Thursday, December 29, 2005

Flying Flasks

I have come to the conclusion that graduate students add a certain amount of interest and “excitement” to a research laboratory. Let’s face reality here, graduate students are still in the learning process and don’t possess the skill level and knowledge that a “seasoned’ researcher has. So, inevitably, things have a tendency to “happen” with graduate students in a laboratory. As the saying goes, sh** happens.

Being a graduate student myself, I remember a time when I was in the lab in a big rush to re-crystallize a product. In my big rush, I forgot that benzene is flammable. Fortunately, no one got hurt and no one was around to witness my stupidity. I obviously never did recover those crystals and I am glad that my advisor at the time did not ask too many questions about what happened to my crystals that day. I am not sure how he would have bought the explanation of "Well Dr. XYZ, they sort of sublimed into the air, and they are around somewhere."

Just this past year, we got another graduate student in the lab. This made me happy for two reasons. First, that I was now no longer on the very bottom of the “totem pole”, and secondly, that there was another person now in the lab whose skill level was comparable to my own. Sometimes it gets a little depressing working around people who have 10-plus years of knowledge and skill under their belt. It can be rather refreshing to have someone around who is in the same boat as I am.

A few weeks back, this newer graduate student started growing something in this homemade minimal media. I am not sure what it was and from the looks of it, I don’t think I want to know. He put this “stuff” in a 2-liter flask and clamped it on one of our platform shakers rotating at 250 rpm to grow/incubate for a few days.

Somehow, this flask sheared off the platform and became airborne (with the clamp still attached). The flask eventually landed and broke when it hit the floor. When the flask broke, it oozed its contents onto the floor. To make matters worse, it became really obvious that this particular flask had some sort of contamination, because it really smelled—BAD. The smell I can only describe as really, really bad smelly feet.

Of course, when this happened, the graduate student was not around. No one in the lab wanted to go near the stuff and clean it up—we kept hoping that the graduate student would show up any minute. Well, the graduate student didn’t show up for a couple hours so, the “smelly feet” solution sat on the floor further incubating.

Having been in a research lab, I can say that I have smelled worse. There are things and some chemicals I don’t really want to be near, much less work with. However, in this case with the “smelly feet solution”, I think the quantity (amount and duration) makes up for quality.

The graduate student has now started up a new batch. He has put aluminum foil around these flasks to keep the light out. Now to me, they look like giant individually wrapped HO-HOs. Giant, individually wrapped HO-HOs rotating at 250 rpm. So, much so that I went out there and put a sign on the flasks saying “Giant HO-HOs”. I just hope these HO-HOs don’t become airborne and become the flying HO-HOs.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

A disembodied voice...

I decided to finally post my picture on my blog profile. Thomas (one of the researchers in our lab) was kind enough to take a digital picture of me last week in the midst of my grant writing for me. Thus, a disembodied more!

Monday, December 26, 2005

Photo Caption

Mahfuzul sent me this picture. He told me that the caption to this photo is "A wife is a wife no matter who you are".

Since I am of the fairer sex, all I can say is hmmmpht.

At the same token, we don't know what the "husband-lion" has done or not done, right???

Regardless, still a funny photo. Enjoy!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Catnip for the day

Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved. Helen Keller

Thursday, December 22, 2005


There has been something that has been bugging me all week.

You see, I am trying to get this grant done. Although the actual grant is not due until Jan 11th, I have deadlines within this particular deadline. There are certain things in the grant that need to be done because our administrative department is moving and needs certain materials way before the deadline. Also, my advisor is due back in town at the begining of next week and I need to present him with my completed grant so that he has something to work with. Also, I don't want him saying to me, "You did not do any experiments and you don't have your grant finished?" So, nothing like deadlines within deadlines to put the pressure on.

Well, what is bugging me is my eye. Specifically my right eye. My eyelid has been twitching every day this week. It is quite frustrating trying to write, trying to understand specifics of electron flux and other areas in the journal articles without this constant twitching!!!

I realize that the stress, the fatigue, and the coffee are most likely the causitive agents. However, what I really want to know is how to stop this!! Argh!

So, does anyone out there have any suggestions? Specifically, suggestions that would work.

Santa Claws

Am I too old to have my pictures taken with Santa? I don't think so, and I have the picture to prove it.

You see, for the past three weekends, I have helped out with "Santa Claws" photos at a local PetSmart.
The rescue organization that I gave the rescued kittens to were hosting Santa Claws photos in order to raise money for their organization. Since I am rather fond of this particular rescue organization, I was more then willing to help take pictures and help pose the various pets. It was a great deal of fun and it gave me the opportunity to be around some really good people.

At the conclusion of the photo sessions, the head of the rescue organization suggested that we sit with Santa and have our photos taken. Well, considering that the head of the organization and Santa were both prosecutors for Lake County, I wouldn't dare refuse. After all, I could just picture myself in court one day with someone saying, "So, you refused to have your pictures taken with Santa, what type of person does that make you?"

Needless to say, I got my picture taken with Santa and have the picture to prove it. I was considering posting it on my blog, but I confess that I feel rather shy about posting such a picture of me. However, the picture is by my desk in my lab if anyone should be so curious.

Catnip for the day

No act of kindess, no matter how small, is ever wasted. Aesop

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Santa Baby...

I was thinking, that in the coming year, I should do something I have not yet done before.

I was thinking, that I have always wanted to wear and have one of those little black dresses with the thin straps that leave oh so little to the imagination. So why not this year? As good of a time as any.

So, Santa, if you stumble upon my blog entry and decide to put one under my tree, a size 8 should do nicely.

Who says I am too old to believe in Santa?

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Catnip for the day

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched --they must be felt with the heart.
--Helen Keller

Friday, December 16, 2005


Product shows. Aren't they great? They feed you, give you nifty things, and make you feel like you are the greatest scientist. Product shows make me think of trick-or-treating for scientists.

Some product shows are better than others, but hey, I never look a "gift horse" in the mouth so to speak.

Today's product show was especially nice. They served coffee with gourmet brownies and the best pastries. On top of it all, I won a digital MP3 player (the top prize) in their raffle.

So, here I am, writing my grant listening to Vivaldi on my NEW MP3 player and enjoying those yummy gourmet brownies.

Hey, I needed this!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

How to Scare a Graduate Student

Some people are afraid of spiders.
Some people are afraid of the dark.
Do you know what I am afraid of?


Yes, I confess, I am terrified of lab meetings.
Specifically the lab meetings in which I am the presenter.

You see, lab meetings have always been an exercise in torture and humility for me. Yes, I realize that they are good for my professional development. But knowing that doesn’t mitigate my fears at all. To make matters worse, the last lab meeting presentation I did was less than stellar (of course it did not help matters that I found out less than 24 hours in advance that I had to present).

So, suffice it to say, I am still suffering from the after effects of the last lab meeting.

So, yesterday, Mahfuzul (one of our post-docs) comes over to me and tells me at 4pm that he spoke to The Boss (my advisor) and The Boss wants me to present in lab meeting the next day at 10am (again, less than 24 hours to prepare). The Boss apparently wants me to present the data from the experiment I am currently doing.

So, I am thinking, great, just great. I have to finish the experiment, perform the data analysis, prepare slides for the presentation, formulate a discussion, and read a few more papers in order to not speak fluent gibberish during my presentation.

I realize that this means no sleep for me!

So, my life flashes before my eyes. My life as a graduate student flashes before my eyes. My heart starts sinking into the bottom of my toes.

Finally, Mahfuzul tells me that I don’t have to present at lab meeting because there will be NO lab meeting the next day.

All a practical joke.

So, Mahfuzul, if you read this entry, remember this. You can run, but you can’t hide. Sooner, rather than later you WILL be asking me for some Agmatine for those experiments!

Monday, December 12, 2005

So what have I done?

I have to confess that this Christmas season, I am feeling more like a scrooge than jolly. I suppose it has a lot to do with the fact that it just has been a tough year for me overall. It has been tough in terms of a long term relationship ending and also dealing with my mom's cancer. Also, I have had various setbacks in terms of my research project (stuff like one of the freezers thawing out completly which happened to contain all my work). So, to keep myself from feeling down and sappy during the holiday season, I try not to listen the inundating Christmas songs around me. In the car, I try to listen to my CD's, public radio, or classical music. Anything but the radio stations tuned to Christmas songs. Somehow, the words of a particular Christmas song manages to keep creeping into my mind.

"So this is Christmas. And what have you done? Another year over And a new one just begun..."

No matter how hard I try, I can't seem to block it from my mind, sort of like a playing a song in repeat mode.

So, I tell myself, ok, what have I done? What are the good things?

Well, let's see, I am preparing a manuscript for my first publication, working on my first grant to the American Heart Association, presented at three poster sessions this year, submitted an abstract for a travel award to my first conference, and rescued two kittens (and put them up for adoption with a great rescue organization).

Great milestones for a doctoral student, but really, what have I done that is worthy as far as the words to that song?

I think I fall short.

So, I say this. Although the words still haunt me, I resolve not to try to make my body look like a runway model, but rather focus on making myself worthy of the words, what have I done?

Yes, I still plan on working out more, but my focus will be to feel worthy of those words this same time next year. And who knows, in return, I will hopefully have a better year as well.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Catnip for the day

Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.
--Albert Einstein
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