched out the monitors with another one that was in the room and did the same thing. That did no good either. I prayed about it furiously, asking the Lord to show me how to fix this. I didn’t know what to do.
So, I walked around the labs, but the Boss lab, which is largely in charge of the Typhoon instrument, was all empty. I found a few other people in nearby labs, but they said they didn’t know anything about it. I went back to the Typhoon instrument then and looked up the names and labs of the people clocked in on the sheet and took pictures of it. Then, I went and visited each of those labs to ask people if they knew anything about the Typhoon instrument. It ended up being all in all about 10 people on four floors – the ground floor doors were already shut and locked and I couldn’t get into those labs – and no one knew anything. I sighed, very disappointed.
I sat back down in the chair in front of the computer and called my dad, who’s an IT server manager for a communications company and asked him, “Hey dad, this computer at Emory isn’t working and I need to use it. Can I tell you what it’s doing and maybe you can fix it?”
He told me what to do and I told him everything the computer was doing and NOT doing. He said from what I was telling him, it almost *sounded* as if the video card had died. That didn’t surprise me at the time, because there was some kind of video card issue when I first started using this instrument. It’s a kind of clunky computer, I feel like. I said, really? Oh crap, oh crap. I looked at the computer and tried to see if I could take off the cover, because dad said the card might just not be seated perfectly, but it was full of a bazillion screws everywhere, and dad said, “No, no, don’t unscrew anything! That’s beyond your expertise.”
So, I had to give up on it. At least, I sighed, I had done everything I could think of. I went home rather disappointed, but I wasn’t too upset. I figured I could email Joshua Lee, the technician in charge and he’d know what to do. Meanwhile, I could go to the SURE poster session tomorrow with a clean slate and read lots of literature. My Oxford professors would probably be there – it sounded like it would be an *awesome* day. It turned out, that was exactly true.
Thursday, SURE poster session fun
Morning poster session
I got to Emory, prayed around the building, and went straight to the morning poster session full of anticipation and interest.
Almost right away, I ran into Oxford professors! The first I saw was Dr. Seitaridou, Oxford’s physics teacher, fondly called “Dr. S” by her students, since most people cannot pronounce her name correctly. She’s from Greece. I also got to see Dr. Jacob (biology), Dr. Powell (gen chem) and Dr. Pendleton, another biology teacher that I don’t see much except at times like these.
Every Oxford professor I found increased my happiness by 100-fold. Each one asked me how I was doing and I gasped and was like …
DR. SALAITA IS SOOO WONDERFUL – I LOVE MY RESEARCH, IT’S SO FASINCATING, I’M HAVING SO MUCH FUN AND I’M SOOOO HAAAAPPPYYYYY!!! *zoom* *tackle hug said person*
Each of them alternately beamed at me (Dr. S, Dr. Jacob) or laughed riotously at my enthusiasm (Dr. Powell, Dr. Saadein) and said they were so very happy that I was so happy.
With most people, I have to resort to frustratingly staid and logical compliments to Khalid, the lab and my work. If I shouted loudly and jumped off the walls like I wanted to, I wouldn’t convince them it was awesome, I’d just convince them I’d lost my mind – they’d probably think nothing could possibly be that good and I was just insane. So, I have to logically give them all the facts about how awesome things are in a moderate way – and they might smile and say, “Oh, that’s really wonderful for you,” or something. And I want to beat my head against a wall, thinking – you – have – no – idea! – how – wonderful – arg! – ow, ow ow. Impossible to convey.
But my Oxford professors who know me understand how I am, so they don’t think I’m nuts – they just rejoice with me – and I can get really hyper around them.
Dr. Pat Marsteller
She was happy to hear that I was now at Emory and asked who I was thinking of working for. I said Dr. Salaita and watched her carefully to see how she’d react. I was being cautious talking to her, because I wouldn't sure what she'd say. She said he was great and her reaction didn’t make sense to me, but that’s ok. She said I should come by her office sometime and be on the lookout for some new opportunities she was whipping up soon and would be emailing about. I told her that I would.
Dr. Marsteller never sits still. She’s constantly moving and talking to people. It’s kind of hard to pin her down. I was honored she talked to me for like a whole five minutes.
Talking to students and Eric ZhangYusheng 'Eric' Zhang, a ridiculous genius
I suddenly ran into Yushang ‘Eric’ Zhang! He is a *real* character – complete genius – smarter than I am, I’m convinced, with a 4.0, and also just completely ridiculous and a little bizarre. I can’t help finding his mannerisms adorable, though he can be slightly imprudent and ridiculous in what he says and does. Everyone who knows him ends up not really knowing what to make of him and yet can’t help liking him. He’s kind of impossible to describe, rising junior, that I knew from my time doing SI in past semesters.
He has a personality that’s a spinoff of mine, I feel like, but weirder. I don’t know. He has a reputation for being incredibly smart, also naïve (pfft, like I’m not), studies like nobody’s business, and asks unbelievably many questions. He’s going to be another rising Oxford genius, no doubt about that. He’s extremely silly.
For some reason, he really likes me, though he didn’t need my SI sessions whatsoever – he came once – and he was always making almost 98% or 100% on all Dr. Saadein’s tests and was the envy of the class. He had his own SI session directly after mine for gen chem. I saw his notes. They embarrassed me because I felt like his were probably better and more extensive than *mine*! And I was like man, I need to do better.
He always asked me questions about Emory, asked for advice and info about every topic in science under the sun, and seemed to be convinced I was a genius and knew everything. I’m convinced he’s actually way smarter than I am. I was very, very pleased to hear that Dr. Salaita is his student adviser, because he’s just the kind of person I’d want to see with an adviser like Khalid.
He ran up to me and was like, “JESSICA! Come, you *must* listen to my poster talk. I’ll give you an informal one now and an official one later.” He was due to present in the afternoon session.
So he rolled out his poster on a chair, which was about green synthetic organic chemistry, and launched on a quite interesting spiel. To my amazement, I understood almost all of it - amazing, because I've not spent a lot of time on organic chemistry. He’s really quite professional and good at explaining things. I asked him lots of questions. He was like, “Grill me, grill me!” He was doing microwave chemistry with Dr. Powell, I believe – the more I hear about it – the more I wish more chemists would use this – it’s pretty amazing, if you have a professional spec microwave designed for reactions. I was really glad that I hadn’t forgotten all my organic chem – at least, I had enough to understand the general idea of what he was doing. Click this link here to see a short video clip of Ms. Harmon standing in front of her chemical microwave, talking with Farhan, one of her former students.
At one point, I asked him, so, what was the power set to on the microwave for this reaction – and he lit up, snapped his finger at me and said, “I’M SO GLAD YOU ASKED THAT QUESTION!” And launched on a long spiel about how he had doubled the power to increase the temperature of the reaction faster and create a lot fewer side products. It was pretty interesting. He’d done some reading and had an idea of how to get the minor side-product he had into the major product, with some prodding. It sounded promising.
After he was done, he said, “So Jessica, will you stand by me for the whole session?” I was like “… *laughter* … No, I don’t think so.” “Moral support!” he said, and then he said he was just kidding. I just looked at him confused. “Are you serious or not?”
Eric makes ridiculous statements like this all the time. He didn’t really answer that question and I told him I didn’t know what to make of him. He said really? Everyone thinks that.
I was telling him how wonderful the Salaita lab was and how much fun I was having and he gave me this pleading face and said, “And there are no spots open in your lab??” I said no, not that I knew of – Dr. Salaita has a *lot* of students (for good reason). But I recommended to him the Scarborough lab because I heard Dr. Scarborough was nice and does synthesis so he might like him.
Rohan came up and I introduced him. Eric said, “Jessica is amazing!” O.o And then asked Rohan if *he* was taking P-chem next year. Rohan said absolutely not – he was going to wait until senior year. Eric said he was going to go for it this year, but he was scared of it. I said – nonsense – he was an amazing student – he’d do wonderfully – I had confidence in him. This is what Mary Radhuber tells me – as long as you know how to study – you’ll do fine in P-chem – and he definitely knows how to study.
Suddenly, Eric said, “I’m going to the bathroom – here,” – he handed me his poster, which was back in its sling – and said, “Hold this. Don’t leave!” And promptly disappeared. I just stood confused and bemused, shook my head, slung it over my back and carried it around unconcernedly. You never know what Eric will do.
He disappeared for what seemed a long time. Some of the Oxford professors realized I was carrying it around and looked at me apologetically and said, “Oh! Eric gave you that? Here, let me take it.” I said, nah it was ok. I felt like I was its guardian since he gave it to me and I wasn’t planning to leave anyway.
Just then, he finally reappeared after what must have been at least 15 minutes and said, as he took it back from me, “Ah, I see that’s an effective way of keeping you here,” which made me burst out laughing at the absurdity. I wanted to say – pfffft – but, but, but – I was never *planning* to leave! I forget whatever I did say.
I got a panini and the line took *forever* but it was worth it – very tasty. While in line, I saw this guy with a shirt that said, “Life would be easier if you could mark people as spam.” ??? When I got back to the table, everyone asked “Where did you go?” They all got suchi because it was fast and they only had about 45 minutes to eat before the afternoon session.
Eric and I exchanged numbers so he could come bother me in the fall. He’s not completely sure he’ll be able to stay at Emory, because his financial aid is up in the air. I know how that is. He said he really hoped he could find another academic family, like Oxford was. I really hope he finds that too – it’s another reason I want to make sure to keep up with him; make sure he’s connected. I really love Eric and I’ll do whatever I can for him. Oxford really is like a family. Emory just isn’t, as much. Maybe that’s because it’s bigger. It’s harder for 4-year schools to be like that. But I think you can find what you need if you know where to look, even in big schools. I survived UGA all right.
I asked Dr. Jacob where Dr. Saadein was and she said she didn’t know and doubted he would come – he was very selective in his appearances – I laughed, because, it’s kind of true. Dr. Saadein is a quiet person and doesn’t seem to get out much into crowds and things unless there’re specifically students of his that he wants to see.
Afternoon poster session
I ended up staying for the *entire* session. I wasn’t really planning that, but it fell out that way. First, I found Rohan and his poster and asked him questions. Then I got interrupted by judges and had to leave, so went to other Oxford student’s posters and asked *them* questions.
Finding Dr. Saadein
I just looked at him aghast and said I felt so badly for him. I can’t believe anyone could survive that much activity. He said, yes, it was a lot. We got to talk a while which was great. I told him that I heard about what Vijay did and he said, “Oh yes, that was rather a mischievous thing to do,” and he looked incredibly amused, but not mad. I figured that’d probably be his reaction.
Elizabeth, Rohan and others
I went back and forth to Rohan’s poster about five different times, between interruptions, going back to where I left off. After about the second time, I pulled over one of those tall chairs and planted myself in front of it, kicking my feet and probably making this absorbed face as I tried to puzzle out the rest of it. I’d jump off and run back and forth between posters and then come back and sit there again absorbedly, trying to formulate and ask him all my dumb questions and it made so much more sense! I kept getting interrupted by one thing or another and pulled in a million different directions.
More of Eric, during afternoon sessionEric talking to judge and crowd
I asked him if anyone ever called him by his first name “Yushang” and he said a few, but no, not many. I asked him if ‘Eric’ was really his middle name? He said no, it was a name a teacher had assigned to him a long time ago.
I was surprised and asked if he *minded* being called by a name that was assigned to him?? He said no, not at all. He’d been an ‘Eric’ for a long time and he liked it. I’ve always wondered about this, so I had to ask.
Dr. Kindt was talking to the guy across the way and he looked at me awed and said – he’s going to be my P-chem teacher next year! Eric practically worships professors. I always thought Dr. Kindt looked scary, but now, I suspect, maybe he’s not really so scary. He just *looks* scary.
Eric was like – he’s going to talk to me next – can you stay here! *pleading face* Stay here while I talk to him! Moral support! Then he changed his mind and said, no, no, I should talk to him by myself. You go away. I told him he’d be fine. He’s so great about presenting his stuff.
In the end, Dr. Kindt ended up about to leave and wasn’t going to talk to him, so he flagged him down and asked if he wanted to hear his presentation – which he didn’t – because he was tired – and I cringed for Eric. But he ended up listening anyway. Eric said he wouldn’t keep him long. I wonder how that went. I never found out. See this link here for a 15 second clip of Eric talking to people. Sadly, you can't hear him that well. :/
It was very interesting – every single person’s poster was incredibly fascinating to me. I had such a blast talking to everyone. Oh my goodness. It was the best time ever!!
Ms. Harmon, alas she couldn't come
We texted some and she said she couldn’t wait to hear all the news about everything at Emory! I told her I couldn't wait to tell her. When Ms. Harmon visits, then I'll REALLY get excited. :D
More Random SURE poster session pictures!
Typhoon instrument suddenly working and the train
So, I setup another ligation reaction.
I went down to image my old gel just to see what would happen. I asked the Lord if it would work and He said, “No,” but I wanted to see for myself.
Yup – did not work. But I was so glad the Typhoon was working again – or rather, the Typhoon computer.
I walked back across the bridge over from Rollins and there was a train going by. I stopped by a second to watch it – it had little, interesting pieces of scrap metal it was carrying. Trains are always interesting to watch, especially if you can stand right nearby. They’re so powerful.
I vaguely wondered what would happen if I jumped from the bridge into some of the empty cars going by under me like Indiana Jones. Would I survive? Would I just break my legs? What would happen? Maybe a man jumping in would have a better chance to survive. I had no idea.
I got to read more literature – most of the second section of the nanoparticle paper – which continued to be fascinating.
I gave out a few more cucumbers – one to Weiwei and one to Dr. Lynn. Dr. Lynn was in a meeting. I managed to write a note about it and surreptitiously put it on his desk, like some peace offering, and dart away before he noticed anything.
He was doing some kind of conference call with someone online in his office with another guy. Dr. Lynn’s office is strange. It’s like two offices combined. He told me once it was confusing on purpose. How can one make one’s office confusing *on purpose* I wonder? I’m not sure that makes sense to me. Did he design it that way? That can’t be it. I don’t know.
I’m saving my last two cucumbers for Dr. Weinert and Dr. Conticello. I looked for them and they weren’t there. I asked the Lord walking to Dr. Weinert’s office if she was there and He said no. I was like, “Aw man! Can’t you just transport her here! She needs a cucumber and I want to tell her about the protein!” Her students said that she was moving and wouldn’t be back until Monday. Hmm. I also *have* to get a cucumber from mom for Dr. Lutz! He can’t get left out.
I got home at a decent time! That was great too.
Friday, interesting data
I want to get a belt for my Jedi costume for Dragon*Con this weekend if I can. I have one I made, but it’s not official enough – I want to have a really official perfect one – since this is my first official costume and THEN someday I’ll worry about building my own costume from scratch, perhaps.
I’d almost say, I’d like to do nothing on my birthday – just not go anywhere and rest – I think I can finally understand why John says this. Sometimes, that really is an awesome thing to do. I’ll be 26.
Daniel's car and other things
It was very sad. My first and favorite car. As soon as the guy hit me, glass was spraying everywhere and my immediate first thought was, “OH NO! MY POOR CAR!!” I knew that was the end for it. It had gotten so many bumps throughout its life, but I tried to fix it and love it as much as I could. I cried over that car a lot and was incredibly depressed for at least a month or two afterward. I wrote it an apostrophe about how much I loved it, wished I could have protected it and would fix it if I knew how, and put a copy in its dash, as it was taken away to be junked. I wanted to keep it forever. The car I have now is the exact same kind, except it’s one less in luxury level. Finding even ten year old used Toyota Avalons takes a *very* long time. But I’m spoiled now. I can’t drive anything else. I love those cars so much. I think I’ll drive one until the day I die – the exact same type of car – forever.
Daniel pointed some laser at me at one point, to show Weiwei how it worked saying, “See, Jessica is exactly 11 feet away,” which both Weiwei and I thought was hilarious. I wonder what that thing was. I’ll have to ask.
Solving the gel bubble problem
I told mom and she texted me part of Daniel’s prayer, “He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding. He reveals deep and secret things; He knows what is in the darkness, and light dwells with Him.” (Daniel 2:21-22) I thought that was very appropriate.
I felt like the Lord was telling me it had something to do with the FAM and its structure, which didn’t make sense to me right away. He told me to read the Raines paper. So I went back to lab and re-read it. I looked at the FAM structure I’d outlined in my notebook and realized the charges were different at pH 7.41, so I looked them up and found out what it was supposed to look like at physiological pH.
I’m pretty sure it’s got to be the salt. I’m using Shuman’s conditions, but it was Raines who used the FAM substrate and he had 200 mM NaCl. Maybe the additional three charges on FAM really make a difference or prevent ligation when there’s no salt? That would seem rather logical, since I saw how much salt and metal ions change structures drastically when I was building the DNAzymes. We’ll see! I can’t WAIT to do experiments next week! Whatever happens, it will be cool.
Rollins has a 1st Friday!
I asked the secretary lady setting it up if I could eat any of their pizza and she said yes! There were twenty-two boxes of Papa John’s. I don’t think I’ve never seen so much pizza in one place in ages.
They also had a *lot* of beer – it’s that same beer that I recognized sitting on the shelf in the lab. There were like twelve jugs of it or something insane. And soda – which was great. I was feeling like getting a coke at the time. They were even a bit cold!
One of the students I’d questioned about the Typhoon instrument asked me if I’d ever gotten it working and I said oh yes thanks, Joshua Lee had helped me. I thanked the lady for letting me have pizza and she was so very nice and said I should eat more! I said nah – I had 3 slices – that’s a *lot* of pizza for me. I almost never eat three pieces. And she said, well, I should come back – after all, they needed chemistry. I’m really mystified why she’d want me to come back and decrease the quantity of the biochemist’s food, but I agreed and said yes, chemistry was great! I’d definitely be back. I’ll try to spread this news around the lab. Zheng said that he’d be interested in going over there sometime.
Going back to lab, running into Joshua Lee, an aside and seeing Wallace
I also told him about the unbelievable quantities of food in the building and he said, “Oh! That was today, wasn’t it?” I said yes, and told him what I’d seen. He said, oh really? He’d recommended that kind of beer to them, so he guessed they must have implemented it.
I told him he should come to chemistry’s 4th Friday and get twice as much food, which he thought was hilarious and asked if what we had was any different. I said I wasn’t entirely sure, but yes, it was different, I just didn’t think I could tell him exactly what was different. I was pretty sure that we didn’t have pizza all the time and we had different beer, but I didn’t know what kind, because I didn’t drink it. He said ohh, well that was ok. Religious reasons? I said something like that.
It’s not really “religious reasons.” Christianity doesn’t have any stipulation to not drink. Many of my Christian friends do, actually. It’s just a personal thing I decided when I was a kid. I vowed not to drink, along with other things, because we have lots of alcoholics in our family and I didn’t want to risk becoming one. Even if I didn’t, I also didn’t want any kids who knew me to blame their alcoholism on me and say, “she’s a good person and she drinks!” And then get drunk and get themselves killed. That would be on my conscience forever.
The only time I’ve drank alcohol is by accident twice – once when I was a kid and my family didn’t realize that this Lutheran church used real wine for their Lord’s Supper. After that I re-vowed to the Lord that I wouldn’t drink alcohol on purpose.
The other time was about a month ago at a fourth Friday, when I picked up something I didn’t know what it was and was like – ohhhh crap, this is alcoholic isn’t it? And I left it abandoned on a window sill. I feel badly about that, but I didn’t know what else to do. I didn’t want to go up to someone and say, “Here, I sipped this, (and might have contaminated it with my germs) but I don’t want it. Do you want it?” How rude is that??
Besides, then I would have had to explain why I didn’t want it and I’d just rather not. Most people think drinking absolutely no alcohol is weird and I don’t want anyone to feel bad. It’s not like I mind if other people want to drink. I just don’t.
I also ran into Wallace! He said he’d had a eureka moment today, realizing some new things about orbitals and talked to me excitedly about it, which was fun. I love talking to Wallace because he’s absolutely so flamboyant and enthusiastic!
Looking at the data
John had his RP session tonight at Bryan’s house, so I went there after lab and ate more pizza, and wrote quietly the rest of the night until midnight. We got home at 1 a.m. Boy was I ever so tired. Phew!
Can’t wait until I can do experiments next week!
Saturday, a restful day
Cathy prays for me fervently and I so, so, so appreciate that, more than I know how to say. I tell her all the time that I can’t tell her what that means to me, to know I have someone praying for me so fervently and also, for all the requests and burdens I have that I share with her. It really helps me.
Dianne told me that she was so overjoyed to see the Lord working in my life and that I had really blessed her – she’d watched me grow from a kid of about 16 and remembered me working with kids in so-and-so room down the hall and even back then, she’d been blessed by me.
I blinked and was like, really? I don’t remember anything about that. But she said, oh yes, I had been such a blessing to her. I didn’t know what to say but I was glad. The Lord does weird things. I didn’t *expect* Him to do anything with me at all. I’m so glad He didn’t forget about me. I’m pretty sure if I bless anyone, it hasn’t anything to do with me! He just takes me over, I feel like. I’m so glad I don’t have to worry about doing it myself. I’d be such a klutz if I had to plan His work.
Eating lunch with JohnJohn! :D
I took John’s picture as he was reading the menu. I almost always do that at restaurants. He looks perturbed every *single* time. It’s lucky if I get a picture. Half of them have his hand planted in front of his face. “WHY are you taking a picture of me?” he complains. I said, “Because you’re so adorable.” That’s true. That’s my reason. I must have more pictures of my adorable sweetie on my phone.
John had a burger and I had a quesadilla. I was staring at John, grinning a huge silly grin and he said, “What?”
I said, “I think you’re so wonderful and love you so much.” He just gave me this face. And I told him not to worry. It didn’t have to make sense. He laughed about that. John has always said that my loving him so much makes no sense to him.
I couldn’t eat most of my food. It was just too much food. But I saved it and I think I’ll eat it for dinner later. I was really, really tired afterward, but bouncing my legs crazily. John asked why was I doing that. I said I just had so much energy in my legs but the rest of me was so tired.
He said, “So, what you’re saying is, you need a treadmill that lets you sleep?” I laughed *hysterically* at that for almost a whole minute – I’m still laughing about it – and he raised his eyebrows and said, “Yes, you are tired, because that was *not* that funny.”
Our waitress gave us our check and said, if we didn’t mind her saying so, we were such an adorable couple! I love hearing that. John is very adorable.
Can’t wait to do experiments next week!!