Lots of work done!

600 embryos, 160 petri dishes, and 10 listens of Childish Gambino’s newest album later, I’ve completed all of the work that I discussed in my last blog post.

Starting this weekend, I’ll be able to extract RNA from my flash-frozen fish samples and start on the arduous road of qPCR. And man will that be a lot of work. Last week, to my chagrin, my colleagues took the time to calculate the number of qPCR reactions that I’ll need to carry out in this study. 540 was the number, which boils down to analyzing the transcriptional expression of five genes across 16 treatment groups from three biological replicates in triplicate. And therefore, just as soon as I’ve marveled at a set of big numbers that lays behind me, it’s time to look at the massive checklist that lays before me as well.

In the meantime, however, a bunch of positives approach as well. My thesis writing is moving right along, and with just two weeks until the first full draft is due, this is a major plus. At this point, I’m happy to say that I do have data, and data which, for the most part, confirms the impact of MEHP on developing embryos with deficiencies in nearly all of the transcription factors I’m studying. Additionally, I’m going to start working on my poster for Mount David Summit, and I’m pretty excited to put together a piece of work which summarizes my thesis experience in a visual manner. Thus far I’ve only made a poster in one previous research capacity, and I’m excited to sink my teeth further into this convention of academia. Continuing right along, I’m also happy to report that I’ll be continuing with my work in the Williams lab throughout short term, and a portion of that experience will include me traveling down to work with our colleagues at UMass Amherst to score embryos deficient in Nrf2a, the final paralog to be treated in this morphological study.

I think it’s this final plus which has me most excited. I am greatly anticipating a time when I’ll be able to spend extended periods focusing on just one macro project. My undergraduate experience has been characterized by a slew of projects and consistent work on a variety of subjects. Deadlines shift from hour to hour and I find myself rushing to keep up with their pace. I am interested, however, in securing a research position after school, however, and therefore I think it’ll be most formative for me to take the time to focus all of my attention on one subject and feel a little bit more closely what having a singular passion for a set of experiments will be like. Despite the setbacks, I’ve liked my thesis project and I’ve liked working in my lab. However I think that I expected at the outset that I’d be spending a lot more time in this environment and that thesis would almost feel like a full time job. Instead, thesis is just something that I’ve made time for between the cracks of my other obligations. I’ve had less autonomy in terms of the time that I can put into the project, and I’ve had few chances to reflect on how I feel about everything. While I’ve also found my courses very interesting, I think I’m ready for the transition into a more permanent professional environment. One where my home life truly is separated from my work life, and that work life is far more focused with connected long term goals that I am more in control of and can dedicate more of myself to. While I may currently be feeling like the master of zebrafish, I’m not sure I’m the master of my own path, and I need to be in a more stable environment to take back the controls.