The past few days have been pretty busy for me both in and out of the lab, so I didn't get too much time to blog. The good news is I didn't forget about blogging! Note that I created an entry for this blog 8 days ago! I just didn't finish writing it until today =S
I want to start off by reminding everyone that it is important to get enough sleep every day! One thing I learned these past two weeks is that sleep cannot be forgone. You might be wondering, "But it's summer! How can you possibly not get enough sleep?"
While it is true that there aren't any classes during the summer, doing biological research can take a lot of time. All research can be time-consuming, particularly if one has a set project deadline. Biological research has the added caveat of your experiment extending past a regular workday because you are on the bacteria's growth schedule.
For instance, in my research, I have to harvest the bacteria during the end of the exponential growth phase before the stationary phase; however, I am also interested in knowing the growth rates of the bacteria. One simple way of calculating the growth rate is to take a series of opical density measurements using a spectrophotometer over time while the bacteria is growing and then perform a linear regression on the two variables of time and optical density scaled logarithmically.
The only caveat is that bacteria double in a short span of time. For my experiment, I keep growing conditions optimal for E. coli bacterial growth but I vary the substrate on which the bacteria is grown (e.g. glucose, galactose). I also use strains with different mutations in the metabolic pathway, which affect the growth rate as well. Therefore, in any particular experiment, I'd have bacteria growing at different rates, which would require me to monitor them at a regular basis (once every 40 or so minutes) for many hours.
So the point I'm trying to get at is that for biological research involving bacteria, one might have to stay in the lab longer than normal hours. If you are considering doing non-computational biological research, you now know what your research might entail.
Above is an image of Victoria Orphan's lab, where I spin-down bacteria (separate the cells from solution based on a mass gradient) in a centrifuge once they have grown to the right density. Essentially I get a small pellet of solid bacteria at the bottom of the falcon tube and supernatant comprised mainly of water.
Here is another view of the lab. After the bacteria pellet is obtained, I weigh it on a balance and then extract and esterify the fatty acids using acetyl chloride and hexane. This is done in fumehoods like the ones shown above.
The final step is to transfer the solution to a vial like the ones shown above. Then, I would run the vial on the GCMS and collect some data. There you have it. That's a bit of what I do in a typical day in the lab.
**What I like to do for fun when I am not in the lab. **
Almost a year ago now, I was just about to start my first Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) at JPL. NASA had sent out an email to all of their summer interns containing a social media template to announce that we had been selected as NASA interns. Excited to show my NASA pride, I posted it on my Instagram story, unaware of what would come out of this small action.
Hey hey! We’re starting a series where I walk you through my best finds for food and drinks in the Pasadena region, and in the LA metropolitan area. Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, if you will (although, for copyright reasons we can’t call it that). As you explore your college options, I firmly believe that food and location are more important than your high school guidance counselor may lead you to believe. And I’m here to share my best finds from my time at Caltech with you.
Over the past several months, I have had the opportunity to intern at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) under the mentorship of senior research technologist Dr. Xiaoqing Pi. Dr. Pi’s guidance and mentorship has been instrumental to the development and success of my internship at JPL, where I use machine-learning to enhance the accuracy and integrity of navigation and communication signals. In addition to helping me develop an understanding of atmospheric and ionospheric remote sensing and machine-learning, Dr. Pi has often offered his insights on how to improve my researching skills. Dr. Pi was generous enough to take the time to answer a few questions regarding his research and advice for future student interns. I believe many students can benefit from some of the lessons that he has taught me:
The transition period to remote learning was a very uncertain time, especially for research and the Caltech Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURF) program. Many hands-on projects had to pivot at the last minute to facilitate off-campus contributions. However, many Techers were able to take advantage of the research opportunities offered at Caltech and JPL to make the best out of remote learning and research. To paint a picture, I’ve interviewed a few talented Techers for some insight on what researching from home looks like for them.