October 12, 2007

Oh Crap, It's Friday

Most people look forward to Fridays. I'm not one of those people; it's my busiest day and it's all work for other people. It takes me away from my own research, not to mention lunch. Here's my schedule for today:

8:30-10:30 — "free time." This week, it's free time to plod through a paper for the Genetics seminar that was supposed to be available by Tuesday but didn't actually get around until yesterday. I'm not even half way through it yet. It's ten pages of dense material that relies on knowledge of previous studies which I have to track down on my own. Free time my shiny metal ass.

10:30-11:30 — Lab set-up. My Bio101 students are doing a lab in which they'll be transforming bacteria using pGLO, so they'll get E. coli that fluoresce under UV light. We have to set up the teaching lab. All TA's must participate in setting up the teaching lab for the exercise.

12:00-1:00 — TA meeting, which is not the same as lab set-up. We'll spend an hour, and possibly a bit more, going over the mechanics of how to conduct the lab. Again, attendance is mandatory.

1:25-4:25 — Genetics seminar. We'll likely start off with a study on the evolution of dichromacy and functional restraint, or more properly relaxation thereof, on mutation/polymorphism of the S-opsin gene in aye-ayes. I find the study itself extremely unconvincing, beginning with its having a sample size of n=8. The prof is going to tear it into shreds. I don't even understand why the student chose to present this paper, except maybe that she knows how much the prof likes to shred the work of others. After that, we'll get to the paper that I haven't finished reading yet. I'm glad I at least don't have to present this week!

4:25-whenever — I have to set up my primers to prepare for sequencing DNA from beetles, which I plan to do on Sunday instead of going out collecting. I've got two species in hand, Bolitotherus cornutus and Tenebrio molitor. Because the lab normally works on fungi exclusively, we use a primer called ITS1F when amplifying the internal transcribed spacer, which is that bit of DNA lying between the genes that code for the large and small ribosomal subunits. The ITS in fungi is different from that in animals, though, so I have to use plain old ITS1 to get this piece of the beetle genome. We're supposed to have some socked away in a -80° F freezer. I have to dilute it to the proper concentration and have it ready for Sunday. Then, I'll open up my bugs and remove bits of their insides to see which parts I can get the cleanest DNA readings. One of the problems I've discovered about working with beetles in this fashion is that they tend to have a lot of symbionts and parasites, many of which are eukaryotes, so DNA extracted from beetles often carries signals from the other organisms that share their bodies. I need to develop protocols to avoid this pitfall and insure that the sequences I get are from the insects, not from some Apicomplexa or nematode that lives in their bodies. I'm hoping it's as simple as using muscle tissue, nervous tissue, etc. That will give me a baseline, and then when I go into the digestive tract to look for chitinase-producing microorganisms that nobody has sequenced before, I can look at my baselines and make sure I'm getting at the right stuff. Believe it or not, most of these insects haven't been sequenced in the past, although some of their symbionts (i.e., yeasts living in their guts) have been. Go figure.

Anyhow, Fridays are just back-to-back wackiness for me. It's my least favorite day of the week lately... and now I have to go get ready. At least there's a grad student pot luck dinner tomorrow that will give me a chance to catch my breath for a few hours. I expect to be in the lab all day Sunday, pulling DNA out of two beetles and one mysterious Stropharia (or maybe not Stropharia... we'll see).

We who are about to run around like chickens lacking heads salute you!

Sphere: Related Content