I Messed Up: Week 1 Adventures of an Amateur Scientist

“I think I made a mistake.”

These were not words I wanted to be saying to my secondary mentor, Haewoong, but, alas; I couldn’t hide out at my workspace in the biosafety cabinet forever and hope things would magically resolve themselves. As he quizzed me on the steps I had followed, it quickly became clear that I had made a small but fatal error in the notes I had frenziedly scribbled down while watching Haewoong perform the procedure the previous day. This is not the first time I’ve made a careless mistake, and it definitely won’t be the last. However, it’s these little mistakes that teach me the most; mainly because I will remember the error forever and therefore never repeat it!

It’s the end of my first week in the Abraham lab, and I’ve already made countless little blunders, from setting my micropipette to aspirate the wrong amount of liquid to throwing the coverslip for the hemocytometer* away (whoops) to messing up my experiment of the week on its second to last step. But one of the main reasons I’m here for BSURF is to learn, and learning involves making mistakes. During this program, I hope to learn as much as possible about techniques in a biology lab and gain more skill with the instruments used. I also hope to become more familiar with the theory behind why certain methods are used for certain experiments so that I can one day use that knowledge to formulate my own experiments and contribute to the research on mast cells that’s happening in the Abraham lab. Finally, I hope to gain a better understanding of what exactly the life of a research scientist entails on a daily basis. It’s only been one week, but I feel like I’ve already learned so much and can’t wait for the weeks to come!

Also, before I go, here’s a picture of the cells I’m working with this summer just because science pictures are fun:

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These are Rat Basophilic Leukemia cells. Basophils are a type of white blood cell that behave similarly to mast cells, and this cancerous line of them will divide and prosper almost indefinitely, making them ideal for use in research. I’ll be talking about these a lot more in future posts!

*A hemocytometer is a special microscope slide with a grid on it that makes it easy to count cells. (It also requires a special coverslip that apparently is not disposable. Heh.) It’s not the most exciting piece of equipment, but, to a science nerd like me, I have to admit I find it quite cool. And helpful!

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