Although my lab is in the division of translational neurosciences, most of our day-to-day work involves cellular, molecular and microbiology. We’re currently comparing two methods for bacterial DNA extraction from mouse feces to study shifts in their microbiomes during depression, analyzing the levels of four proteins in plasma samples from our longitudinal alcohol dependence study, and searching for biomarkers for PTSD susceptibility in soldiers.
There is no such thing as a ‘normal’ day in my work. Sometimes I spend hours labelling slides which will be used for the PTSD brain sections—they have to be labelled in pencil or else the staining process will dissolve the label/ink. It’s really interesting to watch Dianne cutting the sections and see the tissue adhere itself to the special, positively-charged slide. Other days I weigh 2 ml tubes to ensure that we have a healthy stock of pre-weighed tubes since they save tons of time during experiments. I also help pull samples for the protein assays we’re currently running—as we’ve learnt the hard way, finding and randomizing hundreds of tiny PCR strip tubes with IDs handwritten on the sides is NOT easy. (An aside: I’m totally in awe of dry ice).
We’re still waiting on the sequencing results from the mouse poop extractions (which is my primary project) and so, in the meantime, I’ve been learning about and analyzing data from the quality tests we’ve run—260/280 & 260/230 ratios from the spectrophotometer which measure purity, DNA concentration from the fluorometer which measures yield, and the DNA Integrity Number or DIN from the TapeStation which measures degradation & quality.
On some days work can seem dreary or slow, and I have realized that research is not at all like it’s romanticized to be. However, learning from my awesome mentors, Michelle and Tulay, makes everything worth it! Although I’ve mostly been handling experiment prep, I’m looking forward to getting my hands dirtier in the next few weeks!