Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Sometimes it is worth it

I received notification by email yesterday that I was granted a travel award to the ASBMB conference held this year in San Francisco. I submitted an abstract to them back in October. Although this is not an international conference, this will be my first time presenting my work at a major conference.

What about those long hours that I have been putting in at the lab? Well, it seems that sometimes it is worth it. A travel award seems to make these things worth while.

Monday, January 30, 2006

My Brain...?

Your Brain's Pattern

You have a dreamy mind, full of fancy and fantasy.
You have the ability to stay forever entertained with your thoughts.
People may say you're hard to read, but that's because you're so internally focused.
But when you do share what you're thinking, people are impressed with your imagination.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Catnip for the day

The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' (I found it!) but 'That's funny...'
--Isaac Asimov

Friday, January 27, 2006

Bubble Gum for the Brain

I am tired. Really tired. How do I know that I am tired? I know when I am tired when I try to avoid thinking. I try to find things to amuse my brain, but not make it think. I call these things, bubble gum for the brain.

For example, I have been looking at various amusing quizzes on the internet and posting them on my blog. These quizzes are precisely what I would term, bubble gum for the brain. They are fun, require little if any thought, and give my mind something sweet and pleasant to occupy itself.

Just like bubble gum.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Catnip for the day

Writing gives you the illusion of control, and then you realize it's just an illusion, that people are going to bring their own stuff into it.
--David Sedaris

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

What Turns Me On

I am tired. VERY tired. I just submitted a grant a few weeks back, I am back at the bench, and have been sick on and off. I feel totally exhausted. So, each day I have been asking myself, "Why am I doing this?"

Unfortunately, or fortunately, I have an answer. You see, ever since I can remember, I have always been interested in how things work. It has never been enough for me that things simply go from point A to point B. I want to know how things go from point A to point B. I also want to know what things influence something going from point A to point B. Also, my favorite part of organic chemistry was the mechanisms. They always seemed nothing short of beautiful to me.

So, THAT is why I do what I do. That is why the above mechanism rules my waking hours, and sometimes my sleeping hours.

For those so inclined, more details can be found in a wonderful mini review:
Stuehr,D.J., Santolini,J., Wang,Z., and Adak,S. (2004) J. Biol. Chem. 279, 36167-36170.

Knowing what makes something go from point A to point B turns me on.

Yeah, baby!

The Meaning of Life

You Are a Powdered Devil's Food Donut

A total sweetheart on the outside, you love to fool people with your innocent image.
On the inside you're a little darker, richer, and more complex.
You're a hedonist who demands more than one pleasure at a time.
Decadent and daring, you test the limits of human indulgence.

A few weeks back while many of my labmates and I were working on our grants, we came upon this idea that if we knew what type of donut we were, we would know the meaning of life. Yes, I admit that we were all stressed to be saying things like that. However, the thought always intriqued me. Little did I realize that the work has already been done and a "quiz" existed in terms of figuring out what type of donut one is.

I do confess, that I do not deny my results. Oh my!

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Grant Writing Learning Curve

The things I learned writing my first grant:

1. The order you submit your grant to your advisor for review/revisions will not be the order in which you get it back to make the revisions.

2. Don't expect some people in your lab who are not concurrently writing a grant to be understanding of the fact that you are trying to meet the grant deadline.

3. You discover the many software faults of Microsoft Word.

4. Figures randomly jump around as if possessed by some demonic force.

5. Text boxes that seemingly disappear reappear to bite you; presumably possessed by the same demonic force.

6. No matter how many times you review the final copy, you will keep finding more mistakes that you did not notice before.

7. Files don't like going back and forth from PC to Mac and will mock you as a result.

8. Despite having submitted your grant, you will continue to have nightmares about trying to meet the grant deadline.

9. You will feel a sense of accomplishment after you submit your grant for at least a few days.

10. Regardless of whether the grant actually gets funded, you can be proud of the fact that you submitted it and make it through the entire process.

11. No matter how hard your advisor is on you normally, he will be happy that you got it submitted.

12. Don't underestimate the power of a bubble bath.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Bad Prose

'Tis the night before grants are due
And all through the night,
All the Lab Rats are stirring
Trying to get their grants done.

For such bad prose all I can say is:

I am sure looking forward to that long winter's nap!!!!!!

Monday, January 09, 2006

Katie is milk chocolate?

You are Milk Chocolate

A total dreamer, you spend most of your time with your head in the clouds.

You often think of the future, and you are always working toward your ideal life.

Also nostalgic, you rarely forget a meaningful moment... even those from long ago.

I didn't know I could be Ice Cream...

You Are Chocolate Ice Cream

Dramatic. Powerful. Flirty.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Light at the end of the tunnel...NOT!

I was told by my advisor (The Boss) about a month ago to write this grant to American Heart Association. I was slightly worried about it because this is not only my first grant, but I had only a month to write this first grant of mine. But I thought hey, I will rise to the challenge!

So, right before my advisor leaves to go out of town for a few weeks, I confirm with him that I am to write this grant on these TWO enymes.

So, he leaves and I busy myself on writing this grant on TWO enzymes. I write and read for many hours each day in order to present my advisor with a rough draft for when he returns.

So, when he returns, I give him my project summary to review since it needs to be sent to our division of research asap. He reviews it with me and only makes some minor changes to it. This makes me happy considering that only minor revisions are needed. I figured, hey, I am progressing in my scientific writing abilities! Also, I was feeling like finally I am beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel with this rather difficult task of writing my first grant.

He then says to me to include a THIRD enzyme in the grant. I am thinking, great, just great, I have only a little more than a week to read about this third enzyme and incorporate into my grant! So, I put in more hours writing and I rise to the occasion. I present to my advisor a rough draft of the grant later this week.

He goes over the rough draft with me and tells me to totally change my aims. Great, just great. This means I have to totally redo the whole grant! I have less than a week to submit this grant! He then asks me why I did not include the double mutant enzyme? I tell him that he never asked me to include a double mutant enzyme in the grant. He then proceeds to tell me that he did indeed ask me to include the double mutant. At this point I strongly tell him that he did not tell me to include this double mutant enzyme. So, he does not question me further about the double mutant enzyme.

But he does tell me to include this other single mutant enzyme. I have less than one week to incorporate this FOURTH enzyme in the grant.

So much for the light at the end of the tunnel.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Stink Bomb!

We have this phenomenon of centrifuge tubes containing bacterial culture hiding in the bowels of our freezers. These tubes tend to get forgotten and well, just sit in the freezer. People leave (and leave their cultures), people move onto different projects and don’t need these forgotten cultures, and sometimes, I think people just plain get busy with other stuff and forget that months ago they started some culture and froze it for later use.

Well, our technician a few days back discovered these tubes and rightfully decided it was time to clean these out and put the centrifuge tubes back into circulation.

However, there is one very important point to remember. These cultures have been sitting around for a long time, anywhere from months to even years. As you can imagine, in the meantime, despite being frozen, these bacterial cultures have been doing what bacterial cultures do so well—stinking up a storm in their sealed containers.

Now, the technician discovered quite a cache of these ancient cultures. I estimate between 25-50 tubes. Quite a lot of stinking tubes—literally.

Well, the technician decided to unleash what I would term “a stink bomb” on the unsuspecting lab by opening up these tubes and not using bleach on these cultures. It is important that when unleashing a stinky culture on your fellow labmates: use bleach early, often, and in copious amounts to spare the olfactory senses!

At first, I was blissfully unaware of the stink bomb migrating towards me. I came out of the room where I was working on my grant and I noticed a bit of odor in the lab. I assume that since I was surrounded by our postdocs in that area of the lab, that perhaps one of them just had well, ahem, bad intestinal gas. At this point, I got a call on my cell phone from my dentist and I stepped out of the lab into the hallway for better reception.

A few moments later, I see Thomas (one of our researchers) running out of the lab, who incidentally works in the closest vicinity of our technician. He runs out into the hallway holding a respirator mask over his face and makes a beeline for my lemon tree that is currently in bloom and quite fragrant. He then sticks his nose into the blossoms and start inhaling rather deeply. He relays the story to me and since my dentist told me that he could see me right away, I decided it was best to leave without going back into the lab. Fortunately, I only smelled the diluted form of the stink bomb and was spared the full intensity.

Today, yet another stink bomb was unleashed as more culture tubes got cleaned. Fortunately for me, I stayed in the room where I was writing my grant. I could hear the muffled sounds coming through the walls and, I think it is safe to assume that the stink bomb was not well received. Although I believe it was not as bad as the original one.

For the first time in weeks, I realized that sitting in an isolated room writing a grant has its distinct advantages.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Guidelines for Publication

You know, this actually would be an improvement!

Thanks for the submission Mahfuzul!
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