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I interviewed with a doctor yesterday for a research position, and found myself saying the following words:
“I have been working in labs for the past 7 years…”
Good Jesus…and I don’t have a Ph.D yet?
Nonetheless, getting into a medical school involves an unwritten rule: that you will sell your soul for a certain period of time to a research lab of your choosing. There you will be the willing and able slave of your PI, and do whatever he/she orders. That’s not really the reason I do research though.
I’m fortunate to have had a research program in my high school, which introduced students to the various techniques and concepts that one normally encountered in labs. While it was, in essence, a breeding ground for new Intel entrants, it was also where I realized I loved research.
My first project looked at the possible xenoestrogenic effects of polystyrene leechate. While I didn’t get statistical significance with my work, it was enough to make me extra wary of getting my coffee in a styrofoam cup. There was something thrilling about having my own project, tweaking the parameters, working with the specimen, seeing the results. Oh seeing the results is the best part. For better or worse, I think ego drives a better part of the scientific community to do what it does, but sometimes people can make the leap from getting thrilled at seeing their name in a journal article to getting thrilled at seeing their discovery in a journal article.
Needless to say, since then, I’ve been around the block. I’ve worked in many labs, and I’ve loved all the experiences I’ve had. Some were obviously better than others. In terms of the projects that were covered, I think all were fantastic. In terms of how I gelled with both the lab setting and the people? Sometimes there was something left to be desired. Here is how I categorize all the labs I have worked in, names and locations have been left out to preserve anonymity (but if you know me you will probably be able to guess which one is which):
1) The lab with the lone, hermit grad student, and the PI. The grad student is like a mother hen around her work and is reluctant to bond with new students. The PI kind of does his own thing. The equipment is so-so. The work is mostly benchwork, molecular biology stuff.
2) The lab with no grad students, just a sweet…albeit absentminded PI. The work is interesting, animal-related, but the lab space is dreary, old, and has no windows. Most of the equipment and office furniture is decades older than I am.
3) The lab teeming with students, but the PI is kind of abrasive at times. When he is not talking about science, though, he can be borderline personable. No one really bonds terribly well despite efforts at achieving that end. The lab is well-lit, and the equipment is mostly new. The work is bench work.
4) The lab with students from all walks of life. The PI mostly remains in the shadows, but the older students take you under their wing. Bonding happens readily, and bonds remain well past the research stint. The lab is cutting-edge, and scenic. The work is animal-related, but it is a marriage of a lot of disciplines and a lot of cool techniques.
Most labs probably fall into these categories, or some variant of it. Needless to say, I liked lab 4 the best. Science is important, but sometimes the best labs are the ones that both produce the great discoveries and foster the best bonds. Contrary to popular belief, social connections are important to scientific progress. Being a hermit isn’t what being a scientist is about.
Science has unfortunately taken a back seat in this country. We have let science and math education falter and wither, and are sitting back passively as the world passes us by. This needs to change…maybe by fostering research among students more aggressively. It’s a way to generate interest at the trench level, so to speak, instead of speaking solely in theory.
So obviously I want to be a doctor, and this will help me to better understand medicine, in some senses. Yet I genuinely enjoy the research process in of itself. You can call me a nerd if you want to, but come on, there’s something cool about being in a lab with other people who are all striving to learn something new and interesting, and taking matters into their own hands by designing ways to reach that goal.
And to think Sarah Palin derided fruit fly research as something inconsequential? Seriously, she’s missing out. :p
It looks like most of us are pretty riled up now, but just in case the point(s) isn’t perfectly clear, here’s why we need to get the vote out.
This election REALLY matters.
Ok…they said it last time. Remember? When John Kerry ran against Dubya. That race really mattered too…needless to say, the nation collectively dropped the ball. So we embarked on another four years of neo-conservative, country-destroying policies that have borne their poisonous fruit. The economy is tanking, education is tanking, healthcare is tanking, everything…is…tanking.
How does that affect me, you may ask. Let me put it in terms to which we can probably better relate.
The dollar is losing value, so your plans to backpack across Europe after college? Not as cheap as you may think. That trip to the Caribbean will probably cost you a bit more than you’d like. Don’t even get me started on air travel. Oh and that pretty Prada bag? That’s an Italian import, expect a higher pricetag on that. Same for Armani, Gucci, etc.
Are you on par with students from other countries in the areas of math and science. Probably not. Why? Blame Dubya’s “No Child Left Behind.” While the intentions are good (increase passing rates) it also dumbs down the curriculum so far that everything is just watered down to its basics. So you say you want to go to college to further your understanding of some topic of interest? That’s fantastic. Expect the price of a decent education to take off like a rocket, and those loans you were going to take out? Yeah expect it to get harder to get a loan, and expect it to get harder to pay it off once you have your framed, shiny degree (or degrees).
Well now that you can vote, you can also probably buy your own health insurance right? Most health insurance companies make some sort of allowance for full-time students over the age of 18 to continue to stay on their parents’ plan until some age (usually 25). That’s assuming, of course, you can afford to be a full-time student. If you can’t, well then you’ll need to find a job that provides healthcare benefits. That is, of course, if you can find a job. Finding a job in this economy is about as easy as finding a needle in a haystack. Now imagine finding that needle with about a thousand other people clamoring to find it as well. Best of luck.
Don’t expect to be able to buy a home anytime soon. We are probably going to end up a society of renters…until the housing market is somehow, treated…if not cured.
Half our products are being produced abroad, where the regulations are much more lax. Hooray for melamine! Unless you like your food and merchandise with a side of profound neurotoxicity and painful kidney stones, we need to find a way to bring production back to the U.S. Otherwise, expect really high medical bills…since getting affordable health insurance will be pretty hard.
Ok, but cars are better right? Sure, I have a soft corner for imports. Yet the question is…why can’t we get the same quality in the U.S.? Ford, GMC, Chevrolet (for the most part) are still clunky and noisy even though they are cheaper. They are lacking the smooth appeal in function and appearance that their foreign cousins seem to have as a default. Let’s try to change that.
Gay rights need to come now. Let’s stop living in a world that frowns on (at the very least) basic civil liberties for gay couples, while gladly contributing to the juggernaut that is the porn industry. Seriously…does anyone else not see the irony here?
I could probably go on…and on…and on. But we, as youth, generally have the attention span of small rodents. So I’ll stop.
Please vote tomorrow. I’m not telling you to vote for any specific candidate. I’m telling you to vote for the candidate that can save our future. I’m telling you to think long and hard about each candidate’s stance, and decide which candidate brings the most promising plan to the table. We will be the ones inheriting most of the mistakes of the last administration, not our parents (though they will also be affected). We are the ones that need to assure that, at the very least, our children will not have to deal with the same dilemma.
Please…go out tomorrow (November 4th, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise) and vote. Polling centers, to my understanding, are open from 6AM-9PM. Bring your iPod, bring a book, bring something to kill the time because lines will be long but they will be worth it.
Let’s hope this election yields a better future for us, and our country.
Christopher Hitchens basically took what I wanted to say and put it in a wonderfully biting and eloquent article that really hits the nail on the head. Bravo!
Thank you Preeta for bringing this to my attention:
While there is, not surprisingly, a lot of state pride with Sarah Palin’s ascension to the national political stage, most do see that she is not yet qualified to hold national office. They also see that McCain is not quite the maverick he used to be, and has sold out to the neo-con constituency of his party. While they are proud of their home-grown governor, they see that the McCain-Palin ticket may not be what this country needs. Obama brings with him not only the clear foresight and logic to lead this country, but a “steady hand,” not a trigger finger.
The McCain-Palin campaign has prided itself in recent weeks on calling out the various earmarks and pork barrel projects. Sure, many border on ridiculous, but Sarah Palin clearly has no idea what is ridiculous and what isn’t.
FYI fruit fly research is absolutely a legitimate cause. For those of you who may not be associated with biology or medicine, maybe it doesn’t seem terribly useful. I mean, fruit flies are more a menace than anything else…right? Consider that fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) are among the most prized model organisms used in research. They are a mainstay in genetics research, given how few chromosomes they have (8) and how, at the L3 larval stage, their salivary gland chromosomes can be easily visualized under a light microscope (so-called “giant chromosomes”), making them very easy to work with. They are also used in various behavioral studies, many involving the use of noxious stimuli, since flies (surprisingly) can be trained in a manner similar to operant conditioning that has been more widely seen in rats or mice. I personally have worked with these organisms, and while I’m not a huge fan of fruit flies (they still kind of gross me out) they’re ideal to work with. I used them for research on polystyrene leechate as a potential xenobiotic (xenoestrogenic?) agent, since at the time, I was a high school student and there were enough restrictions in place to prevent me from working with higher vertebrates. They’re important to neuroscience research and have even been used in autism-related studies. Guess what Sarah Palin? They’ve been used in research dealing with Down Syndrome…something that has affected her family directly.
Not legitimate, Sarah Palin? Really? You don’t want to fund research that could potentially help your family, as well as the rest of the nation? Really? I can even understand issues with stem cell research and animal research, even those in themselves are ridiculous reasons, but fruit flies are invertebrate organisms…they do not have as many IRB restrictions as a host of other research organisms. Yet they can provide invaluable insight into the workings of the body, even on a human level, which is amazing.
Sarah Palin, rethink your position on this issue. It could affect more lives than you may know.
Two for the price of one!
RNC Shells Out $150K for Palin Fashion: http://news.yahoo.com/s/politico/20081022/pl_politico/14805;_ylt=AoOUw9xrkiZBWXJkrzKoVd8DW7oF
Alaska Funded Palin Kids’ Travel: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081022/ap_on_el_pr/palin_family_travel;_ylt=AorV_FY6kwGGD0LkiXgGZjIDW7oF
The budget’s tight enough as it is, imagine if she’s elected? Say bye bye to your tax dollars now, whatever little they will supposedly tax.