Tuesday, July 15, 2014

GFP Transgenic Tobacco Plants and Gram Staining

After yesterday’s challenging start of class, I steeled myself for anything today. I’m glad to say, however, that today was a much better day.

We started the day off with discussions (or what I like to call “updates”) of the biotechnology world. Amber talked about the early deaths of mosquitoes in Brazil to fight dengue fever, which I’ll leave a link to here (http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-06-11/to-fight-dengue-fever-brazil-turns-to-genetically-modified-mosquitoes). We discussed the benefits (lower rates of death due to dengue fever) as well as the possible effects this development might have in Brazil.

Our lecture, as usual, was very in-depth. Dr. Bhasin really has a knack for condensing a week long lecture into less than 2 hours. Yesterday our lecture was an intro to biotechnology and review of cell structure, while today’s lecture was about DNA structure and replication. Most of the things she said are familiar, but she went way more in-depth than my school ever has. I talked to other students in the class and noticed a pattern--if you've taken AP Biology or Honors Biology, you're familiar with what Dr. Bhasin lectures, though it is still challenging. If you haven't taken AP Biology or a higher level biology class, then you're most likely being filled with new information each time Dr. Bhasin speaks.  

Before our lunch break, we also did a quick lab quiz on the lab protocol we had to read last night before doing the lab itself (which was about fluorescent microscopy of GFP transgenic tobacco plants and stained Ptk cells).
GFP tobacco plant. DISCLAIMER: This picture isn't mine. We didn't have much time to take pictures in there. This is, however, what we saw.

In my lab gear.
The lab quiz was okay. Our TAs, Cierra and Danny, told us to be ready for very general questions about the lab protocol, but the questions were harder than anyone expected. However, I think I did fine on it. I’m actually glad we had it, because a., now I know what to expect on the other quizzes, and b., reading the lab protocol definitely helped me do well on our lab! I found the lab fun and interesting, and actually knew what I was doing because I’d read the lab beforehand! Also, the questions that were most likely incorrect are now permanently etched in my memory, so not being sure about those helped too.

The lab was so fun! We were able to take a tobacco plant, shave a part of it off ourselves, prep the slide, and observe it under the microscope. Since there were two kinds of tobacco plants, we were able to compare the structure of the two. I love how the lab was set up—everyone was doing something different, so everyone shared their findings and worked together to finish our lab write-ups. Labs are certainly a good way for a class to bond.

I was definitely tired afterwards, so I’m glad we had lunch next. As usual, I had lunch at the Dining Commons (where I met more new people). We headed back to class (which is about a 15-minute walk) and grabbed some frozen yogurt at the Red Mango in the biology building.
Red Mango fro-yo

Class started with another lab—Gram staining. I found it extremely interesting. Again, since I’d read the lab protocol the night before, I actually knew what I was doing. April (my lab partner) and I prepped the slide (we smeared bacteria on a slide, let it dry, and passed the slide over a burner to dry the cells to the slide, which prevents the cells from washing away during staining). We then dripped violet dye, Gram’s iodine solution, alcohol-acetone (to decolorize), and safranin (to counterstain the bacteria) on the slide. All of this was to see if the bacteria we had was Gram positive or Gram negative and to see what kind it was (Gram positive/Gram negative bacillus/coccus, etc.). Ours was Gram positive staphylococcus.

April and I left lab tired, but happy. We were able to do the labs today, and they were actually fun!

After an hour long nap after lab (best nap I’ve ever taken), I went to dinner at the Dining Commons with Kaitlyn, April, and Oyin. About five hours, eight pages of reading material, a lab protocol, multiple study breaks involving socializing, personality tests, and laughing, here I am in my dorm finishing my blog, almost done for the day.
Our favorite place to study on the Fifth Floor.

I’m glad class was much better today. It’s still stressful and challenging, but at the same time it’s fun to have hands-on lab experiments and the chance to meet new people every day.

The Second Class Day

My second day of class was nice. I’m glad it didn’t rain today like it did yesterday. This morning for breakfast was the same and will be the same for a while because I want to eat healthy and start lifting weights more while I am out in Chicago. I want to be in shape for next year’s basketball season. Hopefully I have time to go to the gym from time to time because I’m going to have homework to do and I can’t fall behind in work. I will still eat other foods but eat mostly fruit, vegetables, and foods with protein.

As Alexa and I were walking to our class we talked about the pouring rain yesterday and how soaked we were. I was the lucky one because Alexa didn’t have her umbrella and so she was completely soaked while I was only partly soaked. Then we parted as she went her direction to class and I went to mine. 

While walking by myself I saw food trucks that were there for breakfast and later for lunch. What really caught my eye was the Giordano food truck because that was the place Vernon from the Northwestern dinner told me about. There is a place called Giordano in Chicago and they have deep dish pizza, which I would love to try someday. I heard it is amazing pizza there. 

This time it only took me about 10 minutes to get to my class since I know where it is now and I actually got there 20 minutes early. When I got to where my class was I sat in an area with a bench that was in front of a fish tank to look at. It reminded me of Finding Nemo, the children’s movie that I used to watch as a child.
When we finally got into the classroom we waited for the professor to come and start the lecture. The topic of her lecture was The Impact of Infectious Diseases. I learned about the three major diseases that caused millions of people to die and those three are the Black Death, 1918 Flu, and HIV. Black Death happened in the years 1347-1351 and there were 75-100 million people who died. The 1918 Flu infected 1/3 of the world's population and killed 50-100 million people. The HIV disease, since 1980, has infected 75 million and killed 36 million people. Also 1.6 million people died in 2012. 

We also discussed how the diseases spread from human to human, bodily fluids, waterborne, foodborne, and vector borne (ticks, mosquitos, and fleas). We went over the DNA and RNA structure and genes. The lecture was an hour and a half long and for the remainder of the time we went to the lab to learn about gram staining. Then we went to lunch at 12 PM and I walked with Lila on the way to the dining hall and back to class. 

When we got back we went to the classroom for a while and discussed things about the lab and then went to the lab as soon as the TA (Dawn) was there because she is the one who is in the lab teaching us how to look at bacteria and cells through a microscope. It was an interesting class and we get to do hands-on experiments and projects. My class ended at 3 PM but I actually stayed for another 20 minutes looking at the bacteria. Then Lila and I walked back to our dorm and she went to her room on the fifth floor while I went to my room on the fourth floor but I am actually going to meet her in the fifth floor lounge so we can do our homework together.
After meeting at the lounge we went to the dining hall for dinner and we also met with Dani, Kaitlyn, Alexa, and Oyin. We all ate in the dining hall that looks like the one in Harry Potter which is cool because it was my first time in there. I had to leave earlier than everybody else because I had to finish some homework from my class. My homework is a lab report where I have to answer some questions about the lab we did. I checked in for curfew early and then started a new assignment in the fifth floor lounge to do it with Lila. Now I’m ending the night with medicine and a nice shower before bed.

Starting Class Projects

I am now getting used to my morning schedule of waking at seven, getting ready for class for an hour, and heading down to breakfast. I got down a bit early, so I was wasting some time in the lounge before I met up with some classmates and went to the dining hall. Yesterday I had fallen asleep through dinner so I was pretty hungry for breakfast. After eating a good, filling meal, I started for my class. 

Now that I know my way to the class, it takes me much less time to get there and I have more time for breakfast. I arrived a bit early and took out my materials. The first thing we did in class was discuss any questions that we had about the textbook reading from the previous night. The way we got these questions answered was very helpful for me because it involved the participation of the students. It was also helpful because even if someone did understand without further instruction everything that had been taught in the textbook, which is nearly impossible, it was still a review. The interactions between professor and student really enforced what we had learned instead of just having the information shoved at us in different ways. These explanations made up a large portion of our morning class. We also learned how to read an empirical article. At first I did not even know what the term meant, but Cassie described it as a scientific paper. It turns out, there are certain steps that can be taken to take in the information best. Certain parts of the paper must be read first. For example, to understand the research question and what the outcome of the research was, one reads the introduction and discussion of the findings first. These give you an idea of what was being looked for and what was found. At first, one does not even worry about the methods of research or experiment. Once you have the basic ideas down, then you can read about the methods that were taken to reach these conclusions. Once you have read all these different parts of the paper, you read over the whole paper once more as whole to see that the paper is coherent and complete. 

Today for homework, we had two empirical articles to read. Cassie, who has been reading these articles for twenty years now, says that to thoroughly read an article and understand the concepts, it still takes her about half an hour. It took me about an hour and half to just finish the first article, and I still had many questions. 

The article discussed at what age to babies start to understand object permanence. This is interesting because the game peek-a-boo for example, is very surprising to young babies because it is thought that at such a young age that when they no longer see something, to them it no longer exists. Another example of young infants or toddlers learning about their environment is when they will knock things off of counters for example. They are still learning about the properties of the world they observe. To adults and older children, it may seem so obvious that an object cannot rest without something under it holding it up, but toddlers and infants are still just learning about their world and it is all new information. They are born with however, according to these theories, the capability to learn about their world. 

After the first half of class, I grabbed lunch with some friends, and we compared our workloads in all of the different classes we are taking. Soon, it was time to head back to class and luckily it did not start pouring the way it did yesterday.

The second half of class was spent watching a video about the brains of premature babies compared to the brains of full term babies. When babies leave the womb early, there brains are not developed to the point they should be outside in an unprotected environment. Their brains are receiving stimuli like bright lights, sharp sounds, and air on their skin that their brains are reacting to.

 Next we worked more on the logistics of our final project. I am working with a girl named Madi who lives in Chicago, and a girl named Bella who is from Palo Alto. Tomorrow we are going to work together outside of class on the details of our experiment working with kids. 

Once again I spent the majority of the afternoon and night studying and doing homework for class tomorrow.
Me Studying in the Lounge

The College Life of a Student

This morning I woke up at 8:15 AM. I felt more comfortable knowing where my class was at. As I got ready for my class I was thinking, what are we doing today in class? When I got done getting ready I went to get breakfast at the Dining Hall. In there I found Tess (one of my classmates). Tess and I were talking about our assignment that Achy (our professor) gave us last night. Tess said that it was hard and she had a really hard time figuring out about her character. She said that she started working on it at 7 PM and end up finishing at 11 PM. The assignment was due by midnight; luckily she got it done an hour before. 

My Lunch. YUMMY!
Then, Tess and I walked together to class and we were talking about if she was going to let us go early today again. We also talked about that hopefully she was not going to give us a hard assignment. We go to our class and everyone was there except our professor. Achy got to class late around 9:15 AM because she was talking to the administrator of this program to see if we can switch classes--because our classroom is a tight space. We moved to the class that was in front of us. 

Then, she told us that every day from 9 AM to 10 AM we are going to write a writing journal and we can write about anything we like. Achy told us to stop writing at 10:15 and then she went over some rules. The rules are: you don’t start with an "A" grade; you earned your grade, we need to proof read our papers, when they correct our paper sometimes they will correct some mistakes but most of the time they will mark it and will have to find out was wrong with it, There are no lengths required on essays, we have the privilege to blow off an assignment, no late paperwork, no excuses for absences, and zero tolerance for plagiarism. It's confirmed by Achy that every day we will have work to do and every day it would keep getting more difficult.
Alexa Working Hard 
Then we started talking about our characters and what we found out and how we made them come to life. One by one we were talking about our characters. Everybody in my class already knows how to be the center of attention and I still have to work on that because I still get nervous being the center of attention. Probably it's because this past year we didn't have an English teacher until our last quarter when we got a permanent teacher. Basically, I lost a lot of learning most of my school year. That’s why I picked creative writing, so I can improve on my writing skills and gained some of the knowledge that I lost during my junior year. I came to realize that English is a very important subject because English in high school is a whole different story than English in college. Achy gave us two assignments to do: one is to describe one scene about your character and the other one is to write 7 steps about how to make something and we have to make it clear enough so another person can do it. For example, I picked how to tie a tie because nobody ever gets it right and I want to be the first one and that’s going to take a lot of work.

Today I didn't get any lunch because I was working on my assignment and working on my blog because I want to get a nice sleep tonight so I can wake up early and have the energy to learn. With no energy I can’t focus in class and I will probably end up falling asleep. Not getting lunch doesn't mean I didn't eat I have snack (junk food) that I bought yesterday from CVS. I went back to class at 3 PM and Achy just talked to us about our characters to make them come more alive and that we will be getting back our story around 5 PM. Achy is sending back our story to correct our grammar mistakes and make it more vivid. Achy talked for at least 10 minutes and then she let us go again.

Then I came back to my room to keep working on how to tie a tie because I don’t want to leave any details behind. I need to be as clear as possible so when I’m giving the instructions to my classmates they can follow my steps and learn how to tie a tie. This will be a challenge for me because Achy said that many students have tried it but they are not successful. I have an idea already I’m going to try it on different people and try to get feedback from them on where they got confused and what should I change.
Study Group Time
I went down to my lounge where I saw Alexa and asked her what she was doing. Alexa told me she was reading this article about kids and how they act. Later on in their class, they are having an experiment on kids where they going to put them in a room and there will be a cup of candy with a sign where it will say to take one piece of candy. There will be a camera recording the kids so they can know if they took more than one candy and see how many kids will be honest to tell the truth. I think that’s a really cool project to do.

Then I came back to my room and kept on working on my project of how to tie a tie. Then I went out to give Alexa my camera so she can take pictures and post it on the blog. Later, she texted me so I can go get my camera at the fifth floor, Dani and Oyin where there too. I stayed there talking with them about their classes and their work. They have a lot more work than I do and I’m over here complaining about my work? After 10 minutes I came down to my room because I needed to be alone to concentrate, I get easily distracted.

Tomorrow is a big day because I have to make the project work; I want to be the first one to make it work. That’s what I’m hoping for tomorrow.
The only picture that Alexa takes when I let her borrow my camera.