Monday, June 25, 2012

UIUC Atlanta Conference

This was certainly a long weekend, but it was probably one of the best in my life. I got to meet a couple of the most amazing people ever. I got to network with some people about a few things. I got to present this summer research and I got $200 out of it for a second place prize in my category. It was a magnificent experience. As I sit here on the bus typing into Word, I am reminiscing back on the past few days and really truly cherishing the moments we had.

So we arrived on Thursday morning after an overnight bus ride. It was a long, uncomfortable ride which resulted in little sleep to start off this conference. By the time we got checked into the hotel and situated in the city, it was late breakfast/early lunch time and we had not eaten except for the foods that we had brought on the bus. So Kim, Rasheed, and I went to some place called the mall food court. It was exactly what the name implies. I got food at a Checkers. Then we walked around the place a bit. Then afterward I wanted to walk around the city to explore and Rasheed decided to accompany me. We walked a ways and got to a point where we were definitely lost. So it took us a good hour or more to figure out where the hotel was. By that time I was sweating profusely due to the fact that I was wearing long pants and it was like high 80s and humid, so I showered. Then naptime, then we were to meet up for registration for the conference itself. So the night ended with more talks on random stuff that I can’t remember at the moment. I just remember that there was a speaker who was really great about teaching chem and I wanted to talk to her for a little. Going up to her at the end was the best decision of my life. Not because of meeting her, which was definitely inspiring, but because I got to meet two of the most amazing Arkansans I have ever met (ok so they are probably the first two, but that does not diminish their amazingness in my mind). Laura and Jerry are the most intellectual people I have met in a long time. She is a straight math major, which is insane in and of itself, and he is a freakin triple major in math, physics and chemistry. Absolutely phenomenal!!!! For those who don’t know at one point was a double major in physics and chemistry with a minor in math. He, from the get-go, was my long lost twin brother. The group of us talked for a while, then decided to go to dinner. We all talked and got to know each other at the Metro diner, which was like a karaoke bar/restaurant. None of us cared to do it but we listened to others sing the classic rock that, at least me and my twin both love. We talked for hours about ourselves and the program and our majors and the universe and space and deep sea and all kinds of stuff. It was awesome. We really became quick friends. It was perfect, the friend version of love at first sight it seems. Over the following days we connected to a huge extent. So bed the first night was nice, much more comfortable than the bus seats.

Friday morning was extremely early. We had a half a day of talks. All on graduate school and things along those lines. We finished around 3 I believe. We then had the day to ourselves. Laura and Jerry went with their adviser to the aquarium. I remained in my room for a few hours so that I could research grad schools and perhaps look over my presentation. That didn’t work out exactly as planned but I did write a few emails. Rasheed, Josh and I decided to go out and get pizza for dinner. The others went to the Hard Rock CafĂ©. Jerry loved it. He is such a classic rock junky, it is so good. So that night was relaxing after dinner and getting ready for the presentations the next day. Something that I did with minimal effort because I was fairly confident in my presentation. After a while I just decided sleep would be best and I went to bed.

Saturday was presentation day. We had to present between 9 and noon. I got to see a bunch of great presentations on interesting research from around the country. Some actually pertained to my Widener research which I was really surprised about. I gave some people business cards and got some of my own. I presented and I was told by several people that I did well. It was nice to be recognized. After my presentation two people came up to me and asked for my information because they wanted to contact me with regards to their research and the applications to our research. It’s cool being able to talk to people about my research experiences and hearing others. I got to watch other people’s presentations too. And Laura presented too, which I got to see. I can’t say I understood it much at all, but it was really cool to see a (now) really good friend talk about things that I could never even fathom. I was thoroughly impressed. She did such a great job. She just needs to have more confidence in herself. Anyway, so then lunch with grad school recruiters and then a grad fair. I got some information from schools. Got some free stuff. I found out that Scripps sounds like a really great school. They have great benefits and I definitely will consider them for grad school. After the fair, I got to spend some more great time with Laura and Jerry, my newest best buds. We went to Jerry’s room to watch corny Syfy movies (ice spiders to be specific). After we criticized the hell out of that, we decided dinner should happen soon. Then somehow we got to the idea that we should visit the Coke factory. It was definitely the best plan. We got Rasheed and Josh and their adviser, Laura #2, and left for the factory. For $16 this was an absolutely amazing deal. We went in and got to the taster place. It has all the sodas made by Coke around the world. Some are really good, others (Beverly) are absolutely the worst thing I have ever tasted. We looked at the different exhibits, watch a 4-D movie, saw the factory, and saw the vault that contains the secret formula. It was absolutely worth the $16 that it cost to enter. We visited the taste thing again before we left. I am pretty sure I tried about 30 of the 64 flavors available. It was insane. My mouth and stomach probably hate me after all that acid, but it was necessary, for science. After the factory we went to Max Lager’s Brewery. That was also epic. I ate, for the first time, a bison burger. It was really good, not too much different than a normal burger, but it was still really good. Also got fresh brewed root beer. That was very different than A&W and Barq’s. It was good though. After that I was super full but decided since it was our last night I had to get chocolate cake. Me and Jerry and Laura shared it, also amazing. After that we all stayed and played pool upstairs for a few hours. What we didn’t know until we were leaving is that the place had closed a while before we left. The workers, somehow, did not realize we were there playing pool (an extremely loud game). But whatever, it made a great night, even more amazing. Then we went back to the hotel and played card games. That was fun, we played BS and hearts. Jerry was the first to hit the hay. That was around 1 I believe. After he went, the four of us talked about stuff and played hearts. We all were getting really tired. But we were resilient. Josh was the next to go at like 4. Then there were 3. We decided that we would continue to talk about stuff. Philosophy, school, grades, tests, all kinds of stuff. It was excellent. Gradually we got more and more tired. Laura was insistent upon staying up to see the sunrise. So we did. Unfortunately we didn’t really get to see it because there was a building in our way. But we tried. Then we realized we only had 3 hours until we had to be at breakfast so we should at least try to get some sleep. I returned to my room and packed up my stuff before taking a 1.5 hour nap. Then the final day began. I awoke feeling like I wanted to vomit all over the room. Not good. I felt awful, not really sure why. I’m attributing it to a combination of the complete lack of sleep and the awful stuff I ingested the previous day. I couldn’t eat breakfast even though it was the first time we got bacon and eggs for breakfast instead of fruit and bread. So I ate yogurt, a piece of cantaloupe, and corn flakes. We had a really good speaker. Unfortunately this would be the last time I see Laura, Laura, and Jerry. The speech was making me pretty emotional already, but seeing them leave was really, really depressing. I have been on occasion tearing up thinking about these awesome guys. I have officially made them my siblings in my mind. I will truly miss them and I really want to make an effort to see them again really soon. So that leads to the award ceremony. 7 people from UIUC got awards. I was luckily one of them. I received 2nd place in the Life Sciences category. I was happy to get it and 200 bucks. Then we packed and left. Now we are on the road back to UIUC. I have to say I really miss Laura and Jerry. I hope that I will be able to see them again soon.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

UIUC Part Who Cares

As you can probably tell from the title, I am not in a great mood. I think watching that philosophy lecture yesterday got me in a philosophical mood. So this morning I had a half hour of time to just sit and think and that's what I did. My usual philosophical crap. So now I'm not in a positive mood. Joy. I made a list of questions about life that I left at my room and I will add when I get back. I just wanted to start writing this out now while I'm in lab and Saumen hasn't arrived yet.

To add to this crappy mood, no colonies grew, AGAIN!! Well one of the plates has like 2 or 3 colonies on it but nothing substantial. I just don't get why they won't work. I don't know how anyone puts up with this work. I know for fact that I do not want to work with cells. It is way too annoying for not that much payoff. I would rather deal with flies at least I can see them before the last step of the procedure. But they are also prone to not following directions, that's why I am a chemist and not a biochemist. I just want stuff to actually work. This phrase has a double meaning in my case, conveniently.

And there goes the philosophy again. My major question on the paper back at my room:

Why am I cursed with thought and awareness of my life?

This may apply to other humans, animals, beings in general, but I do not know for certain. Regardless, I will apply all my questions in a personal frame do to my uncertainty of others' thoughts in the area.

I have been thinking about this a lot in the last year. Why do I need to be cursed with such an ability? Why can't I go about my life not thinking about anything? Why am I a thinking thing? Why do I exist? Is this my sole purpose? Does thinking make any difference? Why am I concerned with making a difference? Is there a reason for me to make a difference? It's to be remembered, isn't it? Why do I wish to be remembered? Do I need assurance that my life wasn't a waste? But how can I know that my life isn't a waste? I don't do much at all, why is this not a waste? Or is it? Am I just wasting my life? But what is life really? If there is an afterlife, why live at all? Assertion 1: There can't be an afterlife, it's too easy. Making this assumption, then I must live. But what is the purpose of living? Assertion 2: To learn, to know everything. I have a purpose. But what if that purpose does not work? What if it cannot be fulfilled? What if I waste my life and do not fulfill this purpose?

I cannot answer that question... If I do not fulfill my goal, I did waste my life, didn't I? What if I make a second purpose? Can I have two purposes? Can one being be living for two reasons? Assertion 3: Second purpose-

Just found a site with points identifying the thinking of Existentialists:

1. they are obsessed with how to live one's life and believe that philosophical and psychological inquiry can help. CHECK

2. they believe there are certain questions that everyone must deal with (if they are to take human life seriously), and that these are special -- existential -- questions. Questions such as death, the meaning of human existence, the place of God in human existence, the meaning of value, interpersonal relationship, the place of self-reflective conscious knowledge of one's self in existing. CHECK

3. Note that the existentialists on this characterization don't pay much attention to "social" questions such as the politics of life and what "social" responsibility the society or state has. They focus almost exclusively on the individual. CHECK, kinda

4. By and large Existentialists believe that life is very difficult and that it doesn't have an "objective" or universally known value, but that the individual must create value by affiriming it and living it, not by talking about it. CHECK

5. Existential choices and values are primarily demonstrated in ACT not in words. CHECK, though I could do it more personally

6. Given that one is focusing on individual existence and the "existential" struggles (that is, in making decisions that are meaningful in everyday life), they often find that literary characterizations rather than more abstract philosophical thinking, are the best ways to elucidate existential struggles. not sure what they mean, but I don't think so

7. They tend to take freedom of the will, the human power to do or not do, as absolutely obvious. Now and again there are arguments for free will in Existentialist literature, but even in these arguments, one gets the distinct sense that the arguments are not for themselves, but for "outsiders." Inside the movement, free will is axiomatic, it is intuitively obvious, it is the backdrop of all else that goes on. CHECK

I think I am an Existentialist. At least as far as this characterization goes, I am for the most part, all of the above (minus #6). Interesting. Good to know where I stand in my philosophical endeavors. Though I am certain this is not the only school of philosophy with which I am involved. This is very interesting to me.


A nice side note for once. Well now that I lost my train of though I guess I will stop for the moment. At least while I am here in lab. My mood has marginally improved since this morning. I will probably commence writing later in the day. I hope to be able to get the a store called County Market to check out if prices are any lower than Walgreen's. It would be nice if they are. Although that would mean that I need to walk 2 miles to get there from my dorm and 2 more back with groceries. I may start using the buses if that is the case. Well regardless. Have a philosophical day.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

UIUC Part moved dorms

Hey all, I am in my new dorm and I kinda wanted to make a comparison on top of talking about the last few days. So Thursday was my last post apparently. Honestly I have no idea what I posted when. So I will just talk about what I remember. This week has been super busy with lab. I accumulated a total of 48+ from Monday to Friday. And I worked Saturday and Sunday for a little while. I got some stuff done though which is awesome. We worked with E114A mutants and got those to the point of taking out the protein. We also worked with E114G and I107E, which Saumen, my postdoc mentor, had synthesized before and got those to a point that tomorrow we will be sending them out to be DNA sequenced. So that's pretty cool. (By the way the random numbers and letters, for those who don't know, are positions of mutations in a protein). I started on my presentation a little bit this past few days. The presentation is for the SAEOPP conference n Atlanta that is next Thursday to Saturday. So I get to travel even when I am in the middle of a travel experience. And this time I get to go southeast for the first time since high school senior year. There is another conference closer to home later in the summer that is in Buffalo. So that should be fun and maybe I can actually present real data.

So room comparison. I think this one is better for the following reasons:
1. The bed is more comfy.
2. CLIMATE IS BETTER!!!! No more super cold room.
3. I will actually get direct sun, at least in the morning.
4. It's a lot bigger.

I think this room is worse because:
1. The window is super squeaky and annoying.
2. The door is being pulled in and out by the wind and making annoying noises too.
3. This place is a lot further from the lab and most things I learned to like over near the other dorm.
4. I am on the 9th floor as opposed to the 3rd.

Other than that stuff it's the same old dorm. But I did go shopping today after Saumen was an awesome guy and dropped me off with my stuff at my new dorm so I didn't have to walk and make like 3 trips. I decided to buy tuna in singlet packets and some mayo, which was way bigger than I wanted but not too expensive and will hopefully last without a fridge. I had that for dinner. DEFINITELY the best thing I have eaten since I got here. I was, and still am an hour later, the happiest I have been since getting here by eating tuna (there is some exaggeration there but not too much). Anyway, I think that's about it this week. I finished Boogiepop Phantom anime series and it was really confusing and deep, I didn't get it too much. I also couldn't keep the characters straight. I will likely start another up soon and continue my presentation. I need to know this stuff if I want it to go well. Adios for now.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

UIUC Part after next...

Such long days today and tomorrow, got an email from Saumen expecting that tomorrow we won't be done until 9 pm... man I feel like I am going to be exhausted by then. Today was a lot of sitting around but it was still long. I looked up grad schools and papers and stuff. Today was such a strange day too. There was a fire alarm thing. So we had to leave the building for a little while in the middle of the day. Then we had to move all the stuff on the floor into the hall so that some guys could come in and clean the floors. Apparently the stuff they were cleaning with is able to melt the soles off of shoes!! That's pretty cool even though it meant no one could get in the lab and all our stuff was still in there. Luckily they were nice enough to get our stuff for us. So after lab meeting ended at 7:30 I came back to my dorm and got some ramen and crackers for dinner. Also luckily regarding tomorrow, we aren't actually starting until after 10. But I will still be up by 8 probably. Not sure what else I feel like talking about. Well we had a scare earlier that more of out samples weren't growing cells but then they ended up growing and that was good. Nothing much else is going on. Just have to finish up stuff for the week and maybe work this weekend but not sure yet. Otherwise just need to pack so that I can move to my really out of the way dorm and shop for more food. Maybe the new dorm will give me some appliances...? Doubtful but it's whatever. I will deal. Anyway I think it's bed time. Adios til next time.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

UIUC Part ... Next

So much has happened since my last post. I will outline it now as I think of stuff and then talk about it later. Let's see:
This past weekend-
read and got more papers for home research
received protocols from Saumen
went to IHOP on Sunday
Walked a lot
Went to the Spurlock Museum on campus on Saturday

Monday, Tuesday-
Ran around Monday morning doing stuff to get the ID stuff
Went out to Joe's with Dr. Lu, Igor, and Saumen- got lots of food out of it
Then started on research did some PCR prep and transformations
Got my ID finally but needed a sign-in for the internet
Got no results Tuesday from the transformations
Sat around and eventually got my sign-in for the internet
I also picked up a sweatshirt, it's orange =]
Then took my final safety exam
Then ate my leftovers from Joe's
Then performed different transformations and created some solutions for tomorrow which took me until 7:30

Ok that is all that I did, I think. I could talk about it all but I think it will wait until another day. I'm tired. Good night.


Well I guess I will add more while I am sitting here waiting to put stuff on the PCR. So the past few days has been good. As you can see in the outline above, I did a decent amount of stuff. The museum was nice and had lots of stuff from ancient Egypt, elsewhere in Africa, Japan, Oceania, and the evolution of Europe from knights and castles to the computer. It was relatively interesting and took up about 1.5 hours of the weekend. So it was good especially for free. I did a lot of walking around too. It was a nice weekend. I saw people doing stuff. I finally went into the Union building after it was mostly closed so it wasn't too helpful but it was nice to finally go in. I saw people playing frisbee and wanted to join but didn't manage to work up the nerve to ask to play. Shut up I'm not a socially adept person. Anyway after that I watched anime and sat around in my room. Sunday I went to IHOP for breakfast. It was pretty good and for less than 10 bucks I was more than happy with it. The rest of Sunday, I think I took some pictures around campus. I also went to see where my next dorm will be. It's really far from my lab unfortunately. It's at the southern edge of campus and probably a 10 to 15 minute walk whereas now I take less than 5 to get to lab. I think that was about it for Sunday. I probably watched anime and read papers too. I honestly don't remember.

Monday started the lab work for me. Saumen walked me through procedures and protocols to follow for the work we are doing. It was a strange thing to be introduced to a new lab and environment and work with completely new procedures and even types of samples. But it was good. Saumen, Dr. Lu, Igor, and I went out to lunch as well. We went to Joe's which is some type of brewery/bar thing. It was pretty good. I ended up getting 2 meals out of it because we got a huge appetizer tray that was enough for probably 5 or 6 people. So that was awesome because Dr. Lu paid for the meal and we were all sure to thank him a lot for that. I think I may try to eat there again before I leave. There were a lot of burgers that I wanted to try but I could only get one obviously. Anyway, we did more work after lunch and I finally got my safety exam stuff finished. Oh and Monday morning I also got my ID I think. AAHHHHHHH!!!! These days are all running together I don't remember when I did anything. I just know I have my ID, I finished my safety stuff, and I am now an official temporary member of the lab. I am working with stuff like PCR, transformations, site directed mutagenesis, and other stuff like that. Not sure what all of it means but I am doing it. And I got to freeze stuff with liquid nitrogen so that was fun. Haha. Hmmmmm... And I got an Illinois sweatshirt. It's bright orange and I really like it. And work tends to last until 7 or later each night. Tonight is probably going to be no different seeing as we have to PCR until 6. But hopefully that is the last thing to do. I don't know. We shall see. Well I think that is about all for this post. I will make a new one at some point. Maybe after I start using the stopped flow UV-Vis spectrometer. We shall see.