Sorry for the delay. October was certainly a fiendish month; in addition to 8 exams, my pet cat of 16 years had to be put down so I was out of comission for a few days. I still have 2 other cats at home that need lots of love so I'll be ok. But I digress...
So last we left off I was getting ready to go to Jordan. I got to go on a hectic shopping rush to get clothes appropriate for both digging in the desert sands and being respectful to a rather conservative culture. My wardrobe now consisted of a crapton of khaki pants and bright pastel t-shirts. Then came the vaccines, a total of 3 in one day :P Rather unpleasant, but completely necessary to keep me in good health.
When the day to leave finally came, and I promised multiple times that I would contact my parents as soon as I could, I was off to the airport. I was going to be traveling with one other student, Brad, and we were going to be meeting our professor, Dr. Bedal, at the Jordanian airport in outside of the capital Amman. Our travel consisted of 3 flights: one to Detroit, only an hour long, then a 9 hour flight to Paris, followed by a 5 hour flight to Amman. Though that's only 17 hours of flight time, including the layovers, we were traveling for about 24 hours straight. Holy jetlag, Batman. (Also, either airline food has gotten much better or I was just that hungry).
When we finally got into Jordan, we realized we had arrived on their independence day. There were people singing and dancing in the streets, firewords going off, and the traffic was crazy. It was really bizarre to see all the signs written in arabic, a language I knew nothing about. I was warm, but not humid in the least. The buildings were very flat and all sandstone in color. The big thing that stood out though was the gardens. Everyone who could had a garden with fruit trees and grape and olive vines everywhere. They were incredibly pretty.
After a good night's sleep in Amman, we were on our way to Petra which was about a 2 hour drive from the city. We stopped for lunch along the way and I was introduced to my first Jordanian cuisine. Our lunch was very share-friendly. We were given plates with fried eggs, pickles, tomatoes, cucumbers, beets, plain yogurts, hummus, and olive oil all to stack/dip with pita bread. I liked pita bread at the time, but by the end of the month I had eaten so much pita bread that I never wanted to even see it again.
It was at this time where I got to know the other students on the trip: many from Brockport NY as well as Vancouver, Canada. They were very kind and welcoming once they realized that I knew pretty much no one there (I had met Brad for the first time at the airport). By the end of the trip I gained some friends I'm sure I will have for a lifetime.
Well, I'd say that's enough for now. Next time: exploring Petra!
Research generally does not end in the lab. Once an experiment is complete, the results gathered, and their significance discussed, a paper is likely published displaying the research and what it means to the biological community. This community is global and there are always researchers who are looking for data to support or disprove the research they are currently conducting. One of the places they go are conferences.
This summer, I got the opportunity to present the research my research partner, Alyssa Gleichsner, and I have been owrking on at the International Plant Biology Conference 2010. This conference introduced me not only to the typical style of biology conferences, representatives from graduate schools, and research I never knew was happening, but to a different country all together!
The conference was in Montreal, Quebec.
I have been out of the country once, and that was a visit to Niagra Falls when I was 10. To walk around in such a beautiful city where the residents spoke a different language than me was an eye opener. It was also the first time I had ever navigated a subway or a city map so it was a rather well rounded experience.
Currently, I am hoping to apply to a CUR (Council on Undergraduate Research) conference in Washington D.C. This conference is to show the politicians in Washington why undergraduate research is important and why they should continue to fund it. Also, I have never been to our capitol and would certainly love to.
Well, that's all for now. I'll write again soon!
Scheduling time. It's kinda like Christmas for college students, including the hectic period of shopping beforehand.
In high school most students are directed into whichever class they are taking. Generally following this formula: 1 Math, 1 English, 1 Science, 1 Humanities, 1 Gym, 1 Art, and occasionally another random class. And the classes themselves are pretty generic: Level 3 english, geometry, biology, ect.
In college, though there are general education (GENED) requirements, you get to pick and choose amongst a medley of specific classes. Don't like european history? Take a civil war class. Do you have issues understanding chemistry? Take biology or physics. Are you painting skills on par with your pet cat's? Try a poetry class.
The stress mostly comes from the limited class sizes and setting up the schedule itself. For example, a class on reading fiction would likely fill up fast than a class on writing 10 page papers. Seniors, honors students, and atheletes have priority for scheduling, so as a freshman you may not get into that fiction class, but as a senior your chances are high that you could snag a spot.
As for setting up the schedule, everything must fit. You can't be in two places at once, therefore you can't schedule two classes at once. Generally, you'll likley have to choose between two classes at times and make sure you're not taking too many difficult classes or too many easy ones.
Luckily, you're not on your own with scheduling. You're advisor would be glad to help you and they're pretty knowledgeable of the classes you'llbe taking. They've seen students succeed and fail so they know what classes go good together and which classes don't. Just make sure you ask them!
That's all for now!
Research isn't free. Like any other career, research is a business. All businesses require resources to run. Resources cost money.
You can all guess where this is going.
Resources in a biology lab can range from a bottle of purified salt to a 5mL bottle of "Mastermix", a chemical mixture that provides the necessary ingredients for PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction). I won't get into the details of PCR here (maybe later), but it is a critical test that is run in my lab many, MANY times. Oh, and that tiny bottle of mastermix I mentioned before?
It costs about $500.
I twitched when I first heard some of the costs of the chemicals and supplies we need every day in the lab. A 3mL bottle of purified water = $70. My response was, "It's just WATER!" However, the special system used to purify the water has a copywrite, so unfortunately for us, there's a monopoly on that purification system so those that make this water can charge whatever they wish.
Welcome to reality, huh?
Luckily for us though, there's a lot of money to be had through sponsoring and grants. Research in all fields pushes us forwards medically, technologically, and socially. Therefore, there's a lot of people willing to help us pay for that $70 water vial if we can make sure that the chemicals used to prevent their potatoes from sprouting are safe to consume.
As an undergraduate researcher, this funding comes from the school in the form of a research grant. In order to obtain the grant, the researcher must write a Research Proposal.
A proposal consists of an introduction, abstract, research plan, goals, and, of course, a budget. The introduction provides background on the project: what's going on, what's its real-world relevance, and what's the problem it will be addressing. The abstract provides an overview of the project itself, what needs to be done and where the project is heading. The research plan and goals fit together in that they are essentially a list of what the researcher is going to be doing specifically and what will result from those actions. And the budget of course, lists the equiptment needed and the costs.
Learning how to write a proposal is key to becoming a successful researcher. If you can't prove to people that your research has value, why would they bother funding you? And like many things, your proposals get better with practice!
That'll be all for now. I'll write again soon!