Monday, July 2, 2012

Making the Most of Monday Madness

And so began our final week at Brown. I know Monday will soon enough turn into Friday and tearjerking goodbyes, but for the moment I'm concentrating on my PCR technique (polymerase chain reaction, a mass DNA cloning procedure) and my compadres. 

The overlap between our different labs ups the stakes and keeps things interesting. For example, today we started the PCR incubation process with the DNA we harvested in the blood draw last Wednesday, purified and extracted on Thursday, and set in the fridge Friday. Because of this, every step must be carried out with perfection in order to proceed onto the next procedures. Tomorrow we will be conducting the overnight PCR reaction and running our personal DNA through an agarose gel. In what other class do students have the opportunity to physically assess their own genetic code?

Today was also the first time I prepped, plated, dye-stained, and staged my own microscope slides from living lymphocyte cells. Previously, our biology classes had only allowed us to use pre-plated slides ordered from a retailer. Even in AP Bio we were always looking at old cell slides manufactured in China, often with more dust than observable organelles. As soon as I directed my retina at the microscope lens, I gasped; this was my wow moment. Looking through a microscope at your very own product- at fresh slides of cell nuclei distinguishable enough to identify the stages of chromosomal synthesis- is a much more inspirational scientific experience.

Eagle Square fountain at Federal Hill
The Federal Hill restaurants
are fabulous!
The special day also happened to be my dear friend Leanna's last day with us. Her sweet disposition, cheery smile, and spot-on falsetto will be missed by the Brownies of DNA Biotech, and greatly appreciated in Minnesota, to where she is departing early to work as a camp counselor for special needs children. 

Lemon squares
 with Leanna!
As a going-away party, the study group planned to take Leanna out to our favorite cupcake store, The Duck and Bunny. Upon finding it closed to our disappointment, we instead hopped on the trolley to Federal Hill as I introduced the crew to Pastiche and my personal favorite, lemon squares. 

Bringing the crew to my favorite pastry place

En route to our dessert destination, my friends kept me entertained on the bus. I was surprised that many of them had never "resorted to" public transit systems. As a public transit guru, often whose only way of getting around revolves around Westcat busses, AC Transit, and BART, as well as Muni, County Connection, and Capital Corridor systems on the rare occasion, I'd prefer the phrase "utilized the resourcefulness of." I smiled in amusement as my friends sat restless in their seats, glancing nervously at the colorful characters on the RIPTA bus, and constantly asking me at each stop where we were headed. I remember arriving in Providence, when I marveled at the distinct buildings, red-brick charm, and perfectly tree-lined streets; to them, downtown seemed "sketchy".

RIPTA finally brought us back to College Hill, and we gathered at Starbucks for a review session. We are still a study group after all. Because of her early departure, Leanna is taking the final tomorrow, so we wanted to pitch in and go over labs, protocols, and questions with her. Thanks to our mutual preparation, we created a study guide for the rest of the class, and posted it on our Facebook group. We're quite productive when trapped in a cafe by sudden thunderstorms.

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