Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Already Feeling Sentimental

We had class presentations today. Students presented topics ranging from bioweaponry to 3D bioprinting. It was a nice, enjoyable way for us all to learn more about a topic while supporting our classmates.

Tomorrow I'll be presenting with my partner, April! We'll talk about hyaluronic acid fillers. 

After presentations, we moved on to finishing our lab. Sadly, it was the last lab of the program!!! I didn't want to throw away my white lab coat, but they made us for cleanliness reasons. I was sad they had us work entirely with computers instead of pipette or do anything hands-on for our very last lab.

Kaitlyn and I and our lab partners went out to Einstein Bagels to get Dollar Milkshakes one last time. I decided to go for mint, though I usually hate mint ice cream, and it was the best milkshake I've had so far! 

There are only two days left to this program!!! Where has the time gone? It feels like I've just gotten here. We all admit that while this class was challenging (and at times confusing), we'll miss the experience of it. I've certainly met interesting people here. Our class is unfortunately only getting close as the end day approaches.

We all crowded around the ol' pipettes and took pictures. I'm feeling really sentimental about leaving this behind (and it's not even the last day yet!).
Left to right: Lulu, me, April, Demi

After the picture-taking, we went back to the classroom for Dr. Schonbaum's lecture about animal biotechnology. It was really interesting, as usual. We learned about EnviroPig, finfish and shellfish (AquAdvantage salmon), and covered embryonic stem cells (he lectured on more topics; these are just some I found really interesting). I finally felt the effects of last night's long night hit me--I suddenly got extremely tired.
Left to right: Andy and Wister

Left to right: Matthew and Ed

After the walk to the dorms after class, I took a nap and woke up an hour later to start the extra credit project with Kaitlyn and April. They're letting us, as a class, make a music video about a biology topic (we were just starting one of the takes). It'll be fun, I can tell!). We're planning on doing the Cup Song DNA parody Kaitlyn wrote.

After dinner, which we had afterwards, April and I worked on our presentation, readings, and homework. I can't wait for tomorrow!

Looking Forward into the Future

The 2nd walk.
Today in class we didn't do a lot. After our journal hour, Achy gave us an assignment that was about thinking where we want to be at in the future. Then, Achy explained the rules. We weren't able to talk to no one, take a thirty minute walk or go to a quiet place, don’t worry about the time, and really think about where we wanted to be in the future. After the thirty minute we needed to go back to class. Achy excused us. I went to South Campus Residence Hall building where my room is located. I didn't go to my room. Instead, I went to the ninth floor because I like to see beautiful views when I am thinking. I stayed there admiring the view, thinking what I wanted my life to be in the future. I didn't know how long I stayed, but it did really help me think about my future.  I went back to class. When I got there, I started typing. Then Achy interrupted us, to tell her when we are done with the assignment, she would give us instructions on what to do next. When I was done with the assignment, I went up to her to tell her for the instructions. Then, Achy told me to walk S. Ellis to 56th and come back. When I came back she gave me another assignment and it was to describe an old person I saw.
Far View

I went to go get lunch at the Dining Hall. After I finished eating, I went to my room to work on the assignment of describing an old person. I also took a quick nap. When I woke up from my nap, I started walking to class. I got to my class and we started to workshop on the personal stories. Nobody read the others people revision so Achy decided to finish class. That was our homework; we needed to read my classmates personal stories. Tomorrow we will workshop on them.

Then, I went to my room and kept on working on my assignment of describing an old person. I finished, but then I needed to revise Karen story and write about what works on her story and what didn't work. I remembered that I need to email my personal story too. I took a quick look at it to see if I wanted to change or add anything before I send it to Achy.  After that, I started working on a new assignment of what my grade should be for my class. This was an assignment that Achy left us on Tuesday. We need to turn it in tomorrow because on Friday we going to have a
Near View
discussion about the grades.

Later on, I needed to meet with Pamela. Today Pamela was so generous to bring me a brownie and it was really good. Pamela made me read the assignment of what my grade should be. Then she pointed out the things I had wrong. I needed to correct it. She started giving me ideas of what should I look for a college and what I needed to do to prepare myself for college.

I started walking to the Dining Hall to go get dinner. When I was done eating, I went to my room and started reading my classmates personal stories. When I finished reading two of the stories I started to correct my assignment of what my grade should be. While I was working on the assignment, I was asking the questions that Pamela had asked me when I was with her. Then, I just kept on reading my classmates stories.

Last Field Trip

We went on our last field trip today to the Chicago Botanic Gardens. We were going to spend most of our day there sightseeing and getting a presentation on their sustainable efforts from Patty Shanahan and we were going to get a second presentation from the vice president of sustainability, Arthur Gibson, at Baxter.

The bus ride to get to the garden was about an hour and thirty minutes. When we got there, we were dropped off at the entrance and from there we went to our presentation room to drop off our stuff. We got there in the morning and our presentation wasn't scheduled until after noon. This gave us about an hour and a half to roam around the park. My professor Aleen showed us some of her favorite attractions, the Japanese Garden and the Rose Garden. After she showed them to us, we were given free time and we were allowed to go wherever we wanted within the garden.
Barbara, Me, Rebecca, and Beatrice
I walked around with Sarah, Beatrice, Esin, Barbara, and Rebecca. We let our noses lead us to where we were going. The garden was very huge and we didn't feel like walking around all of it so we observed a section of the pond. There were so many beautiful flowers and plants in the garden. The different smells were really intoxicating but you had to be careful that you didn't walk around a place that had fresh fertilizer placed. After we were done exploring, we went back to the presentation room and we quickly ate our lunch there before Patty came to talk to us. Most of what she shared with us was the sustainability operations that have been implemented and some ones that are set to be complete in the next few months. A big one that has been accomplished is that their Science Center has been certified LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold.

Before our presentation from Baxter, we went to the Science Center to see some of the labs and to get a glimpse of the roof top garden. My favorite part of the lab was the side that Aleen affectionately nicknamed 'the dead and dirt side.' There we saw a lot of dead insects and plants that were preserved. When we were done in the science buildings Arthur Gibson came to talk to us about the sustainability efforts at Baxter. Baxter is a health care company that focuses on treating hemophilia, kidney disease, immune disorders and other chronic and acute medical conditions. What Arthur had the time to share with us was the company's commitment to the environment and he also showed us the different LEED Gold buildings that they ran.

The bus ride back home was a big torture. We had to drop off Aleen in the city because she was teaching a class that evening. On our way back to campus, we were hit with a lot of traffic and to make things even worse, a tow vehicle decided to hit us a little bit on the side. When our bus driver made sure that the bus and the rest of us were OK, we got back on course for the university. It took us about two hours to get back on campus and I had to rush dinner because I had to finish my company comparison assignment.

Finishing up the Final Paper

Today in class, instead of having a lecture based off of a chapter in the textbook, like usual, our discussion was based off of the interesting article from the New York Times we read last night. One aspect of the article we focused on was an experiment about the perceptions about mental illness, and how different perceptions can change how people with mental illnesses are treated. The method of the experiment was that participants were introduced to someone with a mental illness (an actor in the study). The actor would either tell the participant that their mental illness was due to a chemical imbalance in the brain, or tell them that their mental illness was a result of something that happened in their childhood. Then the participant would teach the actor to press some buttons in a certain pattern. If the actor did not press the buttons in the right order, the participants were told to give the actor a small electrical shock, which could vary in strength. It was found that if the participants were told the story about how the mental illness was caused by a chemical imbalance, they were harsher with the strength of the shocks they gave. Participants who were told the mental illness was the result of something that occurred in childhood were more likely to be sympathetic. After discussing why this was in class, I thought that when someone says it is because of the chemistry in their brain, it becomes part of them that cannot be separated. Then it becomes part of their identity, and it is hard to think of them as separate from their illness. When someone described their mental illness as being due to something that happened in their childhood, it is as if the cause of the mental illness was an outside force, and it maybe evoked sympathy from the participants.

We also discussed how it is a very Western, American in particular, idea, that when something goes wrong in someone's life, it is their own responsibility, and that they should work hard to lift themselves back up. It goes along with the idea of independence that is very valued in America. In other cultures, mental illness was thought of in more spiritual terms. In certain cultures, people with mental illnesses are kept in the social group, and they have religious rituals they believe will help the ill person's spirit. The discussion was very interesting, and I participated a lot in the discussion.

 I surprised myself in this course by talking a lot in class, because normally in academic situations I am not very verbal. I think because the class was so small, it was easier to speak in front of everyone. Also, I didn't know these people before these three weeks, so it was easy not to worry about what they would think of what I had to say. After this long discussion, Amanda the TA, did a short lecture on the importance of being objective in observations rather than subjective. For example, we cannot say in our notes, "The boy was happy." Instead we have to write, "The boy was laughing and smiling." We can never assume about one's emotions because you cannot get into somebodies mind and know their emotions. You can only see their actions and hear their words. We did a couple of exercises with this, practicing changes notes from subjective to objective.

 A few minutes later, we were excused for lunch. I went to the Grounds of Being cafe again. I got a tandoori chicken sandwich and cucumber sparkling water. On my lunch break, I went to the bookstore to buy some postcards to write to friends back home. Back in class, we were taught how to write the very first thing in a psychology paper, the abstract. It is basically an overview of the whole paper, but very summarized. It is only supposed to be about 250 words. I finished that in class and then went on making corrections on the rest of my paper. We were told that on the last day of class, we had to make a twenty minute power point presentation with our group. Tomorrow we will work on that. We were dismissed from class at 2:30. I went back to the dorms for a bit to work on my paper. After a about an hour and a half I went to the gym for an hour and a half as well. I walked back to dinner, where I ate with Dani and April, her project partner. Later Oyin joined us. She had just arrived back on campus because she had a field trip and there was traffic on the way back from the city. I went to my room to finish my homework and blog. 

Learning About "Drugs 'n Money"

Today was another busy, busy day. We had a guest lecturer visit us today, Dr. Stephen Kron. He told us about "Drugs 'n Money" (that's literally what the title was). He's the Professor of Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology here at UChicago.

He talked about the Hype Cycle of Innovation (which he said would be good to remember for the rest of our lives), the development and selling of drugs and how much money goes to that, biologic drugs (such as insulin), the Orphan Drug Act, off-target effects, and how much money goes into cancer treatment per month ($10,000 to $20,000).

There were so many things I found interesting in his lecture. One piece of information he told us was that the FDA is payed by drug companies!!! How is that possible?! Dr. Kron compared it to a defender in court paying for his own judge.

I also found drug repurposing or repositioning interesting. This is something companies do when they make a drug for a certain target but find it has a side effect that would be more beneficial (read: find a side effect that works better than the drug's intended use, which will increase their profits). I understand why they'd do that. If I spent a billion dollars in developing a drug, I'd want to make as much money as possible, too.

Dr. Kron ended his lecture by asking us to choose one of four options of what we think we should do in the state of our medicine business. He left us with this question: Should we eliminate medicine as a business?

Our class has been discussing it ever since. I'll write  more about it once I'm sure of my argument (we might have an assignment on our opinion). I love how everyone in the class was so involved in the discussions that followed! Though there was a lot of economics that were being discussed, I still enjoyed our discussions.

After discussing, we went to the lab to count the number of plaques that formed on our tryptone soft agar plate and calculated the class averages. I went to lunch with classmates and other students.

We went back to class, discussed the question Dr. Kron asked us, and discussed the two articles we had to read the other night, "Superweeds" and "Transgenics: a New Breed of Crops." We talked about GMOs and the stigma they have with consumers, gene guns (guns that have gold nanopellets coated with DNA. This was one way people used to incorporate DNA into genomes), the EPSPS gene (tolerates herbicide resistance), TALENs (transcription activator-like effector nucleases), amd ZFNs (zinc-finger nucleases that introduce single-nucleotide changes that make new traits). 

I really liked the "Superweeds" assignment. The article talked about superweeds, weeds that have become resistant to one of the major weed killers, glyphosate. Glyphosate actually "attacks anything green," but the crops that farmers want to keep, like corn, cotton, and soybeans are glyphosate-resistant. However, now that weeds have become resistant, people are scrambling to find another way to go about planting. The article stated that we, humans, are the cause for the weeds' resistance. Like antibiotics, we abused fertilizers and pesticides so much that in this case, the weeds have become immune. The article also stated that, like antibiotics, if we had used more than just one herbicide, we wouldn't be in our situation. 

Though the "Superweeds" article was interesting, it was so depressing! It talked about how there's a new species of superweeds at the rate of one species per year. There was also a part that speculated if this is "a reminder of the futility of attempting to outrun evolution". It's sad because, though we thought we were improving and developing from these plants, it led to us reverting back to our old-fashioned ways of farming. In fact, a quote at the end of the article wondered if there was even a benefit or use to all that we've been doing when conventional methods have proven to be better. Will we go back to our old ways? I highly doubt it.

Lastly, I found the fact that one of the only solutions the article proposed was to use two herbicides together, though they later on list the things wrong with these herbicides. They're considered more toxic and persistent, and one of them, dicamba, has a tendency to drift and settle in neighboring farms (and cause damage). It just seems like we can't win sometimes.

After class was dismissed, I went to the library, did some research for my paper, and headed home to take a nap. I woke up, did some of my research paper, ate dinner, and finished my research paper.

Two things I've learned in the past few hours: 1.)  Chicago sunrises are pretty (yes, I just watched the sun rise). 2.) Friends keep you sane in college (or just life in general)!