Sunday, February 1, 2009

Rotation #2 Diary: Week 4

Well, I've been working on this rotation for about a month, now. I still don't really have any great data. After repeating some experiments and trying every troubleshooting method we could think of, it seems that sometimes things work, sometimes they don't, and the things that do work give different results each time. Ah, science... you can be a cruel mistress.

At the end of the week I had a meeting with my rotation adviser. She meets with her lab members individually, once a month or so, to check in with them and get progress reports on their projects. So, I scanned my films and emailed them to her for us to look at during our meeting. And we did look at them... briefly. We talked about what was working (very little) and what wasn't working (almost everything I've tried), and she gave me some directions to focus on during the second half of my rotation. Then, my adviser did something very smart: she stopped talking about my rotation project and switched gears to other, more exciting projects that I could work on if I join her lab.

It's not that I don't like my rotation project. I do like using molecular biology techniques, and I've learned some useful new skills here. I also think that the protein I'm studying is interesting given what's known about it, and I wouldn't mind continuing to study that protein in the future. But, my adviser was listening during my previous meetings with her, when I mentioned how I like to conduct research at multiple levels, including in vivo. So, she told me about a new line of transgenic mice the lab has just acquired, and the kinds of studies I could do using that mouse model if I was interested in that kind of project. I've got some papers to read for more information, but it sounds like interesting work. If I did join the lab, I think it would be really useful to balance a more molecular project like what I'm doing for the rotation with an in vivo project like that mouse model. Working with mice can be slow, since you have to worry about breeding them, genotyping them, and aging them out if your phenotype is age-dependent. Having something to do during down times with the mice would keep my productivity up. Although, working on two projects might not add up to a cohesive dissertation, I suppose. That's something to discuss further, if I do decide to join this lab. 

So, while I'm not thrilled that my western blots haven't been working out, I am glad that my adviser is thinking about other things that I could be doing, and that she has been paying attention to what I want to study. She was also responsive to my concerns with doing this kind of project, i.e. working with mice can get really annoying when you're managing your own colony, doing all of the genotyping, and so on. This lab doesn't have any technicians, so I'd be responsible for doing all of that grunt work. But, this particular mouse line uses coat color as a readout of the genotype, so at least I wouldn't be bogged down in tail preps and PCRs if I worked with these animals.

Of course, this professor is also acting in her own interests. Right now they don't have many people using in vivo techniques, so I'd be a useful addition to the lab in that respect. And she's a little low on students right now, since several of her lab members recently graduated, so she needs to bring more people in to keep producing data. Even so, it is flattering to be recruited in this way. It also makes my lab decision more complicated, with new research topics to consider, but I'm glad to know what my options are.

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