The data I have been getting has been confusing and somewhat contradictory, to say the least. We're not sure if it's due to the substrates being about a year old, or some other bad things that 'I' am doing running the gels.
Kevin Leaving for Singapore Until End of August
Kevin left for Singapore this week! I didn't get to say bye to him on his last day, which made me sad, but fortunately, he came back in briefly and unexpectedly the next morning and we all said bye. That made me feel a lot better. Yuan took a picture of him, in case he didn't survive. ;)
Dr. Salaita told us in lab meeting about a strange fruit in Singapore that tastes amazing but stinks terribly. That is the about the most hilarious thing I've ever heard of. Apparently, it can be found easiest in the red light district and stinks so badly that there are signs outside of buildings saying it's not allowed in them.
On Monday, I found out I accidentally wasted filters worth somewhere around $1000 - $1500. Probably a lot more. I haven't looked up the price. That threw me for a loop. I was extremely horrified and very upset, but gratefully God sent people into my path to calm me down and help me reconcile to it. I was dead set, on paying Dr. Salaita back - I didn't see any other way to clear myself. Mom and dad tried to advise me on this, which just made me mad at the time, and I spent the night very depressed, in tears, clinging to John. I love John - he's so wonderfully sweet to me when I have panick attacks. He just holds and rocks me, tells me to breath and have peace, and everything will be ok. He doesn't even try to advise me.
However, during lunch after lab meeting, I 'happened' to meet Nina Mace in Cox Hall, who talked to me a good while about how in research, lots of things were often wasted, or someone accidentally broke a $30,000 dollar part, or chemicals that were bought were never used or found out to be unnecessary for a paper, or whole projects were scrapped. This was why professor's wrote grants for millions of dollars. I began to realize it could be quite possible that I could one day break something that I literally could not pay my boss back for.
I still offered. I was determined. But Dr. Salaita was very kind in saying it wasn't a big deal to him and echoed a lot of what Nina had already said. I wouldn't have been able to reconcile to that if I hadn't talked to both him and Nina. Nina helped a lot, to realize this was somewhat common and I'd probably go broke eventually if I stuck with such a policy. I was incredibly relieved that Dr. Salaita didn't seem to be secretly really mad at me, though I still feel badly. I will make sure never, ever, to make that mistake again, if I can. It's serious business to me. I wish mistakes weren't so expensive.
We thought we might have had an answer for why the data was weird on Tuesday, but alas, it didn't pan out. The next data I got with some improved substrates and controls was just as strange. So, on Thursday, I spent the day designing new RNA substrates and DNAzymes (for a later part of the project). I didn't expect it to take me that long, but the DNAzymes were more challenging to design than I expected, and if I changed them, it changed the RNAs I needed, so I had to get them both right. I had lots of fun talking to Dr. Salaita about them though.
Hopefully, the RNA will get here by next week sometime. I'm going to do one more set of duplicate controls with the old substrates to see what I see. I'm also going to double check to see whether or not my protein is aggregated.
Since this protein is an RNA ligating protein, we're hoping fresh RNA substrates will go better for proving it's activity. The ones I have now are DNA/RNA hybrids, with RNA only on the ends. It's possible that the protein recognizes it's substrate along the whole chain.
Summer Students Arriving
Since this was the first week of June, the other summer research students have been arriving to Emory. One of them, Wallace, I know from the Tech visit. Met him, and he and I discussed how we were totally going to Emory! It was great.
He's extremely enthusiastic, gung-ho about research, and wants to be a professor all the way. I know he'll make a great addition to any lab that he's in. Few people are the totally enthusiastic type like he is and I'd love to work with someone like that. However, I don't think I'll be successful recruiting him to Salaita. He's too much of Pchemist, at heart (though Dr. Salaita does do some Pchem stuff, I've been trying to tell him).
We ate lunch on Friday - Chick-fill-a - and I showed him where Cox Hall was. He's currently rotating with Dr. Evangelista, a new computational professor. He says he has to learn C++ before he can do anything, pretty much, but he likes being able to do experiments on computer, so he doesn't have to be tied to a lab. He says he'll see how the summer goes and if he likes it, he'll stay, and if not, he'll try something else out.
I think he's pretty brave, trying out something so new, like that. I'm not sure I'd do it. Dr. Evangelista also has yet to take on grad students and he could be his first. Working for a new professor doesn't bother me at all - Dr. Salaita and Dr. Weinert I both like - but working for one that new, that hasn't any grad students yet wouldn't work for me - I'd like to at least join a lab that has a minimum of 3 people already - people of which I can ask questions and have a few fellow coworkers. It'd make me nervous otherwise. Again, Wallace is a brave man.
Epiphany About the Role of Professors
I had an epiphany about what the role of a professor is in research and why I don't want to be one. A professor's role is largely that of the 'forest' view. They guide a lot of research, but they don't do it personally. As such, they stay out of the details. I had wondered how someone who didn't know the details of something could guide others. However, a professor does know many things and a broader range than his grad students or even his research scientists might. He's there to offer a different perspective, which is often the difference between solving a problem, and not. When one is too close to the problem, one can forget about a lot of things that would be obvious to someone else.
So, it makes sense to me, when one professor at UGA told me he felt that he could 'do more' research than he ever could just by himself. It was a much better way to go. He didn't have to get involved in the annoying day-to-day affairs, but could do the fun parts - thinking about it and helping lead other's work.
I see the matter completely differently. That's not what I want. I don't want the forest view. I want to be in the details. This is the role of a research scientist, a person who gets their hands dirty with bench work early and often, but also leads a few others, offers expertise in practical problem solving, and can act as a mentor to other researchers as well. Research scientists are the experts of their particular area. In contrast to a professor, they do not know a broad range of many subjects. They know one area very well. They get to turn what they see into reality directly with their own hands, designing, planning and then doing their own experiments, along with running parts of a lab and/or mentoring other's work. This is *exactly* what I want to do. Yes, I like teaching, but I like researching more. I also think I'd enjoy mentoring other researchers.
I'm not completely sure how it all works yet. Some research scientists work for professors. Some practically *are* professors. I don't understand that part yet. But I don't care if I'm the top dog in charge. I just want to be left alone to do research forever and help other people do it, while hopefully discovering cool things that will benefit people. Yes. *sighs with happiness*
So that, is the update, folks.
P.S. If you're wondering what the front picture is all about, it's from Schlock Mercenary, Howard Taylor's military SF space opera comic - one of the best webcomics out there. You can read it for free online! That picture also really exemplifies how I feel about science and how I like to go about my work. I'm going to get one for my desk.