Week 8: Scientistas just want to have fun
Every weekday morning I drove fifteen minutes to lab. Not a bad commute, except I passed summer on the way. Friends and family were going to the beach, taking vacations, boating at the lake and leisurely shopping. Our summers briefly
intersected on my drive to the lab where I spent my summer learning statistics and analyzing functional protein domains. The greatest challenge I faced this summer was not a co-variant statistics problem or a misbehaving experiment, it was working over the summer.
Summer is a continual celebration. I love finding the best beaches to go to with my friends, talking late into warm summer nights, shopping summer retail sales, hiking and camping and going on trips to new places. Despite the promises to myself and friends that my summer research would not dominate my summer life, I knew my summer would be severely limited.
and limit my ability to do a meaningful research project. Receiving a summer research grant was the concluding agreement to spend my summer working on a research project.
There were several advantages to doing a summer research project. First, it is an opportunity to work on a novel problem. Very little research has been done on the genetics underlying the anti-cancer phenotype of the Naked Mole Rat. Doing
research in a new field allowed me to make discoveries. Second, the flexibility of my program allowed me to ask my own questions and develop methods to find answers to my questions. The intellectual freedom to pursue my own questions was
the greatest attribute of my research project. In the past I have followed a senior investigator’s agenda and had not been able to follow my own interests. Lastly, I was able to present my work at a major National Institute of Health-Merial Veterinarian meeting where I could meet other scholars and preview new advances in animal science.
The greatest disadvantage of my summer research was the lack of a summer and a vacation. To accomplish the goals set forth in my project, I had to learn how to perform several types of statistical analysis and operate several computational predictive programs. Although my data set was not relatively large, it did take a significant amount of time to manually inspect. The short period of time available for research before school started demanded an intense pace to accomplish my goals.
However, my summer is not lost! There are still three weeks of summer remaining, which is plenty of time to go to the beach, camp and shop. Best of all, many of my friends are back on campus for school with many celebrations ensuing. I’ve even
booked a trip to Iceland for fall.
In retrospect, you can work over the summer and still have your summer. I didn’t spend every minute working- I did schedule short trips to the beach, small local hikes and watched a movie. Yet more importantly, I was able to do work on a rewarding research project and accomplish the aim of the project to identify cancer related proteins that are different in their amino acid sequence between an animal that is immune to cancer and those that are susceptible to cancer.
About the Blogger
Natalie Punt caught the science bug at her grammar school’s science fair . She followed her passion for model biological systems as a microbiology major at UC Davis. Natalie has developed and characterized a mouse model of tumor angiogenesis, engineered a 3-D model of tumor angiogenesis and most recently contributed to the characterization of the epigenetic regulation of Mixed Lineage Leukemia. Her work has earned recognition at numerous science conferences and publications in peer-reviewed journals. This summer Natalie submitted a grant proposal to Merial/Merck and successfully received funding to identify proteins responsible for the anti-cancer phenotype in animals by comparing the cancer associated proteins to similar proteins found in humans. In her free time she enjoys running around the Charles, reading design books and learning to speak Italian.