Sunday, July 22, 2007

Calling a new place "home"

I went to school down in Texas, and I remember how odd it felt when I noticed 6-9 months into my freshman year that I was calling Houston it "home." I went home this weekend, and I felt the same odd feeling as I realized that I missed St. Louis and all of my new friends here. Definitely during college, I got used to the idea that I could have more than one "home," but I think that this seemed odd to me because I've been here for such a comparably short amount of time. I haven't decided if this is the result of the large amount of time that I spent in St. Louis as a child visiting family, or the warm/welcoming atmosphere of St. Louis and WashU. In reality, it's probably both.

On a separate note, it was quite glorious to be able to drive home (4hrs) and see my family without having to plan months in advance (as I always had to do to plan flights back from Houston). I could definitely get used to this! =)

On a less philosophical note, I thought that I would comment on a few points made by my fellow bloggers:
1) I really like my lab, and I have not had nearly the same problems as R has experienced in orienting myself and acclimating to my new surroundings; however, I am in a lab that is pretty much one large open space with our office very nearby. However, I have found that the post-doc that I work for, as well as the other people in my lab have been very friendly and helpful, which I think can really make or break a lab experience. It's weird that my rotation is already winding down, but I'm excited to get started and to meet everyone who has not been here this summer.
2) In terms of public transportation, I have been a bit disappointed as well, but more in terms of the schedule and duration of train service. KC doesn't really have any public transportation and Houston has a very limited lightrail system, so I've actually been quite pleased with the variety of areas that you can go on the metrorail. However, I don't like that late at night, the train only comes about every 20 minutes (although it seems to be quite prompt if you plan it) and that it only runs till about 12:30 am (althought if you're a real partier they do start back up around 4). This definitely makes it difficult to use the train when going out on the weekends. However, I have been using it to go to work everyday, which has been really nice!

Ok, well I guess that's all for now. I brought another load of stuff from KC to St. Louis, so I have a bit of unpacking to do.

PS. you northerners are wimps, and it's definitely not that hot or humid. although, I know i'll be whining once it gets cold, and then you can laugh at me. =)


Hi! I'm yet another incoming MD/PhD writing about my experiences. Unlike my fellow bloggers, I am not yet in St Louis, though in a few short weeks I'll be joining them. I'm excited to move down and get started, but thought that a break was definitely necessary before getting down to business. After four fairly intense years, I enjoyed having a few months off before having to buckle down again. Though it seems like a long time, it was cool to be able to travel (Ghana for six weeks!!!), finish things up at the lab (less than productive, but that's ok), and now pack and such. Things are winding down now, I've said my good-bye's and it's time to go! Wahoo!

Also unlike the others blogging here, I'll be living in the dorms for the next year, then hopefully buying a condo or such. I'm not terribly thrilled about living in the dorms, but for convenience's sake, it'll be ok for a year. It'll be nice to save some before having to furnish (let alone purchase!) a condo, and give me some time to look around and get to know the place.

A bit about me: I grew up in Indiana and have since moved to Michigan. I graduated from Michigan State University with a Biochemistry major. I worked in a Pharmacology and Toxicology lab for my first two years at State, where we used animal models to elucidate the mechanisms of cardiovascular drugs. Next, I worked in a Biochemistry lab that used computational biology to identify drug candidates for the treatment of lymphatic filariasis. I'm interested in staying involved in pharmacological research, but I'm not yet sure what avenues I'd like to pursue.

So, that's all for now!

1:6 Ratio

I’d like to share an anecdote I have been using with my fellow MSTPs in the last few days:

For every 1 minute of research I have done, I have spent 6 minutes looking for stuff or finding someone to ask.

Frustrating! I know that this comes with being new to any lab, but in my particular one the problem is inflated. First, the lab itself is the older, closed style. It occupies a series of rooms, each with one bench, a fume hood or two, a series of cabinets and drawers, and a computer. Four-ish people use each room, but at any given moment there is at most one occupant per room. Because everything is so compartmentalized, most of the constant-use stuff (tips, pipettes, tubes, etc.) is in each room but in entirely different places. Other equipment (like cryotubes, tissue culture bottles, repeater pipette stuff, stuff for the centrifuges/specs, etc) is spread out in different rooms. Which rooms? Well… I have no idea. There is no central list. There is some, but not enough, rhyme and/or reason to what goes where. The cryotubes should be with the huge stock of microcentrifuge tubes, PCR tubes, and culture tubes, right? Well yesterday I thought so, but for the life of me I couldn’t find them. On Saturday there’s nobody around to ask, so I looked for about half an hour before resulting to yoinking some from somebody’s personal stash and leaving a note of apology.

But on weekdays, it’s easy to ask, right? Wrong. Our offices, where everyone works up their data and does other science-related (or not science-related) computer stuff, is on the 3rd floor. The labs are in the basement. The transit time from B to 3 is long and usually results in somebody feeling the need to go with me back down to B to show me in lieu of just saying “top left shelf in the back of room 209”. This makes me reluctant to ask anything because I feel so bad about making them get up, go to the elevator, walk through the maze of hallways, and point to the shelf where the glycerol bottle is hidden away (there is not one but two chemical rooms, one for organic chem. and one for molecular bio, and only one organized A-Z! Gah!).

This is not an accurate picture of all research here. We are in an older building. I know that most of the newer labs are the open style: one huge room with rows and rows of benches, offices right around the corner, and a long line of all-purpose, multi-user shelves and storage. This is how my old undergrad lab was layed out and I loved it. Got a question? Stroll down the rows and ask. Or just yell. Either way, it saved oodles of time compared to running the stairs every hour or so. A good example is on the left (I just googled open lab.)

Don’t get me wrong, I like my current lab. In fact, I am already thinking of joining it when my pre-clinical stuff is through. How will I manage with the closed lab style? I won’t have to. There’s a new building in the mix and word has it that the MIR (the radiology institute of which my lab is a part) will be centralized there. Open labs for everyone! Groundbreaking is slated for later in the year, time of completion is spring of 2009 if my memory serves correct. Perfect timing for my graduate training to begin on a pristine, unused lab bench.

More on open vs closed labs, complete with pictures.