Started from the bottom

New summer, new lab, new people, new operating systems.

The first thing I learned at Dr. Bruce Donald’s lab was how to open a file.  Yes, I was making progress at record-breaking pace with the help from my undergraduate mentor, who has been working in the Donald lab officially for a whole two weeks (which is insane because he has such a solid  grasp for everything that’s going on). He has been so incredibly helpful, and I definitely foresee myself bombarding him regularly with questions.

Which brings me to the second thing I learned: how much of research is talking to people. All I did this week was read papers, which was challenging and informative, but a lot of unexpected learning happened just by being surrounded by people discussing science. I was surprised by the atmosphere of academia, the amount of excitement people had when talking about the latest research. This summer, I expect to be continually surprised at the amount of passion people have for what they do (and how long they can talk about it).  It’s incredible to hear my PI go on and on about the various projects in progress, projects ranging from HIV vaccines to de novo protein design and updating their own lab-created software.  This is not my first time in a research lab with enthusiastic professors, but I will continually be amazed by people doing what they love for a living.

Through sitting in on lab meetings, I can tell that the lab has several collaborators from all sorts of different fields, again attesting to the fact that science is social. From the lab website, the Donald lab is a part of the Department of Computer Science, Department of Biochemistry, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Department of Chemistry, and more.  It would honestly not surprise me if it were also part of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement and the Department of Mysteries.  Oh, and probably also the Department of Russian Literature (more on that in a later blog post).  My point is that combining several disciplines involves a steep learning curve for me. I am standing at the bottom of this giant mountain of things to learn in biochemistry and computer science, but at least I can only go up from here.



My expectations for the summer include learning how to use some really cool software, becoming a pro at making more than peanut butter and jelly for lunch, and getting to know a bit more about the frustrations and rewards of research.  Completing my project would be a plus, but right now I’m much more excited about the possibility of looking at a 3-D protein structure and seeing more than pretty colors. I have a long way to go, but I’m excited.


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