So far, I've been trying to read papers and systematically talk to each professor in more detail about their research, leaving no stone unturned. That is my way.
However, I'm being distinctly pulled in the Salaita lab's direction. I was really stressed about that at first, worrying that I was biasing myself. Worrying/wondering if I could work in a lab that didn't involve growing cells *every* day. I'm no longer stressed. If I can't trust the Lord to guide me to the right lab, that I've prayed about for three years, then I cannot trust Him at all. When I stopped second-guessing myself, I felt so much better. I'm still talking to everyone. If there's something else I should do, He will show me.
So far, everything that I've done and seen is pointing to Salaita. Quite unexpectedly and contrary to everything I thought, his research came up and slapped me in the face. Here's some reasons I say this...
Why I feel as if Dr. Salaita's group might be the lab I'm being directed toward
1. He wasn't my first choice. Dr. Lynn was. I thought Dr. Salaita's research was intriguing in some ways, but I didn't expect to like it much. It wasn't in my major area of interests.
2. I added him to my interviews for Emory at the last minute on the application and sign-up.
3. On the scavenger hunt on the first visitation day at Emory, his lab was the first we visited. He happened to be there and explained his instruments. They were interesting and I liked his personality. I remembered that later at the poster session and sought out his board.
4. Later, I saw his poster and realized he also did some synthetic biology work, which I didn't know about. I love synthetic biology. It looked fascinating. I am always jealous of engineers. I decided I'd have to ask him about it.
5. During the interview, his main research turned out to be more interesting than I anticipated. Hearing the context, how it was done and some of it's history was quite neat. And I loved the energy with which he spoke about it. I didn't get to ask him about the synthetic biology project, but he told us to find him at the dinner if we had more questions.
6. At the dinner, I made a point to seek out Rolando from the Lynn lab, but no one else. I chose an empty table except for one prospective I kind of knew, giving up on seeking people out, because it was too stressful. Dr. Salaita just 'happened' to sit by us.
7. I asked Dr. Salaita about his synethic biology project. He told me about a project he was recruiting for that wasn't on his main website and was right up my alley. In fact. It's perfectly interesting - includes RNA, designing a synthetic enzyme, mammalian cells which I wanted to get into, and combinations of inorganic, synthetic chemistry, molecular biology, RNA - so lots of variety. I couldn't have asked for better.
8. I read the related paper on the project he spoke to me about and was instantly enthralled.
9. I visited him later two weeks ago to ask questions about the related paper. He was not bothered by all the questions. In fact, he asked to see my copy of the paper and my question sheet I'd printed off, which I didn't intend to show him. He was impressed with the number of comments I'd written up. He always talks to me like an equal and never even hints that what I ask him is ridiculous. It was a good conversation, despite me being incredibly nervous. Seeing the labs more closely, I worried that I'd never work with cells in his lab though.
10. I realized his grad student Kevin who's working on this project was the guy who drove a bunch of us back from the bar at 10:30 p.m. on the visitation weekend. I just hadn't realized that. He and Kevin invited me to lab meetings.
11. I looked up ~58 papers on DNZymes, as a topic, at Oxford. The whole field is completely fascinating. What Dr. Salaita is trying to do is also completely fascinating. I could totally see myself working on this area.
10. Dr. Salaita liked the questions I sent him later. I'm glad he didn't mind. Kevin kindly answered them, even though it was a long list.
11. I attend the lab meeting. It allayed some of my concerns, from the description I'd heard of them from Kevin, the grad student. Dr. Salaita's meetings are different from Dr. Kushner's. In the Kushner lab, everyone went around the room telling about where they were in their research and everyone else brainstormed solutions to any problems they were having. It was like a group pow-wow. Dr. Salaita instead has weekly one on one meetings with his grad students about their work. At lab meeting, one person presents his work, as practice for scientific talks, or presents a paper. The way it was described, I worried that there wouldn't be as much feedback from the group, or mutual discussion of ideas. However, lots of the grad students gave good comments and asked questions on the person's work who spoke, so I felt a lot better about it.
12. Afterward, Dr. Salaita talked to me briefly. I asked about mammalian cells. They isolated the protein he's going to be using in other labs, rather than his. It sounds as if from what he says and what I remember from the paper that I would be working with some cells during this project. I wouldn't have to worry about being cell-less.
13. He showed me a perfect vacant room nearby his labs where I could study anytime to my heart's content. That made me so happy. I hate drifting around, being unofficial at Emory right now, and not having a place to go to hide and read papers. Now I do.
14. I asked Dr. Salaita my major question - whether or not he'd mind me writing a proposal for a side-project, similar to what Dr. Lynn does. It's one reason I really like Dr. Lynn's lab. He said that would be totally fine and gave me a format. He said he's looking forward to seeing them. I was relieved, scared and excited all at once - now I have to do it - and I WILL. I totally am going to write up LOTS of ideas. He also said that he prefers his grad students to work in teams. I don't mind that either. Hopefully, that also helps group collaboration.
So far, so good. There are more things I could say, but those are the most important ones. I have peace about it. As I say, these are all good signs. And I don't believe in coincidences.
Spoke with Dr. Lutz today, enzyme professor
I spoke with Dr. Lutz this morning. He's Swedish and one of the most hilarious people in the biomolecular division of chemistry, certainly. He always used to walk by and make wisecracks when I worked in Dr. Conticello's lab under Melissa Patterson. It's hard to be stressed around him, in my opinion.
His research is enzyme catalysis - mutating and improving enzymes to produce novel functions, some therapeutics work. It's interesting. I suspect it's not as much up my alley as others though.
The discussion was great. I feel like I understand quantum dots (QDs) a lot better. But, there's something I still don't get about them. I'm going to have to ask more questions. He said I should come by on M if I had more. Maybe I will. I'm ending up at Emory more and more these days... not that I mind.
I also visited the Chemistry library today, just to look around. I love these books. They are hilarious. Look at them. Two HUGE volumes just on the reactions ... of phenols. That's it. Phenols. One molecule. It made me ponder about the amazing people who spent so much time studying these things and how they could have compiled all this amazingly specific and detailed information.
1) Meeting with more people
On Tu, I'm going to Dr. Salaita's lab meeting at 9 a.m. I'm officially coming to them for now. I plan on asking more of his grad students about their projects. Then, I'm going to meet with Anil, the NMR Ph.D. expert to ask him questions at 1 p.m. Between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. or after I talk to Anil, I'll be visiting the Lynn lab and Rolando, one of the grad students, to talk to more of Dr. Lynn's people. I'll probably also talk to Dr. Conticello and some of his grad students. Much to do. Yes.
2) GA Tech
Next week, I'm visiting GA Tech on Th and Fri. That will be interesting. There's some people I want to talk to there, if only to hear about their work. They also have a lot of people doing nanoparticle stuff down there. I should talk to them too.
I'm really excited about reading more articles - I'm having SUCH A FUN TIME READING THEM!! It's the greatest. Dr. Salaita said that he doesn't mind if a write up a proposal for a side-project for him. Excellent. It's scary, but wonderful at the same time. I can't wait. I'll be writing up my first wave of thoughts tomorrow morning. If I end up working for him, I plan on sending him ideas every month or two. I figure that one way to make sure I stay excited about science in grad school is to constantly think of new ideas as often as I can.
Deciding on a grad school
Come April 1st, I will send in my decision about grad school. I'm not waiting any longer than that. Sorry. Emory's decision deadline is April 15th. There's a few other schools that haven't gotten back to me: UNC Chapel Hill among them. If they haven't replied by now, they'll probably reject me. Either way, it won't matter. I'll probably be accepting Emory. I'm leaning on working for Dr. Salaita in the summer rather than Dr. Lynn, if he'll have me and Dr. Lynn doesn't mind.
Organic Chemistry SI
I'm still doing organic chem tutoring. Only two people this week came, because of spring break. Someone spread rumors of no quiz on Friday, so they didn't have to study! *boos* Ha, it's ok. But seriously. People. Study your orgo. Yer gonna need it for ch. 18.
I plan on studying orgo a bit more seriously myself and make sure I really know all the reactions. I want to go into grad school prepared.
I wish I could convey how exciting the science stuff is and going to grad school. It's impossible. It's the strangest most giddy feeling in the world, finally getting to step into a doorway of what I've dreamed on doing for almost my whole life. I cannot wait to see what happens. I was reading papers today and feeling so high ... reading / thinking this stuff, knowing I will be able to do it for real finally ... it's more fun than gaming, or anything that I've ever done heretofore. Ever. I've NEVER done anything more fun than this stuff. Think what you will.
And, even if my projects literally do not work at all for two years ... I'm still surrounded by amazing professors to talk to, smart grad students to talk to about science, able to read as many papers as I want, able to write down ideas and take classes, able to still DO SCIENCE! Really. Seriously. I cannot complain, really and truly. We'll see if I still say that when I'm there, but you know what? I think I will. <3